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When it pays to be clear: the appeal of concrete communication under uncertainty


International Journal of Advertising


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

van Horen F;Wanke M;Mussweiler T

Publication Year



This research demonstrates that the persuasiveness of concrete versus abstract communication in advertisers’ promotional messages depends on how (un)certain people feel. Three lab experiments and one study conducted in a natural setting provide converging evidence that uncertainty (versus certainty) increases the appeal of products advertised concretely (i.e., more specific, tangible, less open to interpretation) rather than abstractly, while keeping content similar. We demonstrate the effect across different types of uncertainty, product ads and slogans, three different languages, and a range of products, increasing the external validity of the findings. The results indicate that the effectiveness of concrete communication is critically determined by the level of (un)certainty people experience, which provides important insights for advertisers and communication officers.


Uncertainty; Language concreteness; Persuasive communication; Advertising context

Available on ECCH


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