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Thursday, October 31, 2013

‘The Human Brand’: Our Relationships with Companies

Customers describe how they feel about companies and brands in profoundly personal ways. We hate our banks; we love our yoga pants. We can’t stand the cable company, but we consider our smartphone one of our very best friends.

How are we making these judgments? According to a new book titled, The Human Brand: How We Relate to People, Products, and Companies, by Chris Malone, an expert in customer loyalty, and Susan T. Fiske, a professor of psychology at Princeton University, our perceptions are the result of spontaneous judgments on warmth and competence – precisely the same elements that drive our impressions of other people. As a result, customers evaluate, judge and form relationships with companies in ways that are remarkably similar to how they evaluate and behave toward people.

Malone recently talked to Knowledge@Wharton about his book. To achieve success in the future, companies must build more genuine relationships with customers that display warmth, competence and worthy intentions, says Malone, who got his MBA at Wharton and has held senior marketing positions at companies such as Coca-Cola, ARAMARK and Choice Hotels.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

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