The Impact of Language Variables on Communication And Persuasion in Advertising essay
Advertising is a type of persuasive discourse that reflects the attempt or intention to change the behavior, feelings, intentions or viewpoint of another by communicative means (Lakoff, 1990). Since advertising is a specific discourse genre, we would expect to find some overall similarities in advertising discourse in different cultures. Nelson Mandela once stated: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart.” To see how this notion can be practically applied, the goal of this research is to examine cultural aspects of advertising by focusing on advertisers` language strategies in relation to the social relationships established between advertiser and consumer. As Carroll (2004) concluded, language plays a vital role in our daily lives and is our most important resource in our attempt to communicate our thoughts and feelings. Language is our tool that both binds us to our friends and family and also enables us to exclude those who are not our peers (Carroll 2004). Understanding language, its comprehension, production, acquisition, and the effect it has on society in terms of cultural norms and expectations is a daunting task.
Advertising is a public mode of communication; yet, the researcher will argue that in language in advertising should build a very personal relationship with the audience. However, previous language studies on advertising point out that the context of advertising communication is very impersonal, thus affecting the way advertisers communicate with the audience. Geis (1982), for example, notes that the social context in which advertisers talk directly to consumers is an impersonal, public context.
Rationale of the Study
This study examines the linguistic strategies indicative of the social relationships established between advertiser and consumer, and their cross-cultural variation. The present comparative research will use the methodology by Carroll, Luna, and Peracchio (2006) which will bring together the tools on interactional sociolinguistics and pragmatics, and would show how these approaches contribute to our understanding of advertising as a type of language discourse. In particular, I will examine advertising within the framework of speech acts, politeness strategies and indirectness, the audience and participant roles as language variables. I will examine cultural language differences in the use of the imperative, and in advertisements presented as requests and offers. I will also discuss politeness strategies in advertisements, the influence of social variable of class on the advertising message, and the relationships created between advertiser and consumer. The interaction of both pragmatic and international approaches will help us better understand the complex social, cultural and interactive nature of the language of advertising.
Purpose of the Study
Some form of language is used in the daily communication. There are various forms of the language often applied in this communication including verbal, written, and physical. Consequently, it is an important requirement for the consideration of the manner in which the development of multilingual paradigm will eventually impact effective communication and persuasion of adverts. Although language plays an integral role in persuasion, it has been widely ignored in developing effective advertisements (Carroll, 2008).
Marketers and consumer researchers need to have an in-depth understanding about the influence of various marketing variables in persuasive communication. Indeed, many people globally understand more than one language today (Grosjean, 1982). Nevertheless, little research has been undertaken in this important area. On the contrary, extensive consumer research has concentrated on people speaking only one language. Therefore, marketers and consumer researchers need to pay more attention into the reality of multilingual consumers. They need to incorporate the multicultural nature of the modern consumers through provision of realistic solutions in marketing (Carroll, Luna & Peracchio, 2006).
The purpose of this dissertation is to look at the manner in which diverse language variables influence on the process of making decision in the future in the reality of multicultural and multilingual global society. Through the integration of the existing language variables, it will be possible to create a detailed understanding about the possible influence the variables can have on persuasive communication in advertisements.
Research Question and Hypothesis
As the purpose of this research is basically an investigation about effect language has on advertising, the researcher undertook to focus on domains in demonstrating the importance of language domains in advertising evaluations. Therefore, the research question for this research is: How does language domain theory facilitate in the predicting the most effective language to target bilinguals in advertisements? Consequently, the researcher developed a hypothesis that the use of particular words of similar content especially in one language as opposed to the other by bilinguals makes advertisements applying language domain norms highly evaluated.
The primary research mainly focused on population of bilingual background namely the Spanish-English Hispanic population. This population is very important in the consumer market of the United States (Benson, 2001; Luna & Peracchio, 2005). Nevertheless, the findings of this study are representative of other bilingual populations worldwide. The purpose of this research is to undertake an investigation on whether there is a tendency to prefer advertisements using appropriate language in language domains of the area of content. In particular, the researcher predicts that bilinguals of Spanish-English population will evaluate an advert placed in Spanish and actually with Spanish domain higher than an advert placed in English. Additionally, if an advert is placed in English with advertisement domain in English, in this case work, there is an expectation of higher evaluation of the advert in comparison to an advert using Spanish.
Significance of the Study
The findings of this study have practical implications for the fields of consumer behavior and advertising. In summary, this research undertakes to demonstrate that it is of paramount importance for marketers and consumer researchers to undertake a careful consideration of the language to be used based on the target audience. In fact, marketers and consumer researchers need to demonstrate an understanding of common interests binding their consumers. In this research it is evident that the first step in effective persuasive communication in advertisement is knowledge of the community language. From the results of this study, it is clear that every multilingual population has language domains determining effective usage of the language in diverse contexts. Therefore, it is the sole responsibility of the advertiser to understand the appropriate language to be used.
Researching the Literature
            The researcher has undertaken some detailed review on various studies pertaining to the advertising language. Literature review of the previous studies on the language used in advertising reveals that the studies mainly focus on diverse pragmatic, social and linguistic issues associated with the language of advertising.
Based on earlier studies on the language used on advertising, it is evident that most focus on the formal characteristics of language. According to the work of Leech (1996) in linguistic devices applied by marketers and consumer researchers, it emerges that there is extensive application of simplicity in the structure of words, lack of vocabulary of verbs, excessive adjectival vocabulary, excess puns, ambiguity and parataxis. The study by Leech is not only interesting but also very informative pertaining to the formal features used in developing advertising messages. Nevertheless, Leech fails to recognize the impacts of pragmatic factors such as context, audience and participants in the language used in advertising due to his focus on only linguistic aspects of advertising. Furthermore, Leech does not consider cultural and social factors in his study in spite of their relevance construction and interpretation of the message of advertising.
Kumatoridani (1982) also undertook a study with a focus on the structure of text in advertisements. In this study, Kumatoridani (1982) attempted to make a comparison of textual structures in Japanese and American television commercials. The study showed that commercials in American televisions introduced the central theme of an advert in a more objective, argumentative and straightforward manner as compared to the commercials of Japanese origin. Similarly, the study found out that American commercials had a tendency of placing more important elements of the advert in beginning of the clause, text and phrase as compared to Japanese television commercials. In fact, Japanese television commercials tended to place the elements towards the end.
For primary research, the researcher undertook an experiment through a methodology similar to that used by Carroll, Luna, and Peracchio (2006). The research manipulated two main factors between-subjects namely content area and language. Similar language was used in the presentation of instructions, demographic information, advertisement evaluations, advertisements and language proficiency scales. These were either in English or Spanish. Conversely, the adverts copies were manipulated to reflect friends and family area and work content area for Spanish and American languages respectively.
The constituents of the study include three advertisements both printed and originating from three sources: a cell phone company, internet provider and furniture store. Each adverts had a photograph whose text was located either under or above the picture. Through focus groups, it was initially determined that the adverts were understandable and realistic and also that the common variants of Spanish language were used. The primary component of the advertisements was text. Explicit clues of culture were not incorporated into the adverts. Furthermore, the initial language of the adverts was English but was later translated into Spanish by a fluent Spanish speaker. Choice of the content areas of family and friends and work owing to the many adverts using them compared to other content areas. All respondents were able to see similar advertisements and only a maximum of five words had been changed for each condition. The main aim of changing the words across conditions was the need to change content area of the advertisement. However, other material remained much the same.
The study involved N respondents of English-Spanish population of bilinguals. There were N male respondents (N US born and N from outside US) as well as N females (N US born and N from outside US). Generally, the respondents of the study had a high level of proficiency in English and Spanish and actually had a score of over 3.67 from a test administered individually on a test of 5 points with 22 test items. The items were adapted from Luna and Peracchio (2001). A bilingual person according to the researcher referred to an individual with ability to undertake various activities using the two languages. Some of the capabilities include ability to understand directions of cooking, ability to read popular novels without requiring a dictionary, writing letters as well as filling forms used in job application. Furthermore, the respondents had acquired a minimum of high school diploma. There was a diversity of respondents in terms of nationalities such US, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The respondents were issued with a booklet consisting of three advertisements for experiment as well as numerous filler advertisements. There was a variation in the order of adverts. The assignment of respondents to the cells was done randomly. The respondents were split into two groups and assigned a different language from either English or Spanish. The respondents viewed the adverts one at a time and later requested to offer an evaluation on the basis of diverse scales showing how they liked the adverts. The scale of evaluation was based on seven-five point item: like/dislike very much, very good/bad, very pleasant/unpleasant, very/not at all satisfactory, and very favorable/unfavorable. The scale was such that favorable evaluations showed higher values. An index for the evaluation of the advert was determined by averaging the total responses to scales of evaluation (α= .964). Having viewed all the adverts, the respondents embarked on filling scales of fluency in language and demographics. The final step involved a check on whether respondents had used English of Spanish in diverse contexts and dismissed. In attempt to ascertain respondents’ understanding of the study, it was a requirement for them to leave comments pertaining to their understanding of the study. Indeed, respondents did not know the purpose of the study.
This study had an objective of determining the evaluation level of an advertisement given compatibility of the language with domain area. There was no interaction of the between other factors and the replication of the Advertisement (F’s < 1). Consequently, evaluation indices were formed for each condition. The index used for evaluation revealed an interaction between content area and language on a two way manner F (1, 52) = 10.33, p< .01). The findings were a confirmation of the hypothesis. Therefore, it is clear that the evaluation on an advert was higher if placed through the minority linguistic domain alongside content area of the advert. This is not true when majority language is used in the advert. The minority language advert evaluation based on Friends and Family was M = 4.74 whereas the majority language advert evaluation Friend and Family was M = 3.91; F (1, 25) = 5.39, p< .05). Pertaining to initial expectations of the study, an advert applying majority language with a content area associated with the same language has high evaluation compared to using minority language in the advert. Thus a majority language advert on majority content area, M = 5.21 while a minority language advert on majority content area, M = 4.66; F (1, 27) = 4.95, p< .05).
The findings from this study provide an extension to the works of Koslow et al. (1994). The study has effectively shown that adverts placed in minority languages have a possibility of attracting higher valuation that those using majority languages. Indeed, it is evident that high evaluation of advertisements depends on the extent to which the language used aligns to the content area of the advert. There is immense contribution into the existing literature from this study having determined parameters of successful use of minority language.
Although extensive research has been undertaken in the area of language domains, marketing literature is substantially lacking. This study makes massive contribution in the area of language and communication in advertisements. The study makes widespread use of research on sociolinguistics as well as prior research on language fluency in explaining the advertising phenomena. It is expected that this study will provide important insights into understanding bilingual consumers thus facilitate communication from companies to communities.
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