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Stereotype Content Model (Warmth & Competence Matrix)

Stereotype Content Model (Warmth & Competence Matrix)

Stereotype Content Model (Warmth & Competence Matrix)

Use this framework to manage the position of your brands

The characteristics of warmth and competence shape our emotions and behaviour. In 2011, Amy Cuddy, Peter Glick, and Anna Beninger wrote an article in Research In Organizational Behaviour entitled The dynamics of warmth and competence judgments, and their outcomes in organizations. The paper determined that people who are judged to be warm and competent are almost certainly going to do well in job interviews and become leaders in their organisations. Conversely, those who are perceived to be cold and incompetent attract contempt and will find it hard to progress in their careers.

This seems fairly obvious.  It means that the framework from Cuddy, Glick and Beninger is useful in deciding who to hire, who will work effectively within a team, who is worthy of investment capital and so on.

The importance of the framework confirms that when we evaluate people we do not do so on a single dimension; rather we use the two traits of warmth and competence. Furthermore, we do this intuitively. The first thing we look at is body language and this determines whether we see someone as warm or cold. The way we identify people on the warmth scale influences our positive or negative views towards them. It positions them as friend or foe. The warmth judgement is made more quickly than competence judgements since the latter may only be determined by a detailed conversation or evidence of someone's qualifications.

The Stereotype Content Model also has potential for determining the strengths and weaknesses of brands. Brands are measured on all sorts of criteria such as awareness, trust, quality, competitiveness etc. Using the warmth/competence matrix could be a useful means of finding hidden strengths and weaknesses in brands.  In 2014 Jürg Hari, Heike Rawitzer, and Yvonne Laager wrote a paper entitled Warmth and competence dimensions of brands as a result of implicit perceptions. It was delivered at the Academy Of Marketing Conference in Bournemouth, UK and it described how they used implicit association tests to study 8 brands with 78 participants. It confirmed their expectations that people associate competent brands with positive feelings and less competent brands with negative feelings. The same was true for the warmth dimensions. They gave examples of companies that fitted in the different quadrants.  Coca-Cola and Nivea were in the golden quadrant while BP was placed in the south-west quadrant; almost certainly because of the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010.

This little known framework has great potential for working out where brands sit. It can be used to show how to differentiate a brand or repair a flagging brand. It can be used to get a new angle on the positioning of brands and use it to work out the attributes that are creating emotional reactions to the brands.  By exploring the reasons why a brand is seen as warm or cold or competent or incompetent is the starting point for working out how a brand can be strengthened or repaired. 

Some things to think about:

  • A company culture runs through its employees and its brands. The warmth attached to your brand and its perceived competences will position it favourably or unfavourably in the minds of customers and employees. How warm do you think customers and employees perceive your company to be?

  • How competent do you think customers and employees perceive your company to be?

  • Where does this positioning of warmth and competence place you internally in the eyes of your employees and externally in the eyes of the marketplace?

  • How can you rectify or adjust the warmth or competence characteristics of your company?

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