Anthropomorphic Marketing


Special issue of Journal of Marketing Management, Edited by Stephen Brown and Sharon Ponsonby-McCabe; Deadline 31 Jan 2012

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Anthropomorphic Marketing

Guest Editors: Professor Stephen Brown & Dr Sharon Ponsonby-McCabe, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland.

Anthropomorphism is ubiquitous in marketing. The imputation of animal characteristics to inanimate objects, or concepts, is one of the defining features of our field. Marketers animate, personify, reify, totemise and practise the "pathetic fallacy" with impunity. Products, we maintain, have life cycles; brands are blessed with distinctive personalities; marketing myopia is an ever-present threat; cash cows ruminate in the water-meadows of strategic marketing; advertising mascots like Tony the Tiger, Aleksandr Orlov and the venerable Michelin Man charm children of all ages. Red Bull, meanwhile, gives us wings.

Despite the prevalence of anthropomorphism, its appeal is poorly understood (Brown 2010). According to Guthrie’s (1995) classic study, Faces in the Clouds, the anthropomorphic instinct is attributable to humankind’s innate need to personify. It’s a survival mechanism of sorts. He also notes that anthropomorphism surges during times of social, economic and technological turmoil. Times like the present. Another possibility, explored by Micklethwait and Wooldridge (2005), is that it’s a relic of the Company Acts, which are predicated on the premise that corporations are living, breathing entities in the eyes of the law.

Regardless of the reasons for anthropomorphism’s grip on the marketing imagination, the fact remains that our products and services are surrounded by, wrapped around, and embodied in, companion animals. And domesticated animals. And wild animals. And supernatural creatures of every imaginable stripe, from elves to aliens. Accordingly, a special issue of JMM, edited by Stephen Brown and Sharon Ponsonby-McCabe, will be devoted to this intriguing issue. Papers are invited on any aspect of anthropomorphic marketing.

These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The appeal of advertising characters, spokescreatures and animal mascots.
  • The Descent of Brand: on the evolution and development of beastly brand icons.
  • Anthropomorphic concepts in marketing – red herring, golden goose or pig in a poke?
  • Personified products and services – can "friendly" biotic yogurt turn nasty?
  • Is Relationship Marketing reification incarnate?
  • Is the PLC dead and buried?
  • Should children be kept away from brand animals?
  • Toward a taxonomy of trade characters.
  • The lure of Farmville, Club Penguin, Lolcats, et al.
  • The call of the cute, the cuddly, the comely, the carnivorous.
  • Myths, legends, stories – the making of marketing monsters.
  • Beast fables for marketing managers, from Squirrel Inc. to The Penguin’s Progress.
  • Totemism and taboo in corporate identity formation, communication, perpetuation, critique.
  • National, cultural and sectoral differences in mascotomania – eagles in America, bulldogs in Britain, untamed sports teams, high-flying financial services.

The closing date for submissions is 31 January 2012, for publication in February 2013.

For full details and submission guidelines please visit

If you have any queries you can direct these to the guest editors: JMM Special Issue Editorial Team, c/o Professor Stephen Brown and Dr Sharon Ponsonby-McCabe, Department of Marketing, Ulster Business School, University of Ulster, Jordanstown, Co. Antrim, BT37 0QB, Northern Ireland. Email:


Brown, S. (2010), "Where the Wild Brands Are: Some Thoughts on Anthropomorphic Marketing", The Marketing Review, 10 (3), 203-224.

Guthrie, S. (1995), Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Micklethwait, J. and Wooldridge, A. (2005), The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea, London: Phoenix.

The Journal of Marketing Management website is at