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Branded food spokescharacters: consumers' contributions to the narrative of commerce

Jordan L. LeBel (School of Hotel Administration, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA)
Nathalie Cooke (Faculty of Arts, McGill University, Montreal, Canada)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 30 May 2008

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this research is to examine the nature of consumers' relationships with branded spokescharacters by drawing upon brand personality theory and reader‐response theory, focusing specifically on food trade characters. We aim to show that the persuasive power of these characters resides not only in their appearance, but also in the complex narratives consumers project (sometimes unwittingly) onto the spokescharacter.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper reports the results of a survey – blending quantitative and qualitative methodologies – designed to document consumer perceptions, affective responses and spontaneous associations to different characters (i.e. Aunt Jemima, Robin Hood, Betty Crocker, Uncle Ben, Poppin' Fresh the Pillsbury's Doughboy, and M. Felix and Mr Norton, characters created by a Montreal‐based cookie company).

Findings

The results revealed that consumers associate spokescharacters with distinct personality profiles. Also, a connection was found between spokescharacters and narrative: a relationship where the characters become part of a larger narrative paradigm and more importantly, a relationship where the consumer is cast in a specific role vis‐à‐vis the spokescharacter.

Practical implications

These results should invite brand managers to stay current with the variety of associations that consumers form and how these associations influence the perception of their brand's personality. The results further underscore the need to understand the role into which consumers are cast vis‐à‐vis a branded character. Future research should examine cross cultural differences in the perception and narratives of branded characters, especially since many multinational companies use branded characters across cultural divides.

Originality/value

The paper shows how consumers play an active role in rendering a spokescharacter likeable, credible, and even memorable and documents the narratives that engage consumers and are both constructed collaboratively with them and propagated by them.

Keywords

Citation

LeBel, J.L. and Cooke, N. (2008), "Branded food spokescharacters: consumers' contributions to the narrative of commerce", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 143-153. https://doi.org/10.1108/10610420810875061

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited