We Are Not the Same as You and I: Causal Effects of Minor Language Variations on Consumers’ Attitudes toward Brands
Aner Sela, S. Christian Wheeler, Gülen Sarial-Abi
Journal of Consumer Research
Chicago Journals | Volume 39, Number 3, October 2012
Can subtle wording changes in marketing communications, such as saying “you and [the brand]” as opposed to “we,” affect consumer evaluation of real-world brands? Despite their importance in interpersonal communication, the effects of such variations in relationship-implying language on consumer perceptions of brands have received little research attention. Closeness-implying pronouns (saying “we” rather than “you and the brand”) can have either positive or negative effects on consumer attitudes toward real-world brands with which they have real working relationships. These effects depend on whether the closeness implied by the pronoun is consistent with expected interactions with the brand. These effects are moderated by affiliation with the brand (customers vs. noncustomers), brand type, and the extent of cognitive elaboration and are mediated by perceived brand trustworthiness. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.