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Word-of-mouth marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM, WOM marketing, also called word of mouth advertising)

George Silverman, a psychologist, pioneered word-of-mouth marketing when he created what he called "teleconferenced peer influence groups" in order to engage physicians in dialogue about new pharmaceutical products. Silverman noticed an interesting phenomenon while conducting focus groups with physicians in the early 1970s. "One or two physicians who were having good experiences with a drug would sway an entire group of skeptics. They would even sway a dissatisfied group of ex-prescribers who had had negative experiences!"[4]

With the emergence of Web 2.0, many web startups like Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, and Digg have used buzz marketing by merging it with the social networks that they have developed.[citation needed][clarification needed] With the increasing use of the Internet as a research and communications platform, word of mouth has become a more powerful and useful resource for consumers and marketers. It has become possible because of the fact that with the advent of the Internet, the process of communication has been simplified due to the disappearance of such communication barriers as distance, linguistic and others. People have become more willing to share their opinions, create thematic communities, which ultimately influenced the WOM.

In October 2005, the advertising watchdog group Commercial Alert petitioned the United States FTC to issue guidelines requiring paid word-of-mouth marketers to disclose their relationship and related compensation with the company whose product they are marketing.[5] The United States FTC stated that it would investigate situations in which the relationship between the word-of-mouth marketer of a product and the seller is not revealed and could influence the endorsement. The FTC stated that it would pursue violators on a case-by-case basis. Consequences for violators may include cease-and-desist orders, fines or civil penalties.[6]

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association, a US American trade group that represents hundreds of companies, has adopted an ethics code stating that manufacturers should not pay cash to consumers in return for recommendations or endorsements.[7]

Research firm PQ Media estimated that in 2008, companies spent $1.54 billion on word-of-mouth marketing. While spending on traditional advertising channels was slowing, spending on word-of-mouth marketing grew 14.2 percent in 2008, 30 percent of that for food and drink brands.[8]

Word of mouth marketing today is both online and through face-to-face interaction. The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science has shown that to achieve growth, brands must create word of mouth beyond core fan groups—meaning marketers should not focus solely on communities such as Facebook.[citation needed] According to Deloitte, further research has shown that 'most advocacy takes place offline'—instead it happens in person. According to the Journal of Advertising Research, 75% of all consumer conversations about brands happen face-to-face, 15% happen over the phone and just 10% online. On the other hand, some see social media interaction as being inextricably tied to word of mouth marketing.[9] In 2003, Fred Reichheld implemented the strategy of word-of-mouth marketing by introducing Net Promoter Score, which analyzes the number of Promoters a brand has, who recommend the brand to other people they know through such marketing tactic.

Analyzing WOM

Consumers may promote brands by word-of-mouth due to social, functional, and emotional factors.[24] Research has identified thirteen brand characteristics that stimulate WOM, namely:[25]

Age of the brand in the marketplace: A long history of a brand or product can create an emotional relationship between the consumer and itself. This can stimulate WOM if the brand is known to be reliable or effective evident by the existence of its place in a market, this can be effective for companies for communicating their strength to other competitors.

Type of good: Depending on the type of product, experiences customers have with a product may mean that WOM can be used to suggest brands and products to others when in different forms of situations. An example of this could be a household or garden object.

Complexity: WOM is used in this instance to help explain the use of a product or its effectiveness to whether of not it will serve its purpose or need.

Knowledge about a brand: Similar to complexity, WOM can be used to describe the effectiveness of a brand, the history behind it and what the main purpose of the product is. WOM is also used to identify a company's future whether it be positive or negative.

Differentiation: An experience with different products within a market can mean that WOM can offer solutions to others and explain which products and brands could be more effective than others when looking at similar products serving the same need. Previous consumers can help describe strengths and weaknesses of products and help make the correct decision.

Relevance of a brand to a broad audience

Quality: esteem given to a brand

Premium: WOM regarding premiums can refer[26] too different packaging of a brands products e.g. during Easter or over Christmas. Different and exciting packaging and deals can stimulate a huge source of WOM communication and can lead to brands becoming extremely popular over short periods of time. An example of this would be supermarket 'bulk buy' deals over the Christmas holiday period.


Excitement: WOM can be used to promote up and coming products which results in huge amounts of excitement. An example of this could be new technology being released to the public and advances in medical technology and vehicles. These examples are best used to demonstrate excitement as a result of word of mouth marketing.


Perceived risk: WOM can be used to warn other potential buyers that a product is not what it claims to be. An example of this may be online buying as a result of marketing strategies from phony companies who focus on producing fake goods that look and seem like the legitimate product. An example of this would be fake iPhones and clothing (most significantly shoes and sports wear).


This research also found that while social and functional drivers are the most important for promotion via WOM online, the emotional driver predominates offline.


Further Resources


B2B Word of Mouth Marketing on Apple Podcasts



September 13, 2021


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