Brands warned to be careful over attempts at customer closeness
US— Brands who try to get too friendly with existing customers run the risk of overstepping boundaries and causing a negative reaction, according to a study by academic researchers.
Aner Sela (University of Florida), S. Christian Wheeler (Stanford University) and Gülen Sarial-Abi (Koç University) found that companies that use the word ‘we’ as a show of inclusiveness, instead of talking about ‘you [customers] and the brand’, might end up pushing customers away.
Sela (pictured) said: “Marketers often desire to promote consumers’ feelings of close relationship with the brands they market, and they frequently craft their communications using language that portrays brands as close partners with consumers.”
But brands who hope to highlight a shared identity should first consider how close customers actually feel to them, the authors warned.
In one study, customers at health insurance firm Aetna had a more positive attitude towards the brand when it dropped ‘we’ from its promotional material and talked of ‘you and the brand’ instead. Similar results were recorded when an advert for Wells Fargo was tested.
Yet, conversely, consumers who did not have an existing relationship with either firm showed a more positive response when ‘we’ was used in marketing materials.
The full study will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research later this year.