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Brand choice via incidental social media exposure

William F. Humphrey Jr (Department of Marketing, Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York, USA)
Debra A. Laverie (Department of Marketing, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA)
Shannon B. Rinaldo (Department of Marketing, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA)

Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing

ISSN: 2040-7122

Article publication date: 12 June 2017




The paper seeks to establish the effectiveness of social media advertising and participation by brands through incidental exposure. Using experimental design, in a social media environment, this paper aims to extend incidental exposure research in the context of social media.


This paper uses an experimental design with controlled image durations using MediaLab and DirectRT, allowing for precise image display times and randomization of screens. Participants were split between high-involvement and low-involvement product categories, and the brand choice exercise was administered in an on-screen experiment.


The paper provides support that incidental exposure influences brand choice. Further, it indicates that for low-involvement product categories, the type of social media exposure does not influence brand choice significantly between types. For high-involvement product categories, ads perform better than sponsored story executions; consumer-generated brand messages perform better than brand-generated messages; and the influence of reference group affects brand choice.

Research limitations/implications

This paper tests one social media environment using a desktop Web environment. Additional studies would be needed to test other social media environments and mobile technology.

Practical implications

The paper provides evidence that brands benefit by simply participating and advertising in social media, but the execution style matters to a greater extent for high-involvement product categories in influencing brand choice.

Social implications

Mere exposure to a brand message may influence consumers unknowingly. Repeated exposure as short as 5 s per viewing is related to increases in brand choice.


This paper extends research on incidental exposure and establishes a key positive brand outcome for practice and research, and it provides the first exploration on the outcome of incident exposure to brand messages in social media. The results suggest that social media and advertising by brands have positive impacts beyond traditional measures of success online.



Humphrey Jr, W.F., Laverie, D.A. and Rinaldo, S.B. (2017), "Brand choice via incidental social media exposure", Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 110-130.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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