How Speaking Connects You More to Your Favourite Brand

Shen, Hao

The Internet has already changed how we communicate with each other. Has it also influenced our attitude towards our favourite brand?

By Dandan Tong, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Marketing, CUHK Business School

Our parents’ generation would recommend or complain about a product they like to their friends by telling them. Today’s young generation, though, would probably open a forum on WeChat or Facebook.

Before the internet, our views of a product was a case of word-of-mouth. Now, with the rise of the internet, our thoughts and comments about a product or a brand are often shared online through some review platforms and via text or voice messages to our friends.

While we are getting used to the communication means brought by technology, have we thought about our choice of communication channels can actually influence our attitude towards that brand?

A recent research study by Prof. Shen Hao, Associate Professor from the Department of Marketing at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Business School, offers some interesting findings.

The study “Word of Mouth vs. Word of Mouse: Speaking about a Brand Connects You to It More Than Writing Does” was conducted by Prof. Shen and his collaborator Prof. Jaideep Sengupta from HKUST. It asks the question: Does the choice of oral versus written communication influence how consumers react to their favourite brands?

The Studies

Five studies were carried out with various groups of university students in Hong Kong. The studies used different brands including Apple, Samsung and Adidas and tested different modes of communication such as asking students to share their views via face-to-face interaction with a partner versus writing them down on a piece of paper; using WeChat to record a message or send a text.

“Because people usually speak to interact with others, they would be more likely to express self-related thoughts so as to connect with others.” – Prof. Shen Hao

Speaking Heightens Self-Brand Connection

All studies prove that speaking about a favourite brand will increase the self-brand connection (SBC) as compared to writing about it.

Prof. Shen explains that it is because speech makes us focus more on the interaction aspect of the communication.

“Speaking involves the idea of talking to someone – it is relatively unusual for people to talk aloud lacking any audience. Writing, in contrast, is often conducted without the intended recipient being present,” says Prof. Shen.

“Because people usually speak to interact with others, they would be more likely to express self-related thoughts so as to connect with others.”

Therefore, instead of giving comments on a brand in an objective manner, people who talk about a brand may discuss more about their personal opinions, and share their feelings or experiences.

“Such self-related brand thoughts can create the positive link between the self and brand,” he says.

Implications

This study is among the first to provide experimental evidence of the basic difference in self-expression for speakers versus writers.

Previous research found that using different communication methods can influence how recipients react to the messages. This study takes a step further to examine whether the use of different communication channels, such as speech versus writing, influences the communicator.

“Our findings help us to obtain a deeper understanding of the fundamental differences between speech and writing.”

The findings also contain implications for practitioners.

The studies show that compared to people who discussed the brand by writing, those who talked about a popular brand were less likely to be influenced by an attack on the brand and more willing to wait for a brand in cases of stock-out.

“Marketers could consider allowing consumers to choose whether to offer spoken or written feedback on their products. In the case of popular brands, it might actually be advantageous for them to encourage spoken feedback since oral communication can strengthen the self-brand connection as shown in our study,” Prof. Shen says.

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