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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Elizabeth G. Miller
Nonverbal cues are an essential part of message creation and interpretation, and are central to many socially meaningful outcomes in interactions in all different types of relationships. Most importantly, nonverbal communication can affect the establishment, maintenance and dissolution of relationships. The main purpose of this dissertation is to examine the effects of nonverbal cues on consumer-brand interactions in both face-to-face communications (FTFC) and computer-mediated communications (CMC).
The first essay is dedicated to understanding how the employees’ speech rate affects impressions of the employee and the brand associated with the employee. In general, research has recognized the importance of frontline employees in forming impressions of brand personalities. Although research shows that individuals rely on their sensory experiences to form feelings and thoughts about a brand, little research has investigated the effects of the employees’ nonverbal cues, such as speech rate, on perceptions of brands. We focus our attention on speech rate because of its important role in forming attitudes towards the speaker (i.e., employee).
We expand on the brand literature by investigating the effects of speech rate on perceptions of the employee’s and brand’s personality. We expand the notion of branded service encounters to include the nonverbal characteristics of the frontline employee and take it beyond the employee’s behavior to include speech rate, a nonverbal cue. Finally, we also expand the literature on brand personality to show a potential process of how brand personality is created in the minds of the consumers. Across four experiments, we find that speech rate affects customers’ perceptions such that employees are perceived more positively when the employee speaks with a fast or normal rate compared to when the employee speaks at a slower rate. These perceptions of the employee personality then “spill over” to affect customers’ perceptions of the brand.
In essays 2 and 3, we shift our attention to examining consumer-brand communications in CMC where the lack of nonverbal cues can create impersonal and cold interactions. The purpose of these two essays is to examine ways to mitigate the absence of nonverbal cues and provide ways to understand consumers’ perceptions of brands on CMC. For both essays, we bring in social information processing theory and social response theory as a basis to explain how technology, which includes social media and live chats, can be seen as social agents, which could be very similar to employees representing the brand. Essay 2 examines the effects of emoji in perceptions of the brands’ trust and sincerity. Across two studies we show that the responses to emoji usage differ depending on relationship type. We show that in communal relationship, the use of emoji increased perceptions of brand trust and sincerity, however, in exchange relationships, the use of emoji decreased perceptions of brand trust and sincerity. These results seem to be driven by the presence and violation of relationship norms. For example, exchange relationships are governed by formal, quid-pro-quo norms with no expectations of emotional display; therefore, any display of emotion via emoji is seen as a violation of the exchange relationship norms resulting in decrease perceptions of brand trust and sincerity. Our research also suggests that responses to emoji may also vary depending on the specific emoji used; however, emotional content does not seem to have a linear relationship with perceptions of brand trust and sincerity.
Essay 3 examines the effects of online mimicry on consumer-brand relationships. Across three studies, we show that mimicry is only effective in positive service interactions, whereas, those effects are mitigated in negative service interactions. We also show that the effects of mimicry depend on mimicry type. Mimicry of emoji increase perceptions of trust, satisfaction and rapport, while mimicry of punctuation decrease perceptions of trust, satisfaction and rapport. The opposite effect of punctuation mimicry is explained by the perceptions of rudeness (i.e., flaming). People perceived punctuation mimicry to be a sign of rudeness, therefore, having an inverse attitude towards it.
The findings from essays 2 and 3 improve marketers’ understanding of consumer-brand interactions online. Essay 2 expands on markets understanding of emoji as a vehicle of communication. We also expand the literature on consumer-brand relationship formation through trust and sincerity perceptions. We also give marketers basic understanding of when and how to use emoji in their online communications. Essay 3 expands the literature on mimicry by showing the effects of online mimicry in building consumer-brand relationships through trust, satisfaction and rapport. We also expand the mimicry literature by showing that the effects of mimicry depend on context and mimicry type, and we provide a possible explanation to why different types of mimicry produce different reactions. Finally, essays 2 and 3 look into establishing online brand trust. The process of creating trust, which is essential in consumer-brand long-term relationships, hasn’t been given the attention that it needs. We investigate two behaviors that might affect perceived trust in online consumer-brand relationships, namely the use of emoji as a substitution for nonverbal cues (essay two), and mimicry of nonverbal cues, such as emoji, and punctuation marks (essay three).
Hajjat, Fatima M., "THE SILENT LANGUAGE: THE EFFECTS OF NONVERBAL CUES ON PERCEPTION OF BRANDS IN ONLINE AND OFFLINE CONTEXTS" (2017). Doctoral Dissertations. 1009.