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2020/2021  KAN-CCMVV4015U  The power of (marketing) language: How names, frames, and phrases affect our perceptions, judgments, and decisions

English Title
The power of (marketing) language: How names, frames, and phrases affect our perceptions, judgments, and decisions

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course Third Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Max. participants 60
Study board
Study Board for MSc in Economics and Business Administration
Course coordinator
  • Antonia Erz - Department of Marketing (Marketing)
Main academic disciplines
  • Customer behaviour
  • Communication
  • Marketing
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 11-02-2020

Relevant links

Learning objectives
In general, this course supports students in gaining a deep theoretical understanding of a particular research area in order to derive research questions and managerial implications. At the end of the course, the excellent student should be able to
  • Identify new research questions, that are theoretically interesting and practically relevant, and generate their own conceptual framework and coherent academic/theoretical argumentation based on selected theories, specifically in regard to the individual assignment (research proposal)
  • Identify, explain, and discuss selected theories and concepts, particularly in light of the individual assignment
  • Understand and explain experiments, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and propose an experimental study in the individual assignment
  • Identify and discuss theoretical contributions and limitations of academic works (including the student’s own) and discuss their implications for marketing practice (including commercial and non-profit/public marketing)
Course prerequisites
Fluency in English (speaking, comprehension, writing) is required. Since this is an advanced course, basic knowledge of branding, marketing (communications), and consumer behavior is required. The class builds on the willingness of students to engage with and in academic research and discourse, and in deductive, mostly positivist, thinking and argumentation. Therefore, students should be willing to dig deeper into different theories by reading research papers, discussing them in class and bringing up practical examples to relate theoretical knowledge to "real life".

This is an advanced course that is particularly relevant for students approaching their Master's theses, who are searching for possible topics and/or would like to engage in deductive argumentation and academic writing.
The Power of (Marketing) Language: How names, Frames, and Phrases Affect our Perceptions, Judgments and Decisions:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 15 pages
Assignment type Project
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Spring
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
* if the student fails the ordinary exam the course coordinator chooses whether the student will have to hand in a revised product for the re- take or a new project.
Description of the exam procedure

The individual project is a research proposal. The student choses their own topic and develops their own research question based on its relevancy to the syllabus, i.e. the chosen topic must be closely connected to the syllabus. The students are provided with a selection of relevant literature during the course; the nature of the assignment requires from the students to research and select further literature on their own that is motivated by the self-chosen assignment topic and research question. Students will not collect data, but will have to suggest and describe an experiment in their research proposal.

Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

The kind and tone of language marketers use to frame a message -- if they frame it positively or negatively, if they use complex or simple words -- influences our daily lives as consumers tremendously. The choice of language may affect, for example, how consumers think about a new product, if people understand the risk of smoking, or if they perceive a brand as luxurious. And language goes beyond our lives as consumers: Research even found that your first and last name can have a considerable impact on your success in school or how high you may climb the career ladder!


Language is a powerful tool that is sometimes used with too little thought – maybe because we are not always aware of how much a single word or even letter may change our perceptions and evaluations. In this course, we will learn about selected current theories and concepts at the intersection of
-          marketing (e.g., branding, communications),

-          consumer behavior (e.g., judgment and decision-making),
-          cognitive psychology (e.g., information processing), and
-          linguistics (e.g., sound symbolism)

These theories and concepts are core in understanding the underlying mechanisms of how (marketing) language affects our perceptions, decisions, judgments, and memory as consumers.

Topics will include but will not be limited to the creation and effects of brand names, valence framing (positive vs. negative framing), online word-of-mouth, gender-related language issues, and storytelling. We will also touch on societal implications.


Introduction to experimental research:

Research in this area follows largely deductive, positivist thinking and argumentation, and data collection is dominated by experiments. It is therefore necessary to introduce students to both the basics of deductive argumentation and hypothesis building and the basics of experiments. Students should anticipate that these will be essential and integral parts of the course.

Students will not have to collect data, but will have to propose a suitable experiment to answer their suggested research question in their research proposal.




Description of the teaching methods
This course is a blended learning course in which 13 out of 34 hours will be offered based on online material through Canvas.

Generally, the course follows the principle of a flipped classroom: Offline lectures will be primarily used for group work, discussions and reflections of the material rather than for front lecturing. Front lecturing may occur only if need be.

Therefore, students are required to always prepare the assigned literature and online material before attending offline lectures/exercises. They must be prepared to independently work in groups during offline lectures and present their results to the class. They should also anticipate to work with journal articles in more detail than they might be used to. Only then is it possible to facilitate an in-depth discussion and deepen students' knowledge of the subject.

As students are free to choose their own topic within the syllabus of the course, students should be prepared to read into relevant literature on their own in advance, i.e., before it is the topic's turn on the course agenda.
Feedback during the teaching period
Students should be prepared to work independently on their research questions for the written assignment (research proposal) from the beginning of the course. This may also include reading into topics that may only be discussed later in the course. The teacher is available for individual feedback during offline classes and office hours throughout the course. It is recommended that students start working on their individual assignments as early as possible and take responsibility for contacting the teacher in case of questions.

Feedback to exercises will be mostly given orally.

There will be an online peer assessment towards the end of the course, during which students will receive individual feedback from their peers and collective feedback from the teacher regarding their research questions. Based on this assessment, the teacher will also evaluate individually if each (participating) student's research question lies within the course scope.
Student workload
Preparation 122 hours
Teaching 34 hours
Exam 50 hours
Expected literature

Recommended literature:
The following is only an illustrative selection of relevant literature. Assigned literature will mainly consist of journal articles to be downloaded from the library/Google scholar. The complete syllabus will be available on Canvas approximately two weeks before course start. 

  • Baek, T. H., & Yoon, S. (2017). Guilt and shame: Environmental message framing effects. Journal of Advertising, 46(3), 440-453.
  • Carnevale, M., Luna, D., & Lerman, D. (2017). Brand linguistics: A theory-driven framework for the study of language in branding. International Journal of Research in Marketing. https:/​/​doi.org/​10.1016/​j.ijresmar.2017.01.003
  • Chen, Z., & Lurie, N. H. (2013). Temporal contiguity and negativity bias in the impact of online word of mouth. Journal of Marketing Research, 50(4), 463-476.
  • Hansen, J., & Wänke, M. (2011). The abstractness of luxury. Journal of Economic Psychology, 32(5), 789-796. http:/​/​dx.doi.org/​10.1016/​j.joep.2011.05.005
  • Keller, K. L., Heckler, S. E., & Houston, M. J. (1998). The effects of brand name suggestiveness on advertising recall. Journal of Marketing, 62, 48-57.
  • Laham, S. M., Koval, P., & Alter, Adam L. (2012). The name-pronunciation effect: Why people like Mr. Smith more than Mr. Colquhoun. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 752-756. http:/​/​dx.doi.org/​10.1016/​j.jesp.2011.12.002
  • Lowrey, T., & Shrum, L. J. (2007). Phonetic symbolism and brand name preference. Journal of Consumer Research, 34, 406-414.
  • McKay-Nesbitt, J., Bhatnagar, N., & Smith, M. C. (2013). Regulatory fit effects of gender and marketing message content. Journal of Business Research, 66(11), 2245-2251.
  • Packard, G., & Berger, J. (2017). How language shapes word of mouth’s impact. Journal of marketing Research, 54(4), 572-588.
  • Paharia, N., Keinan, A., Avery, J., & Schor, J. B. (2011). The underdog effect: The marketing of disadvantage and determination through brand biography. Journal of Consumer Research, 37(5), 775-790.
  • Putrevu, S. (2004). Communicating with the sexes: male and female responses to print advertisements. Journal of Advertising, 33(3), 51-62.
  • Schuldt, J. P., & Schwarz, N. (2010). The “organic” path to obesity? Organic claims influence calorie judgments and exercise recommendations. Judgment and Decision Making, 5, 144-150.
  • Skurnik, I., Yoon, C., Park, D. C., & Schwarz, N. (2005). How warnings about false claims become recommendations. Journal of Consumer Research, 31, 713-723.
  • Song, H., & Schwarz, N. (2009). If it's difficult to pronounce, it must be risky: Fluency, familiarity, and risk perception.Psychological Science, 20, 135-138.
  • Van Laer, T., & De Ruyter, K. (2010). In stories we trust: How narrative apologies provide cover for competitive vulnerability after integrity-violating blog posts. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 27(2), 164-174. http:/​/​dx.doi.org/​10.1016/​j.ijresmar.2009.12.010
  • White, K., MacDonnell, R., & Dahl, D. W. (2011). It's the mind-set that matters: The role of construal level and message framing in influencing consumer efficacy and conservation behaviors. Journal of Marketing Research, 48(3), 472-485.
Last updated on 11-02-2020