Highlighting Discrepancies in Brand Messaging Increases Social Media Engagement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How can marketers increase social media engagement? This research argues that a simple adjustment to the language used in brand messaging can help. Specifically, that marketers can increase social media engagement by using language that directs the attention of consumers to a discrepancy. A field study that analyzed the text of brand messages across 17 product categories found that consumers are more likely to interact with brands when their messages include words that direct attention to discrepancies between actual and desired states (e.g., words such as could, should, wish, want, and lacking). Controlled experiments reveal the mechanism underlying this effect. Specifically, that using language that directs attention to a discrepancy about the self makes messages seem more relevant, which, in turn, increases the likelihood that consumers will interact with the brand. This type of language is especially effective at making messages seem more relevant (and hence more engaging) among consumers that feel like they lack personal control in their lives. These findings provide marketers with a simple, yet theoretically-grounded technique for engaging more consumers with their brand messaging.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Academy of Marketing Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Brand messaging
  • Control
  • Discrepancy
  • Language
  • Perceived relevance
  • Social media engagement


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