Brand entification as a post-anthropomorphic attribution among Twitter-using Millennials

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to report a three-study effort that aimed to explicate the brand entification construct, a post-anthropomorphic attribution that results from user-brand interaction on Twitter. Entified brands are not merely humanlike, they are viewed as human celebrities with an elevated social status.

Design/methodology/approach: A testable conceptual framework, hypotheses and measurement scales for explicating the brand entification construct are derived from focus groups. The framework is tested using two separate surveys; the first surveyed college going, Millennial users of Twitter, the second surveyed a nationwide sample of Twitter using Millennials.

Findings: The fear of being ignored (FOBI) emerges as the key antecedent of brand entification. Elevation in healthy narcissism emerges as its key consequence. Twitter users experiencing elevated narcissism are found to defend entified brands when they receive negative tweets from other users.

Research limitations/implications: All constructs and measurement scales reported in the data are new, the evidence of linkages between the antecedents and consequences of brand entification are similarly unprecedented; both reflect the theoretical contributions of the study. Further testing of scales, and replication of results using multiple samples of Twitter users are essential before formalized theory and widely generalizable findings emerge.

Practical implications: Shaping Twitter-users’ sense of healthy narcissism emerges as the key challenge for managers aiming to build brands via Twitter communication. Stimulating users’ FOBI emerges as a key entry-way in this process.

Originality/value: The paper reports the first empirical investigation of the brand entification construct in the context of Twitter-using Millennials.


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