The neuropeptide oxytocin modulates consumer brand relationships
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CitationFürst, Andreas. Thron, Jesko. Scheele, Dirk. Marsh, Nina. Hurlemann, René. (2015). The neuropeptide oxytocin modulates consumer brand relationships. Scientific Reports, 5, 14960. 10.1038/srep14960.
Each year, companies invest billions of dollars into marketing activities to embellish brands as valuable relationship partners assuming that consumer brand relationships (CBRs) and interpersonal relationships rest upon the same neurobiological underpinnings. Given the crucial role of the neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) in social bonding, this study tests whether OXT-based mechanisms also determine the bond between consumers and brands. We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled study involving 101 subjects and analyzed the effect of intranasal OXT on consumers’ attribution of relationship qualities to brands, brands paired with human celebrity endorsers, and familiar persons. OXT indeed promoted the attribution of relationship qualities not only in the case of social and semi-social stimuli, but also brands. Intriguingly, for subjects scoring high on autistic-like traits, the effect of OXT was completely reversed, evident in even lower relationship qualities across all stimulus categories. The importance of OXT in a CBR context is further corroborated by a three-fold increase in endogenous release of OXT following exposure to one’s favorite brand and positive associations between baseline peripheral OXT concentrations and brand relationship qualities. Collectively, our findings indicate that OXT not only plays a fundamental role in developing interpersonal relationships, but also enables relationship formation with objects such as brands.