Area of Expertise
- Consumer Behavior
- Customer Service
- Social Media
I study the consumption and production of language in the market. My work offers insights on topics from the things consumers say in social media and online reviews, to how brands, marketers, and sales or service people talk to customers through language. I also examine the impact of language in cultural products (e.g., song lyrics, academic articles, packaged goods).
In addition to publishing my own research and teaching, I am an Associate Editor at the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Consumer Research, and Journal of Marketing.
I’ve worked with organizations including Bank of Montreal, Burger King, Chapters, Citizen Watch, Corning, Excite, Gillette, Indigo Books & Music, Kraft Foods, Molson, Rogers Media, Scotiabank, Yahoo! and more.
2021-2023 Schulich Research Excellence Fellowship
2021 Outstanding Reviewer Award, Journal of Consumer Research
2020 Outstanding Reviewer Award, Journal of Consumer Psychology
2020 Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Michigan
2019 Best Faculty Research Poster, Schulich School, York University
2019 Marketing Science Institute (MSI) Young Scholar
2016 Junior Research Excellence Award, Lazaridis School, Wilfrid Laurier University
2014, 2016 Merit Award for Excellence in Research, Wilfrid Laurier University
2013 Dean’s Commendation for Teaching Excellence, Wilfrid Laurier University
2011 Best Competitive Paper Award, Society for Consumer Psychology Conference
2011 Best Discussant Award, Haring Symposium
2011 Haring Symposium Fellow
2011 Kendrick Award (academic and research achievement)
2009-2012 Excellence in Teaching Award, Rotman School of Management
Packard, G. and Berger, J. (2024), "The Emergence and Evolution of Consumer Language Research", Journal of Consumer Research, 50(1).
Over the last 50+ years, there has been a huge rise in interest in consumer language research.
This manuscript spotlights the emergence and evolution of this area, identifying key themes and
trends, and highlighting topics for future research. Work has evolved from exploration of broad
language concepts (e.g., rhetorics) to specific linguistic features (e.g., phonemes) and from
monologues (e.g., advertiser to consumer) to two-way dialogues (e.g., consumer to service
representative and back). We discuss future opportunities that arise from past trends, and suggest
two important shifts that prompt questions for future research: a new shift towards using voice
(vs. hands) when interacting with objects, and the ongoing shift towards using hands (vs. voices)
to communicate with people. By synthesizing the past, and delineating a research agenda for the
future, we hope to encourage more researchers to begin to explore this burgeoning area.
Boghrati, R., Berger, J., and Packard, G. (2023), "Style, Content, and the Success of Ideas", Journal of Consumer Psychology.Keywords
Why do some things succeed in the marketplace of ideas? While some argue that content drives success, others suggest that style, or the way ideas are presented, also plays an important role. To provide a stringent test of style’s importance, we examine it in a context where content should be paramount: academic research. While scientists often see writing as a disinterested way to communicate unobstructed truth, a multi-method investigation indicates that writing style shapes impact. Separating style from content can be difficult as papers that tend to use certain language may also write about certain topics. Consequently, we focus on a unique class of words linked to style (i.e., function words such as “and,” “the,” and “on”) that are completely devoid of content. Natural language processing of almost 30,000 articles from a range of disciplines finds that function words explain 13–27% of language’s impact on citations. Ancillary analyses explore specific categories of function words to suggest how style matters, highlighting the role of writing simplicity, personal voice, and temporal perspective. Experiments further underscore the causal impact of style. The results suggest how to boost communication’s impact and highlight the value of natural language processing for understanding the success of ideas.
Packard, G. Berger, J., and Boghrati, R. (2023), "How Verb Tense Shapes Persuasion", Journal of Consumer Research.
When sharing information and opinions about products, services, and experiences, communicators often use either past or present tense (e.g., “That restaurant was great” or “That restaurant is great”). Might such differences in verb tense shape communication’s impact, and if so, how? A multimethod investigation, including eight studies conducted in the field and lab, demonstrates that using present (vs. past) tense can increase persuasion. Natural language processing of over 500,000 online reviews in multiple product and service domains, for example, illustrates that reviews that use more present tense are seen as more helpful and useful. Follow-up experiments demonstrate that shifting from past to present tense increases persuasion and illustrate the underlying process through both mediation and moderation. When communicators use present (rather than past) tense to express their opinions and experiences, it suggests that they are more certain about what they are saying, which increases persuasion. These findings shed light on how language impacts consumer behavior, highlight how a subtle, yet central linguistic feature shapes communication, and have clear implications for persuasion across a range of situations.
Berger, J. and Packard, G. (2023), "Wisdom from Words: The Psychology of Consumer Language", Consumer Psychology Review, 6(1), 3-16.
Language plays a fundamental role in every aspect of life. But only recently has research begun to understand the role of language in consumer behavior. This paper offers an integrative discussion of research on the language of consumer psychology. We review some of the main areas of inquiry and discuss some key methodological approaches (e.g., automated textual analysis) that have been crucial to the area’s development. Further, we outline some broad issues and opportunities in the space and highlight potential directions for future research. We hope to encourage more consumer psychologists to consider the great potential in producing new conceptual and substantive wisdom from words.
Berger, J., Rocklage, M. D., and Packard, G. (2022), "Expression Modalities: How Speaking versus Writing Shapes Word of Mouth", Journal of Consumer Research, 49(3), 389-403.
Consumers often communicate their attitudes and opinions with others, and such word of mouth has an important impact on what others think, buy, and do. But might the way consumers communicate their attitudes (i.e., through speaking or writing) shape the attitudes they express? And, as a result, the impact of what they share? While a great deal of research has begun to examine drivers of word of mouth, there has been less attention to how communication modality might shape sharing. Six studies, conducted in the laboratory and field, demonstrate that compared to speaking, writing leads consumers to express less emotional attitudes. The effect is driven by deliberation. Writing offers more time to deliberate about what to say, which reduces emotionality. The studies also demonstrate a downstream consequence of this effect: by shaping the attitudes expressed, the modality consumers communicate through can influence the impact of their communication. This work sheds light on word of mouth, effects of communication modality, and the role of language in communication.
Berger, J., Packard, G., Boghrati, R., Hsu, M., Humphreys, A., Moore, S., Nave, G., Olivola, C., and Rocklage, M. D. (2022), "Marketing Insights from Text", Marketing Letters, 33, 365-377.
Language is an integral part of marketing. Consumers share word of mouth, salespeople pitch services, and advertisements try to persuade. Further, small differences in wording can have a big impact. But while it is clear that language is both frequent and important, how can we extract insight from this new form of data? This paper provides an introduction to the main approaches to automated textual analysis and how researchers can use them to extract marketing insight. We provide a brief summary of dictionaries, topic modeling, and embeddings, some examples of how each approach can be used, and some advantages and limitations inherent to each method. Further, we outline how these approaches can be used both in empirical analysis of field data as well as experiments. Finally, an appendix provides links to relevant tools and readings to help interested readers learn more. By introducing more researchers to these valuable and accessible tools, we hope to encourage their adoption in a wide variety of areas of research.
Berger, J. and Packard, G. (2022), "Using Natural Language Processing to Understand People and Culture", American Psychologist.
Language can provide important insights into people, and culture more generally. Further, the digitization of information has made more and more textual data available. But by itself, all that data are just that: data. Realizing its potential requires turning that data into insight. We suggest that automated text analysis can help. Recent advances have provided novel and increasingly accessible ways to extract insight from text. While some psychologists may be familiar with dictionary methods, fewer may be aware of approaches like topic modeling, word embeddings, and more advanced neural network language models. This article provides an overview of natural language processing and how it can be used to deepen understanding of people and culture. We outline the dual role of language (i.e., reflecting things about producers and impacting audiences), review some useful text analysis methods, and discuss how these approaches can help unlock a range of interesting questions.
Berger, J., Rocklage, M. D., and Packard G. (2022), "Expression Modalities: How Speaking versus Writing Shapes Word of Mouth", Journal of Consumer Research.
Word of mouth is both frequent and important. But might the way consumers communicate (i.e., speaking versus writing) shape the language they use? And, as a result, the impact of what they share? While a great deal of research has begun to examine the behavioral drivers of word of mouth, there has been less attention to how communication modality might shape what consumers share. Five studies demonstrate that compared to writing, speaking increases the emotionality of communication. Speaking often involves less time to deliberate about what to say, so consumers use more emotional language. This difference in language produced, in turn, can lead to greater persuasion. This work sheds light on drivers of word of mouth, effects of communication modality, and role of language in communication.
Packard, G. and Berger, J. (2021), "How Concrete Language Shapes Customer Satisfaction", Journal of Consumer Research, 47(5), 787-806.
Consumers are often frustrated by customer service. But could a simple shift in language help improve customer satisfaction? We suggest that linguistic concreteness—the tangibility, specificity, or imaginability of words employees use when speaking to customers—can shape consumer attitudes and behaviors. Five studies, including text analysis of over 1,000 real consumer–employee interactions in two different field contexts, demonstrate that customers are more satisfied, willing to purchase, and purchase more when employees speak to them concretely. This occurs because customers infer that employees who use more concrete language are listening (i.e., attending to and understanding their needs). These findings deepen understanding of how language shapes consumer behavior, reveal a psychological mechanism by which concreteness impacts person perception, and provide a straightforward way that managers could help enhance customer satisfaction.
Packard, G. and Berger, J. (2020), "Thinking of You: How Second Person Pronouns Shape Cultural Success,", Psychological Science, 31 (4), 397-407.Keywords
Why do some cultural items succeed and others fail? Some scholars have argued that one function of the narrative arts is to facilitate feelings of social connection. If this is true, cultural items that activate personal connections should be more successful. The present research tested this possibility in the context of second-person pronouns. We argue that rather than directly addressing the audience, communicating norms, or encouraging perspective taking, second-person pronouns can encourage audiences to think of someone in their own lives. Textual analysis of songs ranked in the Billboard charts (N = 4,200), as well as controlled experiments (total N = 2,921), support this possibility, demonstrating that cultural items that use more second-person pronouns are liked and purchased more. These findings demonstrate a novel way in which second-person pronouns make meaning, how pronouns’ situated use (object case vs. subject case) may shape this meaning, and how psychological factors shape the success of narrative arts.
McFerran, B., Moore, S. and Packard, G. (2019), "How Should Companies Talk to Customers Online?", MIT Sloan Management Review, 60(2), 68-71.
Packard, G. with 184 co-authors (2018), "Many Labs 2: Investigating Variation in Replicability Across Sample and Setting", Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, 1(4), 443-490.Keywords
We conducted preregistered replications of 28 classic and contemporary published findings, with protocols that were peer reviewed in advance, to examine variation in effect magnitudes across samples and settings. Each protocol was administered to approximately half of 125 samples that comprised 15,305 participants from 36 countries and territories. Using the conventional criterion of statistical significance (p < .05), we found that 15 (54%) of the replications provided evidence of a statistically significant effect in the same direction as the original finding. With a strict significance criterion (p < .0001), 14 (50%) of the replications still provided such evidence, a reflection of the extremely high-powered design. Seven (25%) of the replications yielded effect sizes larger than the original ones, and 21 (75%) yielded effect sizes smaller than the original ones. The median comparable Cohen’s ds were 0.60 for the original findings and 0.15 for the replications. The effect sizes were small (< 0.20) in 16 of the replications (57%), and 9 effects (32%) were in the direction opposite the direction of the original effect. Across settings, the Q statistic indicated significant heterogeneity in 11 (39%) of the replication effects, and most of those were among the findings with the largest overall effect sizes; only 1 effect that was near zero in the aggregate showed significant heterogeneity according to this measure. Only 1 effect had a tau value greater than .20, an indication of moderate heterogeneity. Eight others had tau values near or slightly above .10, an indication of slight heterogeneity. Moderation tests indicated that very little heterogeneity was attributable to the order in which the tasks were performed or whether the tasks were administered in lab versus online. Exploratory comparisons revealed little heterogeneity between Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) cultures and less WEIRD cultures (i.e., cultures with relatively high and low WEIRDness scores, respectively). Cumulatively, variability in the observed effect sizes was attributable more to the effect being studied than to the sample or setting in which it was studied.
Berger, J., Chen, Z., Li, B., Liu, B., Lurie, N., Mason, C., Muir, D., Packard, G., Pancras, J., Schlosser, A., Sun, B. and Venkatesan, R. (2018), "Everywhere and at All Times: Mobility, Consumer Decision-Making, and Choice", Customer Needs and Solutions, 5(1-2), 15-27.
Advancements in mobile technologies mean that consumers can engage the digital world wherever they are and whenever they want. This intersection between the digital and the physical has important implications for consumer decision-making. We propose that mobile ecosystems vary in their capabilities and pervasivity (i.e., the degree to which a mobile ecosystem is accessible everywhere and at all times). Further, we propose that accounting for distinguishing aspects of mobile ecosystems, the context in which mobile ecosystems are used, and interactions between mobile ecosystems and mobile contexts are critical in advancing theoretical and substantive understanding of the role of mobile technologies in the marketplace. Based on this perspective, we identify important research topics as well as opportunities and challenges for modeling mobile consumer decision-making.
Berger J. and Packard, G. (2018), "Are Atypical Things More Popular?", Psychological Science, 29(7), 1178-1184.Keywords
Why do some cultural items become popular? Although some researchers have argued that success is random, we suggest that how similar items are to each other plays an important role. Using natural language processing of thousands of songs, we examined the relationship between lyrical differentiation (i.e., atypicality) and song popularity. Results indicated that the more different a song’s lyrics are from its genre, the more popular it becomes. This relationship is weaker in genres where lyrics matter less (e.g., dance) or where differentiation matters less (e.g., pop) and occurs for lyrical topics but not style. The results shed light on cultural dynamics, why things become popular, and the psychological foundations of culture more broadly.
Packard, G., Moore, S. and McFerran, B. (2018), "(I’m) Happy to Help (You): The Impact of Personal Pronoun Use in Customer-Firm Interactions", Journal of Marketing Research, 55(4), 541-555.
In responding to customer questions or complaints, should marketing agents linguistically “put the customer first” by using certain personal pronouns? Customer orientation theory, managerial literature, and surveys of managers, customer service representatives, and consumers suggest that firm agents should emphasize how “we” (the firm) serve “you” (the customer), while de-emphasizing “I” (the agent) in these customer–firm interactions. The authors find evidence of this language pattern in use at over 40 firms. However, they theorize and demonstrate that these personal pronoun emphases are often suboptimal. Five studies using lab experiments and field data reveal that firm agents who refer to themselves using “I” rather than “we” pronouns increase customers’ perceptions that the agent feels and acts on their behalf. In turn, these positive perceptions of empathy and agency lead to increased customer satisfaction, purchase intentions, and purchase behavior. Furthermore, the authors find that customer-referencing “you” pronouns have little impact on these outcomes and can sometimes have negative consequences. These findings enhance understanding of how, when, and why language use affects social perception and behavior and provide valuable insights for marketers.
Packard, G. and Berger J. (2017), "How Language Shapes Word of Mouth’s Impact", Journal of Marketing Research, 54(4), 572-588.
Packard, G., Gershoff, A. and Wooten D. (2016), "When Boastful Word of Mouth Helps Versus Hurts Social Perceptions and Persuasion", Journal of Consumer Research, 43(1), 26-43.
Although self-enhancement has recently been established as a central motive for sharing word-of-mouth information, little is known about the impact of self-enhancing assertions (e.g., boasting) on persuasion. We theorize, and demonstrate in three studies, that although boasting is perceived negatively, such immodest self-presentations can either impede or enhance social perceptions and persuasion. The valence of the persuasion outcome depends heavily on trust cues that change the meaning of boasting to the word-of-mouth recipient. Boasting in the presence of low trust cues activates heightened vigilance (e.g., valenced thoughts) about the source’s motives, leading to decreased persuasion. However, when given reason to trust the source specifically or people generally, boasting is readily accepted as a signal of source expertise, leading to increased persuasion. Implications for consumer decision making and firms seeking to manage consumer social influence are discussed.
Packard. G., Aribarg,. A., Eliashberg. J. and Foutz. N. (2016), "The Role of Network Embeddedness in Film Success", International Journal of Research in Marketing, 33(2), 328-342.Keywords
In the early stage of film development when producers assemble a development team, it is important to understand the means by which different team members may contribute to the film’s box office. Building upon theories from marketing and sociology, we propose that these contributions arise from team members’ positions, or embeddedness, in a social network weaved through past film collaborations. These collaborations provide team members with opportunities to draw knowledge and skills from the network for new film projects. Our conceptual framework accentuates two aspects of network embeddedness: positional embeddedness (PE)—how well a person is tied to well-connected others, and junctional embeddedness (JE)—the extent to which a person bridges sub-communities in the industry. We examine how the importance of PE and JE varies by functional role (cast versus crew), and is moderated by the film’s studio affiliation.
Marchanda, P., Packard, G. and Pattabhiramaiah, A. (2015), "Social Dollars: The Economic Impact of Consumer Participation in a Firm-Sponsored Online Customer Community", Marketing Science, 34(3), 367-387.Keywords
Many firms operate customer communities online. This is motivated by the belief that customers who join the community become more engaged with the firm and/or its products, and as a result, increase their economic activity with the firm. We describe this potential economic benefit as “social dollars.” This paper contributes evidence for the existence and source of social dollars using data from a multichannel entertainment products retailer that launched a customer community online. We find a significant increase in customer expenditures attributable to customers joining the firm’s community. While self-selection is a concern with field data, we rule out multiple alternative explanations. Social dollars persist over the time period observed and arose primarily in the online channel. To assess the source of the social dollar, we hypothesize and test whether it is moderated by participation behaviors conceptually linked to common attributes of customer communities. Our results reveal that posters (versus lurkers) of community content and those with more (versus fewer) social ties in the community generated more (fewer) social dollars. We found a null effect for our measure of the informational advantage expected to accrue to products that differentially benefit from content posted by like-minded community members. This overall pattern of results suggests a stronger social than informational source of economic benefits for firm operators of customer communities. Several implications for firms considering investments in and/or managing online customer communities are discussed.
Packard, G. with 48 other authors (2014), "Investigating Variation in Replicability: A “Many Labs” Replication Project", Social Psychology, 45(3), 142-152.
Although replication is a central tenet of science, direct replications are rare in psychology. This research tested variation in the replicability of 13 classic and contemporary effects across 36 independent samples totaling 6,344 participants. In the aggregate, 10 effects replicated consistently. One effect – imagined contact reducing prejudice – showed weak support for replicability. And two effects – flag priming influencing conservatism and currency priming influencing system justification – did not replicate. We compared whether the conditions such as lab versus online or US versus international sample predicted effect magnitudes. By and large they did not. The results of this small sample of effects suggest that replicability is more dependent on the effect itself than on the sample and setting used to investigate the effect.
Packard, G. and Wooten, D. (2013), "Compensatory Knowledge Signaling in Consumer Word-of-Mouth", Journal of Consumer Psychology, 23(4), 434-450.Keywords
This paper extends prior research on consumer knowledge beliefs and word-of-mouth transmission. Findings from four studies suggest that people compensate for unfavorable discrepancies between their actual and ideal consumer knowledge with heightened efforts to signal knowledgeability through the content and volume of their word-of-mouth transmissions. This compensatory knowledge signaling effect is moderated by the self-concept relevance (psychological closeness) of the word-of-mouth target and lay beliefs in the self-enhancement benefits of transmitting product knowledge. Content analysis of participants’ product communications further supports our knowledge signaling account. The relationship between actual:ideal knowledge discrepancies and heightened word-of-mouth intentions is mediated by the specific negative emotion associated with actual:ideal self-discrepancies. Overall, the findings suggest that the relationship between consumer knowledge and word-of-mouth transmission depends not only on what you think you know, but also on what you wish you knew.
DCAD 7100 Logics of Social Research, PhD
MKTG 6050 Marketing Research, MMKG / MBA
MKTG 4150 Consumer Behavior, BBA
MKTG 3100 Marketing Research, BBA
Project Title Role Award Amount Year Awarded Granting Agency Project Title RoleCo-investigator Award Amount$4,100.00 Year Awarded2019 Granting AgencyMarketing Science Institute Project Title RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$61,100.00 Year Awarded2017 Granting AgencySSHRC Insight Development Grant Project Title RolePrincipal Investigator Award Amount$6,900.00 Year Awarded2017 Granting AgencyLazaridis Institute Research Seed Grant, Wilfrid Laurier University