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

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


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. These effects are moderated by people's affiliation with the brand (i.e., 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.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)644-661
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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