Dr. Joe Phua Publishes New Research on the Power of Emotional Messaging in Vaccine Communications

By Bella Cox and Liby Navarro

Dr. Joe Phua is a Professor and the Endowed Distinguished Chair at the Temerlin Advertising Institute at Southern Methodist University.  In 2011, he earned his Ph.D. from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. Throughout his career, Dr. Phua has worked with over $4.5 million in external research funded by distinguished organizations.  His research has explored new communication technologies, their impact on advertising and branding, and their application in sports marketing and health communications and have been featured in significant media outlets such as ABC News and National Public Radio (NPR).

Through his published work in some of the utmost journals, including the Journal of Advertising and Journal of Consumer Behavior, Dr. Phua has won awards from the International Communication Association (ICA), American Academy of Academy (AAA), and the International Communication Association (ICA), among many others.   

His most recent research titled, “Encouraging Positive Dialog Toward COVID-19 Vaccines on Social Media Using Hope Appeals, Celebrity Types, and Emoticons” was published in the journal,  Mass Communication & Society, and was conducted in conjunction with an international team of colleagues from Washington State University, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, and the University of Melbourne. This study evaluates how utilizing hope appeals, celebrity endorsements, and value emoticons shaped attitudes about COVID-19 vaccinations.  In addition, it discusses ongoing research to refine messaging strategies and improve the effectiveness of public health campaigns.  

For this research, Dr. Phua and his colleagues were interested in examining how social media posts by celebrity endorsers can influence their followers’ attitudes towards the COVID vaccine. Two experiments were conducted in the study:

In experiment one, they tested three celebrity endorser types (politician, scientist, athlete) and two message types (high and low relevance hope appeal). This experiment revealed that politicians posting low relevance hope appeal messages had the strongest effect on changing attitudes towards the COVID vaccine.

In experiment two, three emoticon types (positive, neutral, negative) and the same two message types (high and low relevance hope appeal) were used. It was concluded that neutral emoticons (wow, haha), rather than positive (like, love, hug) or negative (sad, angry) emoticons, had the strongest effect on changing attitudes towards the COVID vaccine.

For both experiments, it was concluded that the more someone strongly identified with the celebrity endorser posting the message, the more strongly their attitudes towards the COVID vaccine were changed.

Dr. Phua emphasized that “through examining COVID vaccine messages, this study was helpful to healthcare organizations who can be better prepared to use the most effective social media-based message strategies to combat and mitigate any major health pandemics that may arise in the future in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic.”

In addition, Dr. Phua recently visited Nanyang Technological University in Singapore to initiate research and teaching collaborations. 

New Research Published: Dr. Quan Xie and Team Unveil the Psychology Behind Branded NFTs

 

In the ever-evolving landscape of marketing and digital innovation, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have taken center stage. Dr. Quan Xie, a professor at the Temerlin Advertising Institute, has been at the forefront of NFT research, collaborating with fellow TAI professors Dr. Sid Muralidharan, Dr. Steve Edwards, and Dr. Carrie La Ferle in various capacities across three published articles. Together, they have unveiled the relationships between consumer behavior and branded NFTs, shedding light on the dynamics of this emerging trend. Their research delves into the intriguing world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and their increasing influence on marketing strategies.

The allure of branded NFTs has captured the imagination of marketers and consumers alike. As innovative companies experiment with these digital assets as part of their marketing strategies, understanding the psychological responses of consumers, particularly the younger generation, has become paramount. This is where the pioneering research conducted by Dr. Quan Xie and her team at the Temerlin Advertising Institute comes into play.

Dr. Quan Xie’s first article, published in July of 2023 in the Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing was titled, “It’s a comparison game! The roles of social comparison, perceived exclusivity and perceived financial benefits in non-fungible token marketing.” This work was done alongside Dr. Sid Muralidharan. This in-depth research has a high impact factor and answers some of the most pressing questions surrounding what drives the buzz for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and their growing role in marketing strategies. Dr. Xie and Dr. Muralidharan’s publication delves into the heart of the matter, and unpacks the fascinating relationship between consumer personality traits and their interaction with NFTs. Dr Xie notes that the forefront of her research is “the concept of Social Comparison Orientation (SCO) and how it shapes our perceptions of exclusivity, financial gains, and the overall NFT experience.”

Through rigorous experiments involving over 1,000 participants, Dr. Quan Xie uncovered the nuances of how NFT users make social comparisons. She often found that users gravitated towards branded NFTs that guaranteed both social prestige and economic benefits. The study notes that this subsequently impacted consumers’ experiential evaluations, willingness to purchase NFTs and brand loyalty.

“The allure of NFTs isn’t just in their uniqueness, but in the social and financial superiority they bestow.” This groundbreaking research, rooted in social comparison theory, offers brands a new lens to optimize their NFT marketing campaigns, driving both sales and loyalty.” – Dr. Quan Xie

Her next article was published in September in the International Journal of Advertising, a highly-ranked journal in the advertising discipline, and is titled, “Who will buy the idea of non-fungible token (NFT) marketing? Understanding consumers’ psychological tendencies and value perceptions of branded NFTs.” For this article, she once again worked alongside Dr. Sid Muralidharan but also garnered the help of Dr. Steve Edwards. Together they sought to better understand consumers’ psychological responses to branded NFTs, with a specific focus on Gen-Z and Millennials in the realm of blockchain technologies and the Metaverse.

This study was based on a robust U.S. sample of young participants and uncovered the core values driving these consumers towards acquiring and showcasing these digital assets.

“Our findings reveal the intricate web of information, unique, entertainment, and expressive values that stoke their desire for status consumption and inherent innovativeness, fueling positive word-of-mouth (WOM) for brands. Interestingly, for those financially constrained, the lure lies in the unique value that NFTs present, a crucial determinant for sparking positive WOM,” Dr. Xie noted.

Dr. Quan Xie’s work is not just about theory but also about practical implications. The research emphasizes how NFTs can be invaluable to both brands and consumers, bridging existing research gaps and offering real-world applications. This research can be applied in a variety of different ways and is relevant to marketers aiming to capture this vibrant demographic or even policymakers seeking insights. It offers a comprehensive understanding of the psychological play behind branded NFTs.

The most recent article was published on October 27th in the Journal of Interactive Advertising. Dr. Quan Xie, Dr. Sid Muralidharan, Dr. Steve Edwards, and Dr. Carrie La Ferle worked in collaboration to publish their research titled, “Unlocking the Power of Non-Fungible Token (NFT) Marketing: How NFT Perceptions Foster Brand Loyalty and Purchase Intention among Millennials and Gen-Z.”

Although this research focused on similar demographics, it explored the impact of the perceptions of branded NFTs on consumers attitudes and behaviors toward both the NFTs and the brand. The study used the technology acceptance model and the theory of reasoned action to explain how NFT perceptions influence evaluations, willingness to purchase, brand attitude, and ultimately brand loyalty and purchase intentions. This research represented one of the first empirical studies in this area.

Dr. Sid Muralidharan emphasizes the significance of their findings, saying,

“Dr. Quan’s timely research on NFTs provides insights on a burgeoning area of cryptocurrency. The resulting models stem from theory and highlight how NFTs can be invaluable to both brands and consumers. Not only do the studies address research gaps but offer real-world implications.”

The exploration of consumer perceptions regarding branded NFTs is a groundbreaking area of study. Dr. Quan Xie, along with her colleagues, has not only bridged research gaps but also offered a fresh perspective for marketers aiming to connect with the ever-evolving Gen-Z and Millennial audience. Their work highlights that branded NFTs are more than just digital collectibles; they hold the key to unlocking consumer engagement, brand loyalty, and a deeper understanding of the consumer mindset.

As the world of NFTs continues to expand, the research by the TAI team serves as a guide for businesses and policymakers. They have provided a comprehensive understanding of the factors that drive consumers towards branded NFTs, ultimately helping marketers tailor their strategies for better engagement. Their work highlighted the importance of NFTs in modern marketing and the evolving landscape of blockchain technology.

Faculty Highlights: 2021 Conference of the American Academy of Advertising

During the annual American Academy of Advertising conference held virtually from March 18-20, 2021, Dr. Quan Xie of SMU’s Temerlin Advertising Institute captivated a global audience with her research titled, “Advocating Corporate Social Responsibility in these Uncertain Times of Covid-19? The Moderating Effect of Threat Persuasion in CSR Advertising.” Dr. Xie also is an active member of the AAA Membership Committee, helping to interact and grow the existing membership, currently located across 20+ countries.

Contributing to this growth, Dr. Sid Muralidharan and Dr. Carrie La Ferle joined in meetings with their Global & Multicultural Committee members to foster research and teaching across a broad range of local, national, and international cultural issues. 

Distinguished Chair, Professor of Advertising and Director of the Temerlin Advertising Institute, Dr. Steven M. Edwards was also front and center at the American Academy of Advertising Conference, being thanked for his past service as Treasurer on AAA’s Executive Committee, continued support of doctoral research awards.

Advertising Professor Collaborates With Researchers to Study Homelessness

Willie Baronet, the Stan Richards Professor in Creative Advertising, has been buying and collecting homeless signs since 1993. The meaningful conversations Baronet had with the homeless when purchasing signs led to the founding of his not-for-profit We Are All Homeless. Through this organization, Baronet enlists volunteers and students to advocate for the homeless by organizing awareness-building events, including exhibits of collected signs and gathering donations.

In collaboration with a We Are All Homeless 2018 event, Baronet worked alongside researchers from Thomas Jefferson University’s Public Health Department and its director, Dr. Rosemary Frasso, to study the lived experiences of unhoused people who panhandle and their interactions with passersby. “I am so proud that I’ve been able to partner with Dr. Frasso to bring art and science together to create meaningful research to impact the homeless cause,” says Baronet. “Working with her students, and subsequently being a co-author to their research, is something I didn’t expect to be doing. The TAI slogan is Better Advertising. Better World. and the Meadows motto is Start a Movement. I hope that this work can be an example to our students who want to take the lessons we teach about creativity and purpose and find ways to make them a reality.”

Their resulting paper, ‘Even a smile helps’: Exploring the Interactions Between People Experiencing Homelessness and Passersby in Public Spaces, was published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry this January. Forty semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants who were approached while panhandling and asked to describe their experiences asking for help in public and accessing homelessness services, as well as what they wished to share with those passing by. Participants’ experiences were consistent with loneliness, as characterized in the literature as distress at lack of social connection, and were also notable for the verbal and physical violence endured in public spaces. Many shared personal histories of tragedy and called for greater empathy and compassion from passersby, as well as society as a whole, for people experiencing homelessness. The researchers said that because social isolation and trauma are detrimental to mental health in this vulnerable group, interventions to support this population should provide opportunities for consistent, supportive social connections and focus on providing low-barrier, stable housing.

Dr. Frasso, the organizing researcher, adds, “This collaboration helped us both grow as scholars and educators. Working with colleagues outside your home discipline is powerful and together we were able to shed light on the lives of people experiencing homelessness, through art (the amazing exhibit we held at Jefferson) and through traditional public health channels, such as peer-reviewed literature.”

FACULTY RESEARCH: Graduate Student Co-Authors Article with Temerlin Faculty

Dr. Sid Muralidharan, associate professor, and Dr. Carrie La Ferle, Marriott Endowed Professor of Ethics and Culture, have been researching the effectiveness of domestic violence messaging on bystander reporting. Last fall, Dr. Sid invited Temerlin graduate student Lauren Howard to join their research for a third study exploring domestic violence prevention messaging.

The first two studies explore the outward-facing emotional response to ad messaging. The first study, published in the Journal of Advertising, compares guilt and shame ad appeals. A subsequent study published in the Journal of Nonprofit and Public Sector Marketing focuses on opposing emotional ad appeals – shame versus hope. Between both these studies, hope is found to be the more effective emotion in motivating bystanders to intervene. The most recent study, which Howard co-authored alongside Dr. Sid and Dr. La Ferle for Social Marketing Quarterly, pivots inward to compare the effects of guilt and hope messaging in relation to “independent self-construal,” the extent to which people view themselves as separate and distinct from others. Those with high independent self-construal are more apt to promote themselves positively and tend to be driven and have high self-esteem. In contrast, people with low independent self-construal tend to be less ambitious with lower self-esteem.  Findings reveal that hope messaging engages both low and high independent self-construal, whereas guilt messaging pushes those with low self-construal to distance themselves from potential bystander intervention.

“Through this independent study, I learned a lot about how we are still facing the impact of patriarchal societies’ dominance in many cultures worldwide,” says Howard. “This is important as it affects how people see, feel, and act upon domestic violence and the advertisements associated with bystander intervention. It is crucial that advertisers pay attention to what emotion resonates with consumers and encourages action when creating ads to promote bystander intervention.”

Temerlin faculty engage graduate students through a variety of work such as case studies, primary and secondary research, and agency internships to ensure students have exposure to the vast array of disciplines within the advertising industry. Learn more about Temerlin’s graduate program here.

FACULTY RESEARCH: Hope Inspires Bystander Intervention

Temerlin’s Dr. Sid Muralidharan and Dr. Carrie La Ferle have published a follow-up to their 2019 study, which explores emotional appeals in public health messaging to mitigate domestic violence in India.  According to UN Women, a global database on violence against women, India reports a 288% lifetime rate of physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, compared to 29% in the U.K., 269% in Argentina, and 38% in Turkey. These wide-ranging domestic violence rates by country underscore the importance of research for domestic violence prevention messaging.

The original study, published in the Journal of Advertising, found shame messaging, compared to guilt, to be the more effective message to inspire bystander intervention. In the follow-up study recently published in the Journal of Nonprofit and Public Sector Marketing, Dr. Sid, associate professor, and Dr. La Ferle, the Marriott Endowed Professor of Ethics and Culture, compare shame to hope in public service announcement messages. This study finds that bystanders are motivated to act when hope, more so than shame, messaging is utilized. “Social marketers would benefit from crafting domestic violence prevention messages that are framed with a strong hope appeal, i.e., a positive outcome of saving the victim will be achieved by calling the helpline,” Dr. Sid explains. For bystanders, hope is the key to motivating action through goals, agency, and pathways; therefore, marketers have to integrate these three components in their messaging. In other words, saving the victim from further abuse (goal) can be achieved by providing a helpline number (pathway), and the anonymity and ease of calling the helpline will increase motivation to help (agency).

While advertising is often perceived as a way to sell goods, the importance of research on domestic violence prevention messaging underscores for society the ethical component of advertising. Dr. Sid and Dr. La Ferle teach courses such as Advertising as a Cultural Force, Advertising Society and Ethics, and Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship to Temerlin’s undergraduate and graduate students. Through their ongoing research, Temerlin professors play an active role in providing solutions to serious issues.

FACULTY RESEARCH: How Luxury Brands Can Curate Luxe Experiences for Digital Media

As of late, luxury brands have shifted their focus to engage consumers with more meaningful and compelling digital content. According to Dr. Quan Xie, Assistant Professor of Advertising in the Temerlin Advertising Institute, only a small percentage of consumers can afford high-end luxury products, but it is not surprising to see those who aspire to this lifestyle also engross themselves in luxury branded content.

In recent research published in the Journal of Interactive Advertising, Dr. Xie studies luxury fashion brands’ content marketing practices on YouTube, and demonstrates that consumers’ perceived experiential value, social value, and unique value of the luxury branded content are positively related to their perceived brand exclusivity and customer intimacy, which in turn, will boost consumers’ loyalty toward the brand. In addition, consumers’ perceived functional value of the luxury brand’s YouTube channel is positively related to their perceived brand prestige and exclusivity. However, viewers’ perceived informative value was found not relate to brand prestige, exclusivity, or customer intimacy, suggesting that the informative value of luxury content may not play a role in brand building of high-end luxury fashion brands.

While a luxury brand like Bentley boasts around 7.8 million Instagram followers, Hermès has more than 10 million followers, and Dior maintains a following of 32.7 million. Having a large group of followers may generally be seen positively, but for luxury brands seeking to build long-term loyalty, marketers must boost consumers’ perceived brand exclusivity and concentrate on building an intimate customer-brand relationship.

Dr. Xie points to Chanel as the cornerstone for luxury brand-consumer engagement through an ambitious and meticulously planned content strategy. At the beginning of this year, they had around 52 million followers on Twitter and Instagram, and 1.65 million fans on YouTube, which makes Chanel the leading luxury brand across all platforms. For example, they post regularly and consistently while adopting a video-first strategy. This well-crafted content has successfully transformed general viewers into faithful audiences. That said, any time the focus is on luxury brand interactions, the experience must leave consumers with the perception of brand scarcity.

Brand scarcity refers to the rareness of the product or service (e.g., scarce materials, limited accessibility, and distribution) that enhance consumers’ desire or preferences. Since luxury experiences provide more customized services and cost more than conventional experiential purchases, luxury experiences are entitled to greater exclusivity. Luxury brands also aim to evoke exclusivity at all customer contact points.

In the end, Dr. Xie’s research suggests luxury brands should aim to create content that offers experiential value, such as backstage stories, intriguing legacy narratives, and content that is unique to luxury branding – like aesthetic close-up of craftsmanship, as well as content that promises social value to followers. These content values will contribute to followers’ perceived scarcity and intimacy of luxury brands, which, in turn, can build up to greater brand loyalty. Additionally, reliable social media channels can also contribute to increased brand exclusivity. Luxury brands should strategically humanize their owned social media channels to transform them into credible information sources among followers.

Click to learn more about Dr. Quan Xie and her research.

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: Dr. La Ferle Attends Global CMO Growth Council Meeting

Dr. Carrie La Ferle, Marriott Endowed Professor of Ethics & Culture, participated in the Global CMO Growth Council meeting last week in NYC examining Brand Experience, Creativity, & Media. The meeting focused on putting people first to drive growth through innovation, insights, creativity, experiential, and media.

Over the past two years, the ANA, Cannes Lions, and the Global CMO Growth Council have identified four priorities for driving industry growth: 1) Data, Technology, and Measurement; 2) Talent and Marketing Organization; 3) Brand Experience, Creativity, and Media; and 4) Society and Sustainability.

Anheuser-Busch graciously hosted the event last week and several CMOs cutting across multiple companies joined from Ernst & Young and Moet Hennessy to Subway, Stoli Group and Viacom as well as from Cannes Lions. Marcel Marcondes, U.S. CMO Anheuser-Busch provided a great overview of how Anheuser-Busch is working to drive growth by learning and listening more to consumers while also diversifying their offerings. Spencer Gordon, VP, Digital for Anheuser-Busch shared some of the recent wins that were driven by starting small and local to ensure relevance, using social media, then listening to reactions, and broadening the scope when reactions were good.

Future meetings are planned over the next few months across the four priorities leading up to Cannes Lions, where the Global CMO Growth Council originated in 2018.

FACULTY RESEARCH: Engaging Luxury Brand Consumers

Luxury brands have increased their social engagement by investing heavily in interesting brand value propositions and captive storytelling. Yet, research to understand the mechanisms of luxury content marketing in brand building is still scarce. Drawing on value perceptions, brand prestige/exclusivity, customer intimacy, and brand loyalty, Dr. Xie’s research proposes and tests the perceived values of luxury content marketing on social media (i.e., YouTube) which shapes brand loyalty among luxury consumers. Dr. Quan Xie’s research “Deconstructing Luxury Content Marketing on YouTube: The Roles of Content Values in Brand Prestige, Brand Exclusivity, Customer Intimacy and Brand Loyalty” was recently accepted by the International Communication Association (ICA) Annual Conference to be presented at the Gold Coast, Australia this May. The conference accepted only 44.27% of the papers and panels that were submitted this year!

FACULTY RESEARCH: Can Advertising Encourage Bystander Intervention in Response to Domestic Violence?

Temerlin Advertising Institute faculty are studying ways to encourage bystander action when they encounter victims of domestic violence. According to the CDC, “About 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.”

According to the research, bystander intervention is one way to help minimize occurrences of domestic violence. However, bystanders tend to be apathetic toward the victims they happen to encounter or observe.

In the research published in the Journal of Advertising, Dr. Carrie La Ferle and Dr. Sidharth Muralidharan examined the role of guilt and shame on attitude toward the ad and reporting intention of bystanders in India. While the effectiveness of negative emotions has been thoroughly researched in the West, conceptualizing guilt and shame from an Eastern perspective and using fluency in processing theory revealed that ads featuring emotional appeals strengthened reporting intention more than control ads did.

Professor Muralidharan explained that this action occurs through self-construals which impact the ways that the different emotions elicited are processed. Self-construal refers to the grounds of self-definition, and the extent to which the self is defined independently of others or interdependently with others and is thought to vary between Westerners and East Asians.

With respect to the findings, Dr. Muralidharan thought that it was interesting that shame was more effective than ads with guilt and the control. However, what was more intriguing was that ads with negative emotions (and lack of) were equally effective among those with an independent self-construal. Basically, such ad appeals were not as important as the duty to help a victim in need. A probable answer lies in research that touches on the characteristics of the independent self-construal (being assertive, autonomous, and possessing a stronger sense of equality), which could explain these gaps in future studies.

According to Dr. La Ferle, “We hope that this research will allow for more impactful public service announcements in India and further prosocial causes by encouraging people to take action in response to perceived needs.” This is one way SMU Advertising research is helping to create better advertising which leads to a better world.

For more information see:

Dr. Carrie La Ferle, Dr. Sid Muralidharan & Dr. Anna Kim “Using Guilt and Shame Appeals from an Eastern Perspective to Promote Bystander Intervention: A Study of Mitigating Domestic Violence in IndiaJournal of Advertising, 2019.