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The purpose of this paper is to focus on the building of consumer–brand identification through the use of two themes (underdog and topdog) in the design of brand storytelling. It proposes that the underdog theme is superior because it is more effective in immersing readers in the story and generates higher emotional responses. The moderating effect of consumers’ implicit mindsets is also explored.Design/methodology/approachAn experimental study with a single-factorial design is conducted with 301 consumers assigned at random to one of two brand storytelling conditions: underdog theme or topdog theme.FindingsThe results show a full mediating effect of the underdog (vs topdog) theme on brand identification through reader immersion and empathic feelings.Research limitations/implicationsThe use of a fictitious brand and a specific product category may limit the generalizability of the results.Practical implicationsPlacing the brand in a story with an underdog plot is more effective in catching consumers’ attention than using a topdog brand story. In particular, using an underdog theme is a good approach for targeting consumers who have a growth mindset.Originality/valueThis study explains the persuasiveness of brand storytelling in terms of the characteristics of the storytelling itself rather than the individual characteristics of consumers (e.g. their own underdog dispositions). The results also suggest that the implicit mindset of the individual plays a role.
Journal of Product & Brand Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 11, 2021
Keywords: Immersion; Brand storytelling; Empathic feelings; Implicit mindsets; Topdog; Underdog
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