Posted August 30, 2010 6:15 pm by with 2 comments

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Does your brand exude warmth? If so, you’re on your way to securing a loyal audience. The researchers at Princeton University conducted a study for The Relational Capital Group where they evaluated the impact of warmth and competence perceptions on loyalty to eight national brands.

They concluded that people judge brands the same way they judge people, which is more by instinct than fact and that there is a statistical correlation between consumer loyalty and how the consumer perceives each brand’s warmth and competence.

Why warmth and competence? Social psychologists say that Mother Nature has gifted us with the ability to make those two judgments swiftly and accurately as part of that “fight or flight” mechanism that we’ve had since caveman days.

Warmth is the term they use in regard to one’s intent. Is the person I’m faced with friendly, helpful, sincere, trustworthy or honest? Competence speaks to the ability to carry out the intention. Is the person skilled, efficient, effective, and smart? Back then, being able to make an instinctive judgment call in these two areas was the difference between bringing home the brontosaurus bacon or taking a club to the back of the head.

“These findings are consistent with other studies we’ve conducted that validate the influence and predictive power of warmth and competence on human behavior. In effect, it shows that people were the first brands and faces were the first logos.”

The brands that didn’t cut it usually came up short in the areas of  “honest and trustworthy” and “acts with your best interests in mind.”

Chris Malone, Chief Advisory Officer of The Relational Capital Group, says that using this metric, many companies should overhaul the way they market their brands.

“Since the emergence of mass market brands, products and services have been defined by their features and benefits,” he said. “This new study suggests that features and benefits are simply an incomplete subset of the broader categories of warmth and competence that consumers perceive and judge brands against.”

Who’s doing it right? Malone says Zappos and insurance company USAA whose tagline is “we value people over profits.”

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About The Study

Conducted July 1-7, 2010, this study measured the warmth and competence perceptions and priorities of a demographically balanced sample of 1,042 U.S. adult consumers for eight national brands, as well as their purchase intent and brand loyalty toward each. The brands examined included McDonalds, Burger King, BP, Shell, Tropicana, Minute Maid, Tylenol and Advil.

Source: The Relational Capital Group

  • The idea of prejudging products like prejudging people should be changed.

  • This totally resonates with me. I have often thought about this in more vague terms, but this study nails the issue. I suppose the question is how you extrapolate these ideas in a social media strategy for a company that does not necessarily ‘feel the love’