Capturing the Essence of Being Human: Two Marketing Tools That Rely on Anthropomorphization to Work



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Technology has facilitated production processes that are mechanized and impersonal. With the increasing mechanization and automation of the value chain, marketers may find it valuable to remind consumers that there is a human source behind marketing activities. My dissertation comprises of two essays that focus on subtle, but impactful, marketing cues that make the human source salient. Specifically, I identify handwritten fonts (essay 1) and round-numbers (essay 2) as means by which the essence of being human can be captured and examine when, and why, these cues lead to positive (essay 1) versus negative (essay 2) consumer response. Essay 1 (chapter 2) investigates how product packaging using handwritten (vs. typewritten) fonts can increase product evaluation. It argues that the favorable evaluation stems from a response to handwritten fonts as subtle anthropomorphic cue. The extant literature has relied largely on overt anthropomorphic cues (e.g. human form and features) that evoke the tendency to anthropomorphize. In the current work, I propose that from a visual standpoint, anthropomorphism may occur also from activating the salience of a human source and introduce handwritten fonts as one such cue. Essay 2 (chapter 3) examines the role of numerical precision in surge pricing and its impact on consumer’s price fairness perception. I show that the surge price in the form of round (vs. precise) numbers will decrease consumer’s fairness perception in circumstances where ease of justification is low and thus the motivation to anthropomorphize (attribute to a human source) is high. I argue that the effect stems from the human tendency to round-off numbers, and such inference is particularly magnified in occasions where there is need to justify and make sense of one’s choice by attributing the surge to a human (versus non-human) source.



Anthropomorphism, Fonts, Handwriting, Numerical precision, Fairness perceptions