Lonely People More Likely to Engage with Brands that Feature a Face on Them

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University of Oregon researchers have found that consumers who feel lonely have a stronger attraction to brands that use faces in their imagery.

The findings, which were published in European Journal of Social Psychology, should come as no surprise. We are, after all, social creatures and those who are less social and keep more to themselves, often fill that void in some way –be it the boob tube, social media or the internet.

So it makes sense that a bucket of the Colonel might be more appealing than a brand without a face smiling back at you.


 

‘When people see faces in branding materials, their likability for that brand goes up,” said co-author Bettina Cornwell. “Visuals can fill a void for consumers experiencing a lack of social connection.”

Visuals can fill a void for consumers experiencing a lack of social connection.

The University of Oregon work went a step further says co-author Ulrich Orth.

‘Previous research linked our need for social connection with consumer behavior and judgement, but very little was understood about the role that visuals play in social connection and brand likability,’ said Orth.


 

To conduct the study, researchers put together a set of 18 drawings that included both non-face images and images that depicted human faces and then surveyed participants with questions about themselves, the brand and the images.

Along with finding a significant effect on brand likability when there was a face in the image, the research also demonstrated a link between high rates of loneliness, the tendency to imagine a face in a non-face drawing and their likability of the brand.

So strong is this instinct that consumers often project humanlike characteristics onto nonhuman visuals, a process also known as anthropomorphism.

Orth refers to it as “wishful seeing” and says it is most apparent in the case of faces.

“A lack of interpersonal relationships motivates people to actively search for sources of connection,” Cornwell said. “Individuals who are lonely are more likely to find faces in visuals because they so greatly desire this social connection.”

 

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