Rethinking peer-to-peer communication: how different mediums and product types influence consumers’ language

Publication Name

European Journal of Marketing


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the utility of systemic functional linguistics (SFL) as an underlying model to examine the similarities/differences between spoken and written peer-to-peer (P2P) communication. Design/methodology/approach: An embedded mixed methods experimental design with linguistically standardized experimental stimuli was used to expose the basic linguistic differences between P2P communications that can be attributed to communication medium (spoken/written) and product type (hedonic/utilitarian). Findings: The findings show, empirically, that consumer’s spoken language is not linguistically equivalent to that of written language. This confirms that the capability of language to convey semantic meaning in spoken communication differs from written communication. This study extends the characteristics that differentiate hedonic from utilitarian products to include lexical density (i.e. hedonic) vs lexical sparsity (i.e. utilitarian). Research limitations/implications: The findings of this study are not wholly relevant to other forms of consumer communication (e.g. viral marketing). This research used a few SFL resources. Practical implications: This research shows that marketers should ideally apply a semantic approach to the analysis of communications, given that communication meaning can vary across channels. Marketers may also want to focus on specific feedback channels (e.g. review site vs telephone) depending on the depth of product’s details that need to be captured. This study also offers metrics that advertisers could use to classify media and to characterize consumer segments. Originality/value: This research shows the relevance of SFL for understanding P2P communications and has potential applications to other marketing communications.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access



Link to publisher version (DOI)