'We' Are Not the Same as 'You and I': Causal Effects of Minor Language Variations on Consumers’ Attitudes Toward Brands

19 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2011 Last revised: 7 Oct 2013

See all articles by Aner Sela

Aner Sela

University of Florida - Department of Marketing

S. Christian Wheeler

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Gülen Sarial-Abi

Bocconi University

Date Written: November 15, 2011

Abstract

Can subtle wording changes in marketing communications, such as saying “you and [the brand]” as opposed to “we”, affect people’s evaluations of real-world brands? Despite their importance in interpersonal communication, the effects of such variations in relationship-implying language on consumers’ perceptions of brands have received little research attention. Four experiments demonstrate that closeness-implying pronouns (e.g., saying “we” rather than “you and [the brand]”) can have either positive or negative effects on consumers’ attitudes toward real-world brands with which they have real working relationships. The experiments show that these effects depend on whether the closeness implied by the pronoun is consistent with people’s expected interactions with the brand, and are mediated by perceived brand trustworthiness. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

Keywords: Language, implicature, brand attitudes, persuasion, attribution

Suggested Citation

Sela, Aner and Wheeler, S. Christian and Sarial-Abi, Gülen, 'We' Are Not the Same as 'You and I': Causal Effects of Minor Language Variations on Consumers’ Attitudes Toward Brands (November 15, 2011). Journal of Consumer Research, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1884426

Aner Sela (Contact Author)

University of Florida - Department of Marketing ( email )

267F Stuzin Hall
Gainesville, FL 32611
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/view/anersela/home

S. Christian Wheeler

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Gülen Sarial-Abi

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Sarfatti, 25
Milan, MI 20136
Italy

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