Study: Sound is what makes music – but it takes harmony to create consent

on 04.03.2022 by Dr. Isabelle Kes, Alexander Eiting

Cookie Banner Tonality

The role of tonality for Cookie Banner messaging

While companies develop more and more capabilities to analyze data and derive business impact with the help of data, increasing data protection regulations make it continuously harder to leverage or even collect data. Consumers have – luckily – the chance to decide in increasingly detailed ways if and which of their personal data they want to share with companies. When it comes to users’ consent confirmation, cookie banners and the message they provide play a crucial role. Thus, the formulation and the tonality of the messages within cookie banners are highly relevant and here’s way too little research on its optimal composition.

So we decided to take a closer look: Along with Prof. Eva Anderl from Hochschule München and Sarah Kutscher, we, Isabelle Kes and Alexander Eiting, conducted an experimental study on the optimal tonality of cookie messages depending on the audience. Starting point for this study was Sarah Kutscher’s master’s thesis. In a current article in the Marketing Review St. Gallen, we now present our results and explain the effect of a website users’ mindset and the optimal consent banner tonality on the intention to give consent. In case you currently do not have the chance to enjoy the latest issue of the Marketing Review St. Gallen with a good cup of coffee, we are going to summarize our findings published there. We’re also giving you some practical advice on how to increase consent rates based on these findings.


What did we investigate?

Based on the regulatory focus theory, we analyzed the impact of cookie banner tonality and its fit with the consumers’ mindset on the intention to give consent. Therefore, we contrasted prevention and promotion mindset and language, meaning a risk-aversive and a goal-oriented tonality. In an online laboratory experiment two cookie banner types were tested – one with a text using promotional language (1) and one using preventive language (2). Those banners were randomly shown to users: some with a preventive or promotional mindset.

Consent Banner Texts Promotional vs. Preventive

This way we could test the following hypothesis:

  1. Cookie banner tonality and its fit with consumers’ mindsets significantly influence their intention to give consent.
  2. A prevention tonality leads to a significantly higher consent intention than a promotion banner.
  3. If there is a regulatory fit between a prevention-focused person and a prevention-focused banner, the intention to give consent to cookies increases significantly.
Test hypothesis


What did we learn?

We found out that cookie banner tonality, regulatory fit, and privacy concerns are relevant drivers of consent intention. Furthermore, it became clear that a prevention tonality is much more effective in comparison to a promotion tonality. Additionally, a direct negative effect of privacy concerns on the consent intention can be observed.

The main findings are:

  1. Marketers should use a prevention tonality in cookie banner messages to increase the consent intention.
  2. Prevention banners work better for users with high and low privacy concerns.
  3. Cookie banners should use easy and concise language to increase transparency and promote trust.


What can you take home?

Based on our three main findings, you should generally use a preventive banner messaging to achieve the benefits of a higher consent intention to all cookies, including marketing cookies. Additionally, prevention tonality can help to address privacy concerns as consent intention is higher for prevention banners for people with high and low privacy concerns.

While the literature suggests two powerful mechanisms to increase the acceptance of tracking cookies

  • (i) default settings which do not conform with the GDPR in Europe (read more about it in our blog article about Dark Patterns used in Consent Management), and
  • (ii) specific design choices regarding the appearance and functionality of cookie banners,

this research project proposes that cookie banner tonality and social consensus i.e., a regulatory fit between the cookie banner messaging and the consumer focus, are impactful and legal tools to increase the consent intention of consumers. The full article offers more in-depth practical guidance and recommendations for online marketers and privacy officers regarding the optimal formulation of cookie banner messages.


In case you like to find out more about how to improve your consent rate, we’d be more than happy to discuss this topic with you. Just write us via or directly to or Please find an overview of our services regarding GDPR and consent topics here.


You can find the full article in the latest issue of the Marketing Review St. Gallen 2 |2022:  Kutscher, Kes, Eiting, Anderl (2022) Consent as a success factor – the impact of Cookie Banner Tonality and Regulatory Fit.



Original photo by Larisa Birta on Unsplash

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