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Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Brands often like to depict themselves as helpful friends—think Home Hardware’s slogan, “Home Owners helping homeowners.” But consumers don’t always want a friend; sometimes they want a servant.

Such shoppers gravitate toward brands—particularly anthropomorphized ones like the Jolly Green Giant or the Michelin Man—they subconsciously believe they can dominate. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University ’s Carey Business School discovered these “servant brands” in an examination of 1,100 subjects across four studies.

Researchers found that older consumers were less interested in servile mascots because they were more willing to invest time in researching and trying a product; younger ones liked deferential, Jeevesian characters who get things done and disappear.

This article is from the March 2016 issue of Canadian BusinessSubscribe now!

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