“Don't pretend to be my friend!” When an informal brand communication style backfires on social media
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SourceJournal of Business Research, 74, (2017), pp. 77-89
Article / Letter to editor
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Journal of Business Research
SubjectInstitute for Management Research
Social media are now essential platforms for marketing communications, and the volume of consumer-brand interactions on these platforms is exploding. Even so, it remains unclear how brands should communicate with consumers to foster relationships and, in particular, to gain their trust. A fundamental decision in this regard is the choice of a communication style, specifically, whether an informal or a formal style should be used in social media communications. In this paper, we investigate how adopting an informal (vs. formal) communication style affects brand trust and demonstrate that using an informal style can either have a positive or negative effect on brand trust, depending on whether consumers are familiar with the brand or not. We further show that these effects occur because consumers expect brands to behave according to social norms, such that the use of an informal style is perceived to be appropriate for familiar brands and inappropriate for unfamiliar ones.
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