How brands can use ‘cute’ characters to drive results


Brands using “cute” spokescharacters must also consider the language they deploy and the nature of their consumer relationships to achieve the best results, a study in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR) has argued.

Why it matters

Anthropomorphized characters, which take on human traits, are a unique way to embody a brand’s personality and values. But they must be part of a holistic strategy to deliver the maximum impact.


Some of the JAR study’s insights regarding “cute” anthropomorphized spokescharacters were:

  • They can enhance associations of “warmth” if consumers perceive a brand as “communal” – that is “kind”, “responsive” and “genuinely concerned for the welfare of others”.
  • Cute characters are not a good match for direct and assertive language, as the warmth of the former is offset by the transactional nature of the latter.
  • Where consumers display “persuasion knowledge”, the “perceived sincerity of a cute character might be discounted” if the mascot is seen as a tool for persuasion, not for genuine warmth.

How the research was conducted

Three rounds of research compared the impact of anthropomorphized characters – a panda, bird, and big cat respectively – that were designed to be “cute” or “mature”. Each round of analysis also compared the impact of using “assertive” language (for example, that “you must choose” a product) and non-assertive language (for instance, “please try” a service).

How anthropomorphized brand spokescharacters affect consumer perceptions and judgments: Is being cute helpful or harmful to brands? was written by Chun-Tuan Chang (National Sun Yat-sen University), Xing-Yu (Marcos) Chu (Nanjing University Business School) and Shih-Ting Kao (Unilever Food Solutions, Shanghai).

This article first appeared in

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