How Word of Mouth Works

In marketing on November 24, 2009 by Magnolia Tagged:

Dicther (1966) was one of the first researchers who investigated the way word of mouth influences consumers’ attitudes and perceptions. He analyzed the psychological aspects of word of mouth: speaker motivations, listener motivations and influential groups.

Johnson Brown and Reingen (1987) examined, from an interpersonal network perspective, the role that tie-strength may play in WOM processes. They concluded that strong-ties sources such as close relatives or friends are from whom most people obtain information. They also claimed that the role of weak-ties sources is not as important as it was though.

Herr, Kardes and Kim (1991) investigated the mediation of WOM effects on consumer’s persuasion. They attempted to identify additional moderating variables which may influence the degree of persuasion of WOM on the audiences. The results of their investigation indicated that WOM communications often have a strong impact on product judgments because information received in a face-to-face manner is more accessible than information presented in a less vivid manner.

Dunhan and his colleagues (1997) supported the findings of Herr, Kardes and Kim and added new information about other factors which affect word of mouth communication. They concluded that the likelihood of choosing strong-tie sources is influenced by task difficulty and prior knowledge, and the likelihood of choosing weak-tie sources is influenced by the importance of instrumental cues and subjective prior knowledge.

Figure : General Model of Recommendation Source Choice

Source: Duhan et al. 1997

Word of mouth plays an important role in influencing consumer attitudes and, consequently, affecting consumer choice, loyalty and brand switching (Wangenheim and Bayon 2003). Wangenheim and Bayon (2003) studied how WOM influences switching decisions. They concluded that expertise and similarity have an effect not only on perceived influence and attitudes, but also on subsequent decision making.

In an attempt to explain the key determinants of persuasion power of word of mouth and how WOM influences consumers’ attitudes and perceptions, behaviours Sweeney, Soutar ad Mazzarol (2008) developed the following model:

Figure: Model of WOM impact

Source: Sweeney, Soutar and Mazzarol 2008,

The personal attributes of the sender and the receiver, the type of relationship between them (tie strength, homophily), the message characteristics and the situational characteristics where this form of communication is developed, affect the way the word of mouth message is perceived by receivers. The degree and the nature of the word of mouth influence determine consumer’s perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and motivations towards the product or brand.


Dichter, E.,1966. How Word of Mouth Advertising works. Harvard Business Review. 44(6), pp. 147-161

Dichter, E.,1966. How Word of Mouth Advertising works. Harvard Business Review. 44(6), pp. 147-161Sweeney, J., C., Soutar, G., N., and Mazzarol, T., 2008. Factors influencing word of mouth effectiveness: receiver perspectives. European Journal of marketing. 42(3/4), pp. 344-364

Johnson Brown, J., and Reingen, P., H., 1987.Social Ties and Word-of-Mouth Referral Behavior. Journal of Consumer  Research.14 (Diciembre), pp. 350-362

Herr, P., M., Kardes, F., R., and Kim, J. 1991.Effects of Word-of-Mouth and Product-Attribute Information on Persuasion: An Accessibility-Diagnosticity Perspective. Journal of Consumer Research. 17(March), pp 454-462

Duhan, et al.1997. Word-of-Mouth Recommendation. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.25(4), pp. 283-295.

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