In an era where even buying salt, toothbrushes or soaps happen due to emotional reasons, leave apart buying perfumes or homes, marketers and companies are increasingly using emotional appeal to create brand and carry out brand communications. Products or services are currently being promoted not just on the benefits that they stand out for but more on how much motherly/ fatherly/ friendly they appeal to the target’s heart. It is interesting to see that even the smallest of the items that we use in our day to day life has got an emotional motive behind being bought.
As social beings, humans seek acceptance and like to connect emotionally with other people. Social media is helping them fulfil this desire to a certain extent. However when unfulfilled, they seek happiness through products and find solace in shopping. The buying process becomes much more delightful when the consumer develops an emotional bond with these products. Marketers use this emotional appeal for communicating through TV advertisements in India. Recent examples can be seen in advertisement meant for senior citizens by (Thomas Cook India) for promoting travel and tourism and related services. Also, consumer durables firm (Havells Fans), health insurance for senior citizens firm Cigna TTK, mobile phones company - One Plus (Never Settle), Government of India ads (for water preservation, cleanliness drive, girl education etc.) are few others using it.
Research has proven that in an attempt to develop emotional connect with the customer, marketers either try to use stories as branded content or communicate through a spokesperson who could be a brand endorser (human) or a humanised character (inanimate objects) that appears personified. This process, referred as anthropomorphism is thus a tool where traits and behaviour of human beings are characterised upon other living and non-living entities. These human like characters can be used to create product, on packaging, advertisements or retail point of purchase material etc. While product designers mimic the human form into their products, brand consultants mimic human form in logos or icons or in the non-human endorsers like 50 years old Pillsbury doughboy or just 122 year old Michelin Man or the 65 year old Amul Girl. Human emotions like happiness, anger, sad, motivation etc. are used for communicating messages by these animated characters. It is the consumers who then anthropomorphize it. The likelihood of conversion of customers getting attached to these animated characters into loyal customers toward specific brands owing to strong emotional connect and therefore developing strong brand associations is high. This association results in creating liking, repetitive buying and thereby brand loyalty.
In their remarkable study, (Aggarwal & McGill, 2007) discuss Cadillac being anthropomorphized. The brand is depicted as a fun-seeking and defiant one that ‘crashes’ a party of luxury cars in one of its advertisements. Indian brands also have a substantial involvement of anthropomorphism for marketing communication. ‘Britannia’s Biscuit’ range has smiling sun, ‘Sunny’ who plays and talks with kids in TV commercials that are aired especially on kids TV channels. The humanised walking talking ‘Debit Card’ of ‘State Bank of India’ doubles up as a counsel or guide to a family doing shopping.
Let us understand this taking example of Amul .Amul brand is synonymous with bringing in the animated character of ‘The Amul Girl’ or ‘The Utterly-Butterly Delicious Girl’ as a perfect example of anthropomorphism in India. The brand however chose to use this character only in specific product categories for packaging pack shots, on retail point of purchase promotions and in print media. Born in 1966, this mischievous girl has been the sole brand mascot for the company in all brand communications. It is only in last one decade that Amul is creating newer characters in it’s TVC. Animated human character emerging from milk was used in TVC for limited period during Olympics, commonwealth games or specific festivals. For communicating a national brand , similar content may not work across regional languages of India. Amul used the Amul Kool (flavoured milk) bottles as animated character in Tamil TVC. The bottle, an inanimate object is a new spokesperson or anthropomorphised character and is shown dancing on a song. The ad , interestingly uses few human models as well (sports players, mother and son etc.) thereby suggesting no complete dependency on the animated characters alone.
Use of anthropomorphism for brand communication through product packaging can be seen in the varied bottle shapes of Calcium Sandoz. Meant for different target audience, it comes in the shape of animals like puppy dog and giraffe (both for kids and young children) as well in the shape of woman (for woman).
Though these brand mascots are liked on labels or product design or in print ads, it is the animated character that speaks/acts or behaves exactly like a human is what captivates audience attention immediately. (For example Nirma Shudh Salt advertisement uses vegetables, salt particles, kitchen gadgets as human entities thereby creating great impact on the viewer). Brand communication can be made more impactful by using animated anthropomorphised characters.
An article published in Ad Age India(2018) suggests that the animation and VFX industry in India is growing at a fast pace. Of the total Rs 6,000 crore expected in 2016, the animation industry in the country alone was estimated to be Rs 1,500 crore, growing at a steady growth rate of 9% as per a FICCI-KPMG report. Advertising, along with television and films, is said to be one of the biggest contributors to the growth of the animation industry. The three of them together account for 85% of the total animation services turnover in India. The onslaught of digital advertising is also contributing to this increase majorly.
Brands are increasingly communicating through animated ads. PNB Housing Finance for rental properties, Appy using the bottles, Zoo zoo characters of Vodafone, several financial services brands using digital medium like National Stock Exchange (‘Soch Kar Samajh Kar Invest Kar’ campaign, campaigns by Bank of Baroda and ICICI (Chintamani) etc. are just few of the examples.
Thus we see that the brands are anthropomorphized as human mind, soul, heart and emotional & behavioural features are bestowed upon them. At times referred to as Animism or Brand Mascot or animated spokes character/spokesperson or personification, anthropomorphism can be safely construed as gaining momentum in Indian Media and Television commercials in building emotional connect and brand loyalty.
- Aggarwal, Pankaj. , McGill, Ann L. (2007). Is that car smiling at me? Schema congruity as a basis for evaluating anthropomorphized products. Journal of consumer research, 34, 468-479.
- Furtado,C. (2018,January 30) How ‘Animated’ Indian Advertising really is , Collin Furtado, Jan 30,2018, AdAge India. Retrieved from http://www.adageindia.in/advertising/how-animated-indian-advertising-really-is/articleshow/62699344.cms
- Nalawade, Swati., Pabalkar, Vanishree., Vadalkar, Suniti. (2016). Anthropomorphism - A Stimulant in building Emotional Connect and Brand Loyalty : SAP-LAP Analysis. Conference proceedings of ICMC: 4thInternational Communication Management Conference. People, Planet & Profit: Synergistic leadership for social and communication innovations.
- Prof. Swati Nalawade: Associate Professor – Marketing, Consumer Behavior and Branding, FLAME University