Mixed Couples, Mixed Attitudes: How Interracial Relationships in Marketing Appeals Influence Brand Outcomes

Currently invited for 3rd round review at the Journal of Consumer Research.

Interracial couples are increasingly featured in marketing messages, yet little is known about how their representation influences consumer behavior. Across six experiments (N = 4,958) and a field study on Facebook, we find that interracial couples in marketing appeals enhance brand outcomes compared to monoracial dominant (i.e., White) couples, but decrease brand outcomes relative to monoracial nondominant (i.e., minority) couples. Drawing on the Stereotype Content Model and stereotype amplification and dilution, we show that these effects reflect variations in perceived warmth. Monoracial couples possess consistent racial attributes, with dominant (vs. nondominant) groups typically seen as less warm. Thus, monoracial dominant (vs. nondominant) couples amplify warmth in opposing directions relative to interracial couples: monoracial dominant couples are seen as less warm (i.e., negative amplification), and monoracial nondominant couples as warmer (i.e., positive amplification). Interracial couples possess inconsistent racial attributes, inducing stereotype dilution with intermediate levels of perceived warmth. Warmth drives brand outcomes above and beyond brand diversity, social desirability, and brand morality. Effects are moderated by consumers’ social dominance orientation and by whether the monoracial dominant couple possesses a nondominant attribute. This work holds theoretical implications for stereotyping research and provides practical insight into multiracial marketing.