Creating Brand Personality and Engaging Users in Instagram for Marketing Purposes

A Multimodal Discourse Analysis


  • Emanuela Tenca University of Verona



Instagram, marketing discourse, multimodal discourse analysis, brand personality, engagement


This paper presents the findings of a pilot study regarding the ways in which the communicative potential of Instagram can be harnessed for marketing purposes. In particular, by adopting a multi-method approach rooted in Multimodal Discourse Analysis (Iedema 2003; Jewitt 2016), the study explores how an Italian fashion start-up company, D1 Milano, expresses its brand personality (Aaker 1997; Crawford Camiciottoli 2018) and engages its followers.

The research objective is pursued by investigating a corpus of 1,137 posts published between 15 August 2015 and 30 September 2019. These are examined focusing on three areas. The most frequent linguistic patterns are analysed using Sketch Engine in order to determine how brand personality is verbalised. The metadata are explored in the light of Zappavigna’s (2015) metafunctional framework, according to which hashtags can fulfil an experiential, a textual, and an interpersonal function. As regards visual representation, the study concentrates on the creation of interpersonal meaning between the image producer, the represented participant, and the viewer through choices in subjectification (Zappavigna 2016).

The results indicate that the personality of the brand combines traits belonging to the dimensions of excitement and sophistication, which are conveyed both linguistically and visually. Moreover, since the company frequently reposts pictures taken by its customers/followers, the audience is expected to identify with the brand, especially in the case of those images where the presence of the photographer can be inferred by the inclusion of his/her body parts (almost 25% of the entire corpus). Finally, hashtags mainly serve an experiential and an interpersonal function: one the one hand, they evoke D1 Milano’s personality by foregrounding the features of the brand, while also thematising the followers’ attitude, desires, and ambitions; on the other, they promote engagement by inviting users’ metacomments.

Author Biography

Emanuela Tenca, University of Verona

Emanuela Tenca received her PhD in Human Sciences at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy). Her research interests include web-mediated corporate communication, English for specific purposes, and multimodal discourse analysis. She has taught English as an adjunct professor at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Padua, and Parma, and currently she is research fellow at the University of Verona, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.


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