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Macromarketing & Public Policy / Publication Abstract

The Strength of Weak-Tie Consensus Language

Apr 1, 2020

Jeffrey K. Lee, Ann Kronrod

Macromarketing & Public Policy
Consumer Well-Being


Every day, consumers share word of mouth (WOM) on how products and behaviors are commonly adopted through the use of consensus language. Consensus language refers to words and expressions that suggest general agreement among a group of people regarding an opinion, product, or behavior (e.g., “everyone likes this movie”). In a series of online and field experiments, the authors demonstrate that the interpretation and persuasiveness of consensus language depends on the tie strength between the communicator and the receiver of WOM. Although abundant literature highlights the advantage of strong ties (e.g., close friends, family) in influence and persuasion, the authors find that weak ties (e.g., distant friends, acquaintances) are more influential than strong ties when using consensus language. The authors theorize and demonstrate that this effect occurs because weak ties evoke perceptions of a larger and more diverse group in consensus, which signals greater validity for the issue at hand. These findings contribute to research on WOM, tie strength, and descriptive norms and provide practical implications for marketers on ways to analyze and encourage consumer discourse.

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