Friend or Foe? Can Anthropomorphizing Self-Tracking Devices Backfire on Marketers and Consumers?
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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- Scientific articles 
Self-quantification, with the promise of motivating consumers to engage in health behaviors through measuring their performance, is a popular trend amongst consumers. Despite the economic impact of self-tracking technologies, consumers’ experiences with self-tracking devices and corresponding consequences for firms remain understudied. Six studies examine how the popular marketing tactic of anthropomorphization influences (a) consumers’ favorability towards wearable tracking devices, (b) their health motivation, and (c) their health behavior (number of steps taken) over time. The authors uncover a novel dynamic effect of anthropomorphism, such that with use, positive evaluations of anthropomorphized (vs. non-anthropomorphized) devices decrease, and (contrary to prior literature), anthropomorphized devices are not favored. Importantly, health motivation and health behaviors are also reduced over time with the use of an anthropomorphized (vs. non-anthropomorphized) wearable device. This decrease occurs because anthropomorphized devices reduce the wearers’ perceived autonomy, which in turn, reduces their health motivation and health behavior. However, customizing the anthropomorphized device (by setting a customized goal or by monitoring a greater number of health-related indicators) can mitigate its negative effect. These findings provide novel insights to marketing scholars and managers, by suggesting that anthropomorphism can be a successful short-term selling strategy, but over time, it can have unintended consequences for both firms and consumers.