The term ‘relationship’ moved out of sociology (kinship and family) to marketing in the last decade of the twentieth century. Relationships are important in a societal context because of their economic, social and psychological role. Marketers have realized the importance of building customer relationship as the economics of customer retention revealed that customer attraction cost may be as high as five times the cost of customer retention. Therefore there is a strong case in favour of cultivating relationship with the customer. But the challenge is how can a phenomenon which is about relation or association between people be applied to marketing?
If relationships are about people, then it may be difficult to conceptualize the same between customer (animate) and the product (inanimate). This quest for bond and relationship building calls for extending the realm of the market entity beyond its functionality. The customers must view a market entity in the same light as in which human beings are seen. This calls for brand humanization. They should be made capable to forge connections that only humans can create. The product satisfies a need and personality creates relationship. Brand humanization becomes all the more necessary when product gets commoditized or these are marginally differentiated from one another. Personality can add richness and character to an offering by adding a psycho- social dimension to an otherwise utilitarian object. The idea is to liberate the brand from narrow think centric perspective by extending its intersections on the side of feelings and emotions.
A brand can be perceived along five personality dimensions (Jennifer Aaker):
Sincerity (down to earth, honest, wholesome and cheerful)
Excitement (daring, spirited, imaginative, up to date)
Competence (reliable, intelligent, successful)
Sophistication (upper class, charming) and
Ruggedness (outdoorsy, tough)
Related to personality is the concept of ‘animism’ which implies a belief that even non human entities including rocks, animal and plants have spirit. Consider how our rivers, mountains, trees and animals mean much more than what they actually are. So what motivates customers to accept brands as humans? The consumers’ willingness to accept a brand as much beyond a bundle of utility probably has something to do with animism. It facilitates our negotiation with non human world. When brands are anthropomorphized by instilling human qualities, they acquire wider meanings for customers. The boundary so extended allows brands to assume an extended role which is much more comforting and satisfying.
There are many ways to create brand personality. Personality connotations are vested in both inanimate and animate aspects of a culture. These include music (jazz or classical), artifacts (piano or guitar), people (French or British), colors (red or blue), and shapes (circular or angular), trees (banyan or coconut) and endorser (Amitabh or Salman) . Celebrity endorsement is the easiest way to create brand personality. Consider the following six brands and their endorsers:
Gilli endorsed by Bipasa Basu (‘Beautifully you’)
Sangini endorser Kareen Kapoor and Salman Khan (‘Diamond jewellery’)
D’damas endorser Sonakshi Sinha (‘Celebrate always’)
Diya endorser Celina Jetley (‘Diamond jewellry’)
Asmi endorser Priyanka Chopra (‘For the women of spirit’)
Nakshatra endorser (Katrina Kaif) (‘Diamond jewellery’)
What do these endorsers contribute to hardened carbon? These brands, by utilizing classical conditioning principles seek to acquire qualities and traits that these endorsers stand for. The assumption here is that these associations create a human like feel and character to an otherwise inanimate piece of jewelry and push it on a couple of notches higher on the value hierarchy.