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Brand Anthropomorphism, Love and Defense: Does Attitude towards Social Distancing Matter?

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Brand anthropomorphism, brand love, brand defense, social distancing, COVID-19



Several hospitality brands changed their logos to reinforce the importance of social distancing in reducing the risk of virus infection. Since social distancing is a polarizing topic, this research intends to understand consumers’ attitudes towards social distancing and their response to branding change by hospitality brands. Study 1 creates and validates a multiple-item scale to examine consumers’ attitudes towards social distancing, which is then adopted for two subsequent studies. Study 2 tests consumers’ awareness and perceived brand anthropomorphism during a sensitive situation like a global pandemic and the impact of perceived brand anthropomorphism on brand love and brand defense. Study 3 tests the proposed model in study 2 across two customer segments, i.e. those in favor of social distancing and its effectiveness and those against it. Results indicate that brand anthropomorphism and brand love have a significantly positive impact on brand defense. Additionally, these relationships differ for consumers who favor or oppose social distancing. Our research contributes to the hospitality branding literature by studying relatively understudied branding constructs in an unprecedented context and offers insights for hospitality branding and marketing managers.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

The Service Industries Journal, v. 41, issue 1-2, p. 58-83