What Language Reflects and Predicts in the Consumption of Cuteness and Foreign Entertainment

  • Author / Creator
    Rizvi, Shaheer A
  • Language is ubiquitous and impactful in the marketplace, constantly being generated and consumed in speech, text, word of mouth (WOM), and online exchanges (Berger, 2014; Berger, Packard, et al., 2022; Moore & Lafreniere, 2020). For example, the choice of words, concreteness of language, and exposure to WOM have implications for consumers’ sharing intentions and satisfaction, and firms’ sales (Babić Rosario, Sotgiu, et al., 2016; Babić Rosario, De Valck, et al., 2020; Moore, 2012; Packard & Berger, 2021). Thus, language is a powerful tool for studying consumer relevant problems and marketing constructs (Berger, Humphreys, et al., 2020). Fundamentally, language reflects information about the consumer, context, and consumption, or can be used to understand and predict consumer behaviour. In this dissertation, I study the reflections and predictions that can be gleaned from language about two consumption phenomena: cuteness and foreign-language entertainment. Across two essays, I examine language as a resource that reflects consumers’ associative networks and perceptions, and test how these predict subsequent behaviours.
    First, both essays focus on what is being reflected in the language. In essay 1, I explore everyday language as a resource that reflects consumers’ varied associations and perceptions of the construct of cuteness. The consumption of cuteness is growing, and so too is the language used in conjunction with it. Using natural language processing tools, I rely on this language to dissect and analyze the network of linguistic associations around cuteness. Embedded within this language I identify dimensions, contexts, and characteristics commonly associated with cuteness. I use these to generate eight propositions that conceptually advance the construct. Similarly, in essay 2, I study what language reflects about the motivations inherent in the consumption of foreign language content (FLC). Here, I focus on what is revealed about consumers when they consume FLC in the form of movies. I find that the consumption of FLC signals expertise to observing consumers and leads to inferences about the motivations behind such consumption, which I label search for excellence. This novel construct captures the motivational inferences that are reflected by consuming FLC.

    Second, both essays examine how language predicts consumer-relevant downstream consequences. In Essay 1, I first show how cute-centric language in review text influences and predicts helpfulness. I then show that the semantic relationship between sweetness and cuteness leads to an increase in sweet food preference upon encountering cuteness. In essay 2, I demonstrate how the consumption of FLC, and the motivational perceptions it generates, predict increased expertise evaluations, along with increased recommendation-seeking from the FLC consumer.
    While both essays treat language as a rich resource that simultaneously reflects and predicts consumer perceptions and behaviours, each essay approaches language in a novel way, theoretically and empirically. In Essay 1, language is treated as a resource that contains information about how cuteness is collectively perceived and understood by consumers. This approach has been used to study marketing constructs in prior work (e.g., brand personality, Pamuksuz et al., 2021). However, I use a unique combination of text analysis techniques to generate insights, offering a methodological roadmap for how to study other consumer-relevant constructs. Further, I demonstrate how to apply these insights using field data (reviews) and experiments. In Essay 2, language is treated as a resource being consumed. To my knowledge, this is the first research to study language itself as an object of consumption. I use an experimental approach to determine the causal link between the motivations reflected by FLC consumption and how these predict expertise perceptions.
    Finally, both essays expand the scope of language research in marketing. Traditionally, language research in consumer behaviour has focused on word-of-mouth, persuasion, and marketing communications such as advertising and customer service. However, language offers numerous possibilities to study and understand consumer behaviour phenomena. As text-analytic techniques evolve and as consumption and production of language itself grows, studying language in unique and novel ways holds immense potential for marketing research. The two essays in this research build on such momentum and show how diverse and interesting phenomenon can be studied under the umbrella of language research in marketing.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Library with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.