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Perfect social media image posts: symmetry and contrast influence consumer response

Alena Kostyk (Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)
Bruce A. Huhmann (Department of Marketing, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 4 February 2021

Issue publication date: 17 June 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

Two studies investigate how different structural properties of images – symmetry (vertical and horizontal) and image contrast – affect social media marketing outcomes of consumer liking and engagement.

Design/methodology/approach

In Study 1’s experiment, 361 participants responded to social media marketing images that varied in vertical or horizontal symmetry and level of image contrast. Study 2 analyzes field data on 610 Instagram posts.

Findings

Study 1 demonstrates that vertical or horizontal symmetry and high image contrast increase consumer liking of social media marketing images, and that processing fluency and aesthetic response mediate these relationships. Study 2 reveals that symmetry and high image contrast improve consumer engagement on social media (number of “likes” and comments).

Research limitations/implications

These studies extend theory regarding processing fluency’s and aesthetic response’s roles in consumer outcomes within social media marketing. Image posts’ structural properties affect processing fluency and aesthetic response without altering brand information or advertising content.

Practical implications

Because consumer liking of marketing communications (e.g. social media posts) predicts persuasion and sales, results should help marketers design more effective posts and achieve brand-building and behavioral objectives. Based on the results, marketers are urged to consider the processing fluency and aesthetic response associated with any image developed for social media marketing.

Originality/value

Addressing the lack of empirical investigations in the existing literature, the reported studies demonstrate that effects of symmetry and image contrast in generating liking are driven by processing fluency and aesthetic response. Additionally, these studies establish novel effects of images’ structural properties on consumer engagement with brand-based social media marketing communications.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the McCarter Research Award from New Mexico State University.

Citation

Kostyk, A. and Huhmann, B.A. (2021), "Perfect social media image posts: symmetry and contrast influence consumer response", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 No. 6, pp. 1747-1779. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-09-2018-0629

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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