At the threshold of the onslaught and brutal display of power of the internet-based word of mouth, there are many important things to discuss standing from different perspectives. The most important of which is from the standpoint of an advertising/marketing strategist, which is constantly manipulating the mechanisms of social behavior (including the word of mouth phenomenon then and now) in the name of successful market control. Word of mouth (WOM) and marketing go hand in hand in the past, largely because of the impact of interpersonal relationship and communication in consumerism. Companies overwhelmingly believe in the ability of consumers to influence one another’s purchasing decisions (Nacht, Chaney, 2006, p. 64). ” Today, another player comes into the picture – the internet. If traditional marketing and advertising has managed to weave its way around traditional word of mouth communication enough to successfully manipulate it, the same cannot be said about how advertising and marketing entities are dealing with internet-based sources of word of mouth communication.
The internet has shown that it is a powerful tool for word of mouth communication and the power grows vis-a-vis the growth of users, who are also the consumers. “The large number of users gives Internet WOM significant potential power for marketers. Anecdotal evidence of the power of the Internet WOM abounds (Schindler, Bickart, 2005, p. 35). ” Despite the problems that go with the rise of internet-based word of mouth communication and marketing, there are still positive things to hope for. The opportunity here is for companies to find their brand ambassadors (Nacht, Chaney, 2006, p. 64),” while for others, the task is to simply be able to work well with this new social trend empowered by new technology that many is enjoying at the moment. Nonetheless, this is a very important topic to discuss, break down and analyze. This paper will discuss how different internet-based sources of word of mouth marketing including web sites, blogs and other similar mediums affect the decision-making process and the buying habits of modern day consumers.
This paper will be discussing the special and important relationship of three factors - the internet, consumers and the word of mouth communication - because how these factors affect each other is an important aspect that shapes how consumerism takes place today. Since the day that humans were able to understand and execute the system of selling items or services for a profit, the consumer segment of the society has already been created; and today, everyone is a consumer.
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With the creation of the consumer section and the start of the flow of local economics via sustainability through the sale of items or services that other people are willing to pay for is the creation of word of mouth communication. What is word of mouth communication, or WOM? There are several yet similar explanations about word of mouth communication made by experts. Here is one: “Word-of-mouth communication” is used “to exchange post-purchase experience among the costumers (Takahashi, Sallach, Juliette, 2007, p. 09). ” Providing that this explanation is correct, the very first word of mouth communication is the very first time the very first consumer who bought something from another person told another individual what he or she thinks of the recent item he/she purchased. This trend has not changed since. All over the world, part of the culture of consumers is to let other people know how they feel about the product they purchased.
Usually, neighbors who have pleasant relationship with each other include in their casual conversations appraisal and assessment of the things or services that they recently bought or paid for. It could be about anything and everything - food, clothing, equipment, accessories, home appliances, medicine etc. Word of mouth communication happens everywhere: as neighbors and friends talk to each other during social gatherings or everytime they pass by each other in malls, grocery stores, at work or when they bump into each other in leisure locations like in beach, gym, arcade etc.
Word of mouth communication is a product largely a personal face-to-face conversation, although sometimes telephone conversations, even mails also become sources of word of mouth communication. This happens when friends or relatives suggest or advise for or against a particular item or brand, or if they simply express how satisfied or dissatisfied they were in a particular brand or item even without the conscious effort to affect the personal belief of the listener in the item or brand in question.
Word of mouth is everywhere, it was an everyday experience which, at one point, was believed to be strong enough that it can affect consumer attitude. At the onset of media advertising in radio, television and print, commercials took to mimicking word of mouth phenomenon to reflect real life and make it appear that in real life, people are really talking positively about the brand featured in the commercial so that the consumers are influenced towards imbibing the same mindset about the product.
Word of mouth style in advertising in media is one of the important types of advertising approach because it was successful and effective. When people see individuals in a commercial enjoying a bottle of a popular soda and talking about it and recommending it to other people, they feel that the people in the commercial are directly talking to them; and for most part consumers who are exposed to television are influenced into trying the product because the commercial made them feel/think that the product was great and it was worth trying.
At this point, there was already a genuine word of mouth communication happening between individuals, as well as artificial word of mouth communication, which happen when commercials try to influence and manipulate the thinking, mindset and attitude of the consumers through the help of commercials. Word of mouth, at this time, was still powerful but it was not an unstable power that cannot be controlled. For one, word of mouth communication moves around a particular network and does not extend any further that it cannot immediately create a nationwide attitude for or against a product or brand.
Secondly, advertising agencies and marketing professionals managed to control consumer attitude and buying preference largely because of the ability of commercials and marketing efforts to convince people to patronize a particular brand. And then, there was the Internet. The internet was not created primarily to alter the previous status quo in the consumer world. The idea behind the internet is to provide an information highway for everyone to use. But the inherent characteristics of the internet made it an important aspect in how word of mouth, marketing and consumerism would change.
The internet gave word of mouth communication renewed power by giving the consumers power communicate with each other and let other consumers know how individuals feel about particular products being sold to the people. The society was introduced to a new set of culture that included blogs and websites, emails and chats, forums and websites which all provided new platforms where information can be made available, information which included the personal thoughts of other consumers about products.
It turns out that other consumers are very much interested in finding out what other people think, especially about products that other people are thinking of buying. Because of this, consumers knowingly or unknowingly focused more attention online, looking for the opinion of individuals about different products and letting real life experience and not padded advertisement act as the source of information about products. This information is used to assist the individual in the formation of the individual’s buying attitude and consumer behavior upon a particular product.
Some of the examples include the browsing of Internet users in sites that feature blogs on consumer appraisal on products, found in websites like www. oxygen. com and its message board; www. leftgear. com and its style chat; and other websites like www. consumerreviews. com and www. epinions. com. The entry of the internet complicated the relationship of consumer world with world of mouth communication, and most of the problematic aspect of this social change targeted the companies which are finding different ways and means to be able to regain control of this new source of word of mouth communication. I.
The Consumer and word of mouth The consumer and word of mouth has been together and closely related to each other for a long period of time. “Verbal consumer-to-consumer communication, often referred to as simply ‘word of mouth’ (WOM) has long been recognized as an important factor in consumer behavior (Schindler, Barbara, 2005, p. 35). ” Word of mouth and consumers are symbiotic and intertwined, each other directly affecting the other. Without consumers, word of mouth communication, at worst will lose its essence and its ethos, especially if the information disseminated are merely results of company-led propaganda.
Without word of mouth communication, consumers will have to rely on how much information they have for them to be able to make the best, educated decision when buying products or services and selecting which brand to pick from the shelf. “The word-of-mouth communication between the consumers is crucial (Takahashi, Sallach, Juliette, 2007, p. 109). ” Getting the opinion of other people first before making a decision is one of the innate characteristics of many individuals, and their particular attitude in buying is no different.
For some people, they want to know first how other people ahead of him or her in buying the product feels about the item, and then uses this information to assess whether or not he or she will pursue purchasing the product, opt for other brand of the same product or shelf the idea of purchasing one all in all. “Innovators first seek information from other people in the purchase of an innovation and such behavior is similar across various new product categories (Krishnamurthy, 2004, p. 73). ” This particular attitude of consumers is the main vein that connects consumers to word of mouth communication. For most experts, they believe that there are many enough individuals who follow this pattern of behavior in buying that it is important for companies to know how word of mouth communication.
The consumers react and interact with each other so that the companies can make adjustments that enable them to use the presence of word of mouth communication to their advantage. If marketers were to realize the intended results of their efforts, they would benefit from understanding the manner in which consumers process WOMC (De Carlo, Laczniak, Sridhar, 2003, p. 225). ” This is crucial for consumers because information sharing and dissemination is accomplished through this. But there is more to that. This is also crucial for companies relying on positive word of mouth from consumers to improve how the public perceive the product they are selling, or simply, marketing. The best marketing that ever was, or ever will be is word of mouth. There is no dollar value you can assign to having someone else talk positively about you, your company, and your services (Nacht, Chaney, 2006, p. 64). ” This realization comes from the consideration that companies also has to rely on word of mouth communication because in several instances, the public/consumer is not interested or affected anymore by commercials and are instead more interested in word of mouth communication.
Internet-Based Word of Mouth Seen by Consumers as a Fresh Alternative versus Product/Service Commercials There are many reasons why people find the internet-based word of mouth tools like blogs and forums more reliable, dependable and useful for information gathering. One of the possible reasons is that individuals are already tired, fed up or already calloused by the traditional commercials that they are not as affected anymore as in the past in being exposed to product commercials in television and print media.
The feeling of being detached and impersonal by these commercials only improves its quality as something that is feigned and artificial, and because people wanted more, particularly something more personal and more genuine, word of mouth via the internet communication became the suitable answer to this consumer need. “Instead of fake artificial commercial messages, people can now get real-life comments from peers on anything they want (Nacht, Chaney, 2006, p. 64). ”
II. Word of mouth and the Internet. Word of mouth was a social phenomenon even before the age of Internet. But in the entry of the internet in the social structure and global culture, word of mouth communication, no doubt, was influenced by this new technology. “The development of the Internet has led to the appearance of new forms of word-of-mouth communication (Schindler, Bickart, 2005, p. 35). ” Today, the internet and word of mouth is connected with each other; online word of mouth communication is expected by experts to increase as long as the users of the internet continue to increase.
As online word of mouth communication increases, so is the power and influence of online word of mouth to affect consumer behavior and buying attitude, making word of mouth dependent on its online breadth for its power and influence, and the internet's source of power dependent in part in how individuals like consumers utilize this medium and give it power by exercising the newfound consumer power (word of mouth communication) through the internet and its features. “The importance of online WOM increases as access to and usage of the Internet continues to grow (Schindler, Bickart, 2005, p. 35). ”
Understanding how word of mouth works is one thing. But making word of mouth result favorably towards a particular product or item is more complicated. And with this knowledge, companies ensure that their initial task is not to make the most out of the word of mouth phenomenon by manipulating it in the onset; but rather to ensure that any marketing strategies outside word of mouth considerations do not become a source of negative publicity which in turn would be a potential negative feedback that can be fed in the word of mouth network and would generate more negative publicity and blow the problem out of controllable proportion. The companies’ task is the fine tuning of the advertising strategy driving the demand using sugarcoated advertising claims but paying attention not to initiate negative word-of-mouth effects (Takahashi, Sallach, Juliette, 2007, p. 109). ”
In the age of internet-based word of mouth, this is a task which is not as difficult as controlling a publicity crisis that went public and became the subject of many blogs and forums that can devastate and destroy the reputation of a product; there is just no ethical way to stop the bloggers from publishing online what they think and feel and how they respond to negative publicity, regardless of the notion that “bad publicity is still publicity. There is just too many bloggers, blog sites, forums and chat rooms in the information highway that controlling what comes from it is impossible, but making sure bloggers cannot say anything bad about the product, compared to the earlier task, appears more doable, workable and possible. At least through that, companies can hope that they have something they can use to attempt to equalize the impact of internet-based word of mouth communication.
In this line of thought, it is easy to see that one of the effects of the powerful internet-based word of mouth communication is forcing companies to either make something flawless and good all in all, or be good in covering up foul ups and problematic aspects that can be used as topics to start communication threads and negative word of mouth streams of conversation that can be devastating.
Simply said, this situation can translate to better quality control, with companies trying to play it fair with the consumers as much as possible, lest someone notices how things do not add up and publish it in the internet and create an online buzz that can negatively affect the image of the product and the company. Traditional or through the internet, word of mouth among customers and the consumer is a very powerful aspect of the mechanism of marketing and consumerism.
Being able to understand this aspect is critical especially for market strategists and for the company themselves, so that they can, in turn, prepare for the possible trend in the word of mouth phenomenon, how it will affect the product and how they would hand this situation in a manner that benefits them more than harms them. Clemmer, Sheehy (1994) explained what the Washington, D. C. based group TARP or Technical Assistance Research Program found out, particularly that “while only a small percent of your unhappy customers bother to tell you about their dissatisfaction, they are eager to tell lots of your potential customers about the problems they have had dealing with you (Clemmer, Sheehy, 1994, p. 15). ” This is just one of the many proofs that customers talk to each other, share each other’s experiences, and more often than not, take to heart the input they receive from other people and use it to affect their future decision making when it comes to buying or patronizing a product or item.
Through word of mouth phenomenon, many things come into play and not just patronage of products - sometimes the success of the new things being offered to the public is also dependent on word of mouth, regardless of whether or not the outcome resulting from the word of mouth is good or bad publicity for the product. “Favorable WOM has been found to be positively related to new-product diffusion... Even negative WOM is found to increase credibility (Krishnamurthy, 2004, p. 273). ”
Increased Role of Word of Mouth Today. As years go by and as the attitude of consumerism increases around the world, the power of consumer input through different channels including the use of word of mouth communication (WOMC) also increased in significance. Partly, this is one of the means by which both the consumers and the companies in need of genuine product, service and performance appraisal can have real, first hand information about how the public as consumers really feel about a product, service or item sold to them.
Word of mouth has become one of the gauges, not just of product appraisal but of the performance as well, of the companies to be able to deliver to the public what the public genuinely needs, and not what the companies want the people to need. “In the past decade, word of mouth and its more formal manifestation found in many consumer and industry protection movements have been playing a much bigger part in broadcasting what kind of service/quality a company is consistently delivering as perceived by its customers (Clemmer, Sheehy, 1994, p. 5). ” The increase in this trend is due largely to the growth and increase in customer participation. “The influence of blogs and podcasts is increasing due to fast expansion of the audience and contributors (Swoboda, Morschett, Rudolph, Schnedlitz, Schramm-Klein, 2008, p. 9). ” Word of mouth has become an important point of concern for marketing.
This is because at the entry of the internet and the weakening hold of traditional advertising and marketing effort to influence the public, the consumers found in the World Wide Web a new source of information, as well as a place where they have the chance to speak about their experience as consumers, in the process empowering consumers and making them not just mere recipients of the messages of the advertising and marketing strategies but also a source of information that can seriously compete and challenge traditional marketing and advertising when it comes to reaching and affecting the consciousness of the audience.
Professionals know about this already, but they are careful not to openly admit how consumers of today rely on word of mouth in the internet blogs and forums. How they are very cautious not to make internet-based word of mouth push their carefully and delicately laid out advertising and marketing plans out of order by making sure that even the consumer has fully ignored the commercials, the word of mouth results still puts a particular product in a positive light.
Nacht and Chaney (2006) quoted Paul Beelen who said that a positive comment is very important, more important compared to commercials or print ads especially if the comment was something that came from “someone you know and trust (Nacht and Chaney (2006, p. 64). ” Beelen, as quoted by Nacht and Chaney, went on to explain by stressing that word of mouth became more potent now than it was before because of the fact that “millions of consumers are now also publishers (Nacht, Chaney, 2006, p. 4)” and the traditional word of mouth that was once left in the party huddles now jumps off and lives on longer and extends towards a wider audience via “the World Wide Web, in the form of podcasts, wikis, forums, and most importantly: blogs (Nacht, Chaney, 2006, p. 64). ” Word of Mouth Marketing and the Power of the Internet Why is word of mouth very powerful? One of the reasons is that because it happens as part of a very simple and common human experience. It is an important part of constant everyday interaction between individuals.
Because the efficacy found in the word of mouth phenomena is the fact that there is a sense of commitment and the value of trust and credibility that people are willing to put on the line, making people trust the appraisal of the person who have already used a particular product. This power is a very important power that marketing strategists need to have if they want to be able to control and predict the outcome of buying attitudes and consumer preferences, the result more favorable to the product they intend to sell to the market.
For example, the traditional word of mouth phenomenon happens between friends, between relatives or peers in the house, in the neighborhood, in the office or in locations where human verbal interaction is possible. A housewife may rant to a neighbor and fellow housewife how the recent upholstery stain remover did not work for her and how it messed the sofa more.
Of course, housewife #2 do not have any way of finding out if this was true or if the worsening of the condition was caused by other factors (i. e. wrong use of the cleaner, etc), but there is a very large possibility that housewife #2 will shy away from the particular brand being discussed and select another brand (not unless the brand being talked about is something that housewife #2 has already used in the past and depended on for quality and performance).
Nonetheless, this illustrates what is in play in the word of mouth phenomena. It becomes more credible because people believe that the appraisal/assessment of a product/service is based largely on true, first hand experience without any manipulative motive from the source of information besides the need to share the experience with another individual.
The same effect marketing and PR professionals try to produce everytime they use common or ordinary looking individuals to comment on their products or everytime they use the everyday man random interview wherein the individual endorses a product based on his/her own true experience, which some individuals may not easily believe knowing that actors in paid ads are mere puppets and totally unreliable sources of information in a pseudo-word of mouth approach.
This traditional word of mouth model is no different from how word of mouth communication and word of mouth marketing happens today in the online world or through the internet. “In recent years, the opportunity for consumers to generate WOMC (word of mouth communication), and the rate at which it is disseminated, has increased significantly due to penetration of the Internet (De Carlo, Laczniak, Sridhar, 2003, p. 225). Bloggers talk about items they recently bought or thinking of buying, and more often than not replies to the subject thread will generate different opinions about the product being talked about, and this series and streams of ideas racing back and forth between individuals involved in conversation through blogging affect the perception not just of the bloggers involved but also those who come across the blog site and gets to read it (i. . those who searched for the particular product in the search bar to get more information about the item, who will soon have different notions and particular mindset about the item which was unknown to the person prior to reading the blog and message threads that influenced the individuals thinking and perception about the product).
Word of mouth marketing and communication placed in the plateau or realm of the internet is more influential and powerful as it is more dangerous because the spreading of word of mouth through the internet is easier and can target and reach more individuals compared to traditional word of mouth experiences. Because of this, marketing strategist are all the more concerned about the power of the internet-based word of mouth phenomenon. “Chat rooms and message boards, for example, allow individuals to share experiences with relative ease (De Carlo, Laczniak, Sridhar, 2003, p. 225). ”
For example, talking about a particular product or item in a chat room with 50 listed participants (something which is not impossible or difficult to achieve, especially with the growth of social networking via the internet that links more and more people together in a tightly knit web of online community that connects one to another in many different links) already puts the source of the information in a position wherein he/she can influence 49 different individuals, especially if the topic/item/product is about something that is of common interest to everyone in the chatroom (i. . the newest electronic entertainment gadget among young individuals or a particular product or item among hobbyist, like the newest GPRS gadget among outdoor enthusiast). Imagine the impact of influencing 49 individuals, something that is not easy to do traditionally since it is not easy to gather 50 individuals in one location on a particular time only to rant about product appraisal (not unless its the annual Tupperware Party, where the preferences of the individual on a particular common interest is already a given).
Manipulating Internet-Based Word of Mouth Communication Because of the power of online word of mouth communication, there are several efforts to cheat word of mouth communication by planting individuals that will act as sources to create a stir in the internet and in the process allow people to talk about a particular product or item in the internet through blogs and forums and chat rooms, in the process creating word of mouth communication and marketing the product/item/service to the consumer.
A perfect example is what happened in the internet during the effort to create popularity for a former pop star. “Students hired to post questions and comments on teen-oriented chat rooms and bulletin boards generated discussion and interest in pop singer Christina Aguilera (Schindler, Bickart, 2005, p. 35). ” The power of word of mouth found in internet tools is very potent that companies are also trying to find ways on how to combat the presence of negative inputs directed at company products resulting from online word of mouth communication. Trademark owners may be able to suppress or excise negative word of mouth (Goldman, 2008, p. 404). ” This can be also considered as manipulating online word of mouth, largely to protect the interest of companies who are in danger of bad publicity and bad public standing if word of mouth in the internet is not properly handled. Because of the power of online word of mouth and the collaboration of the word of mouth culture with the internet technology, several changes happened.
One of which is the challenging the traditional market cycle power players. Experts believe that online and offline word of mouth communication functions differently. And because of that, control is something that companies are struggling with as word of mouth in the internet increases. “Offline, trademark owners have a fair amount of control over consumer perceptions of their brands. Online word of mouth undermines that control (Goldman, 2008, p. 04). ” Challenging the Traditional “Expert-Review” Notion Another important characteristic of word of mouth communication in the internet that makes it very influential and significant in the consumer reception and patronage of a product in the shelf is because of what experts believe as the shift of credibility from the traditional “product experts” to the everyday, everyman blogger in the internet where word of mouth is mostly prevalent.
Even if companies pay for the opinion of respected “product experts,” it hardly matters now because it seems like individuals who want information about a product read about what other individuals like themselves has to say about the product before creating their own mindset and perspective about the item. “Nowadays, customer reviews posted in different forums or virtual communities, web blogs and podcasts are much more powerful and believable than expert product reviews (Swoboda, Morschett, Rudolph, Schnedlitz, Schramm-Klein, 2008, p. 8). ”
This is good news for those who will be affected by word of mouth in a positive manner, especially those whose appraisal that was transferred via word of mouth through blog(s) commend the product and encourage other people to use it, because this phenomena evens out the impending failure in credibility of perceived product experts. This can also spell doom and worst case marketing crisis management for those which were appraised negatively in the blogosphere. Word of Mouth as a Source of Important Information One of the sources of power of word of mouth is because people rely on it, generally for information.
In this age where there are many things being offered to them, each type of item available in different brands, customers wanted to have more information until they are satisfied that they know what they need to know after making the purchase. “A second source for consumers to learn about a new product is through word-of-mouth (Krishnamurthy, 2004, p. 273). ” This was true during the pre-internet age, and still holds true now that Internet became part of the social culture and took an important part in how word of mouth is undertaken today.
Word of mouth, particularly internet based word of mouth communication has been an important source of information that some believe that it has already overtaken the significance of the traditional mass media platforms when it comes to consumer preference on where to find the information that they want to know. Take for example, the case for the diffusion of new products in the market. Some experts believe that in this particular area, word of mouth is very important factor in how the sales and marketability of the new product will turn out after consumer reception to the product is gauged. Awareness of new products primarily came from personal communications, with mass media only consulted when more information was desired (Krishnamurthy, 2004, p. 273). ”
That people rely heavily on the input of other people rather than the impact of mass media advertising and marketing strategy only points to the idea that large sections of the items, services and other things for sale - particularly those which is in its initial launch level - depend the level of consumer saturation based on how the consumer and their preferences and buying habits will react to the input of word of mouth in their consciousness. Some studies have shown that innovators engage in more WOM communication than do imitators... and are more dependent on WOM (Krishnamurthy, 2004, p. 273). ” III. The Internet and the consumer One of the best things that happened to the world is the internet, as much as the internet is one of the best things that happened to consumers because of many different reasons. First, the internet improved purchasing, making the buying and selling of things faster and more convenient both for the vendor and the customer.
Online purchasing is also now an option to consumers, thanks to the internet. Another important impact of the internet in the world of consumers is how the internet gave the consumers the power by providing consumers with a new platform for word of mouth communication. In the past, the consumers are left with very little options and chances for their opinion and thoughts to be heard by the companies that sell items, by their fellow consumers and by the rest of the world.
With the entry of the internet, the consumer section is once again empowered because they have now, through the internet, what they did not have when the transfer of information was controlled largely by manufacturers and vendors. “Using the internet, consumers can now easily publish their opinions, providing their thoughts, feelings, and viewpoints on products and services to the public at large (Schindler, Bickart, 2005, p. 35). ”
A place to speak and influence other consumers through online word of mouth was made possible by the internet, and the consumers are now not merely the end-recipients of the products of capitalism and manufacturing. Consumers, with a more powerful type of word of mouth communication through the internet, can make people boycott brands and products and seriously affect the sales of different items simply by convincing individuals through blogs and forums and chats why such products should not be patronized.
Consumers will never see fellow consumers as someone with an agenda, and because of this, they will take the input of fellow consumers and allow it to seriously influence them. Influencing Brand Perceptions Through the use of the internet, the consumer is not only provided with a new way to purchase goods and items, but also given the chance to influence other consumers towards brand perception. “The broad reach of online word of mouth gives consumers tremendous power to influence brand perceptions (Goldman, 2008, p. 404). ” The Power of the Internet in Consumer World
There are many proofs of the power of the internet in the consumer world. Some of the proofs include the fact that through the internet, consumers are connected with each other. “The Internet helps create new word of mouth content and disseminate word of mouth to new and previously unreachable audiences (Goldman, 2008, p. 404),” while another significant proof of the power of the internet in the consumer world is the entry of internet and how it impacted trademark law, “Online word of mouth poses the most important challenge to Internet trademark law (Goldman, 2008, p. 04). ” These proofs of the power of the internet in the consumer world particularly through the internet-based word of mouth only highlights the limitations found in traditional and/or offline word of mouth communication. “Offline, consumer word of mouth plays a major role in the marketplace by disciplining some brands and rewarding others, but a person’s views typically reach only a limited number of people (Goldman, 2008, p. 404). ” Proof of the Power of Internet-Based Word of Mouth
The effects of word of mouth among customers and consumers have been studied extensively for years. Ever since market analyst identified the power of word of mouth in the market value and market success of products and other things for sale to the consumers, many entities like TARP have undertaken studies in order to understand more how word of mouth works and how it actually affects things. “TARP has studied the ripple effects of dissatisfied customers and word of mouth testimonials. The results will rock anyone concerned about sales and marketing (Clemmer, Sheehy, 1994, p. 15). But studies are not just the sole proof that can validate the claim that internet-based word of mouth is effective and is being seriously used today in aggressive marketing. Other proofs may include the cases in the past that pointed to the role and power of internet-based word of mouth and how it influenced the outcome of consumer/public patronage and support. Other proofs of the power of the internet-based word of mouth communication are identified by experts by naming instances wherein internet-based word of mouth communication was important in the marketing and in the ensuing success of the product/item/services for sale to the public.
One of the industries that depend on positive public acceptance of what they sell for them to survive and sustain themselves is the entertainment industry, particularly movie making. In the past, many different movies saw what the Internet-based word of mouth can do for particular movies to make it big in the silver screen, including popular titles like the hit Blair Witch Project. “After the success of the use of Internet buzz in promoting the movie The Blair Witch Project, studios are increasingly relying on online WOM to develop interest in new films (Schindler, Bickart, 2005, p. 5). ” The movie acted as a perfect case study that indicate the impact of internet-based word of mouth and how it can create a stir among consumers that can lead to consumption of the product (in this case, leading the people to watch the movie). Because of this, many other marketing strategists of other film outfits followed suit, including this particular formula in the overall marketing strategy to guarantee the success of the movie based on patronage and public support.
The same was the case in the more recent movies, like the global smash hit epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings which, according to Schindler and Bickart (2005), relied on the role and impact of the internet and how it can diffuse word of mouth information via its many different features. “New Line Cinemas encouraged the development of unofficial web sites about the movies, providing these sites with interviews with the film’s director in order to generate discussion and excitement about the movies (Schindler and Bickart, 2005, p35). Blogs – a Powerful Internet-Based Word of Mouth Communication Tool The creation of blogs and the blogosphere, and how the consumers were quick to embrace and utilize this new, internet-based form of interpersonal interaction is one of the main reasons why the internet has become a very potent source for word of mouth communication, word of mouth marketing and advertising, and word of mouth communication that can either seriously improve or damage a particular product or brand.
While blogs are not exclusively focused on product and services analysis, it is easily noticeable how the traditional trend occurring between neighbors who chat and compare their thoughts on different products and services (in the process producing word of mouth communication) transformed into online neighborhood chat. Only this time, the people involved in the conversation of product and services comparison are bigger in numbers and not limited to geographical boundaries.
An American youth can blog about his assessment of the latest mobile phone or media player, which can get different reactions from other individuals who may or may not be directly related or connected with the blogger from as far as Asian or European countries. They can converse via their entries and replies in the blog and talk as if they are next door neighbors even when offline they are mere strangers to each other and live thousands of miles away.
It is for this particular power to “spread the word” that marketing strategies and companies make sure that they make sufficient consideration and leg room to accommodate the possible input of blogs and word of mouth communication in the internet in their overall market strategy and the overall performance of the product they are trying to sell.
Generally, what every company can hope for is that the bloggers in the blogosphere have mostly good words to tell to each other when it comes to appraising the product/services that they are trying to sell to the public. “Not only will consumers talk to you via your blog, they also will talk to one another. Your readers can become your best brand-building evangelists, helping you to spread your message and your presence throughout their networks (Nacht, Chaney 2006, p. 64). ”
Being able to get an online ally and brand evangelist (directly or indirectly) is important because it does not only make one’s product or services look good, but it also helps in selling the product/service to the people. As what most experts believe, what people read in the online blogs focused on product and services assessment and appraisal greatly affect the individual in what he or she might want to buy in the very immediate future. “For consumers, blogs are like customer reviews on Yahoo! ocal or Amazon, which are helpful in making decisions about what to buy and whose services to use (Nacht, Chaney, 2006, p. 65). ” This is the needed push so that consumers can take it to the next level - to actually buy an item, and to start the foundation of a long lasting brand patronage and to trigger the start of new word of mouth by using the new consumer as the new source of information for other people whom the consumer can convince to either try the brand or opt for something else.
Of course, marketing and advertising people have since made it their task to provide that necessary push to (1) make the consumer buy, (2) start the foundation of brand loyalty, and (3) make the consumer new sources of information that can influence other consumers and expand the network of word of mouth communication that delivers a very positive message favorable to the product/service being sold to the public. Today, experts believe that this task is something that advertisers and marketing professionals cannot achieve solely by themselves and their efforts.
Internet-based tools like blogs provide the crucial word of mouth communication that heavily influences consumers. Blogs, one of the most popular and user-friendly internet-based tool for word of mouth communication, is proving that it is one of the forces to reckon with, flexing extensive power that dictates the movement in consumer attitude. “Blogs are word of mouth supercharged (Nacht, Chaney, 2006, p. 64)! ” Add to this trend the consideration that most people outside of the marketing and advertising business is fast catching up with what advertising and marketing is trying to do.
They sense the artificial push given to consumer and in the process, making consumers less and less dependent on advertising and more and more difficult to be influenced by advertisements especially when it comes to consulting other people about product input to affect buying attitude and preference. With internet-based tools like blogs, consumers feel like they are genuinely talking to another person who would give them an honest, first hand, experience-based opinion without any motive or agenda to influence the consumer’s buying preference other than to provide information.
It is something that most believe they do not actually get from advertisements and marketing campaigns geared at making brands look good and pleasing to the senses and covering up areas which maybe problematic or undesirable for the consumer in real life. In their book, Nacht and Chaney (2006) used as an example the result of a North Carolina survey, and wrote that “one third of all consumers would prefer to receive product information from friends and specialists rather than from advertising (Nacht and Chaney, 2006, p. 65). The idea of “friends” in this particular idea would likely include peers and contacts in the online/internet network of an individual. The exchange of information between “friends” to substitute the information gathering from advertising-based sources most likely happens online, including the use of blogs through writing blogs or reading other people's blogs about the product, in this case blogs act, according to PR strategist Steve Rubel, as a “24/7 focus group that's transparent and out in the open (Nacht, Chaney, 2006, p. 64).
Companies also understand the significance of blogs and have a particular role for blogs to play in how consumerism works, in the hope that blogs can assist them in making sure consumerism and its related socio-economic conditions interact together favorably for the company and its products and items it sells to the public. “Smart businesses will pay attention to blogs, using them as kind of informal network of consumer opinion. Blogs have become a word-of-mouth marketing channel that allows companies to keep a pulse on their marketplace (Nacht, Chaney, 2006, p. 4). ” The Internet Versus the Traditional Tri-Media So how does the internet and its features (i. e. websites, blogs etc) actually become another important source of word of mouth marketing and in the process have the capacity to influence the buying attitudes and preferences of the consumers? The internet, like the radio, print media and the television are all platforms used for the movement of information. The first three types of information platforms - the tri-media - nearly had the similar effect that the internet has.
While the tri-media, no doubt, had immense effect on buying attitude and preferences and overall marketing, there is something that the internet has managed to give to the target consumers that the tri-media failed to provide them: interactivity. Because the websites and the blogs and the podcasts feature interactivity by allowing ordinary individuals to have a say on products or items for sale, people listen to what they have to say more.
And because the internet is an accessible and available platform for discussion between and among customers (something that is not available for the other tri-media since the information direction here is one way - from the companies to the target audience), consumers who tried the product or service feels good that they have an avenue where they as ordinary consumers can appraise and assess a product, without the restrictions of companies and without the marketing scripts and paid appearances by individuals posing as ordinary consumers in the tri-media marketing which, as years went by, became passe and hardly credible a style for word of mouth marketing to convince the consumer/audience.
Blogs and the websites has proven that it is a fresh new approach that meant empowering the consumers, allowing them not only to be informed but also to speak about the products and services they bought. The absence of pretentiousness and feigned positive approval in the world of blogging has made it a very influential tool because people speak based from their own appraisal of the product or services. And if the appraisal is good, then this type of word of mouth marketing can indeed help a product to gain more followers and patrons. Similarly, the bloggers who are not impressed by something they bought may speak about the product negatively. This is a serious threat to the market power and credibility of the product.
Since the time of television, print and radio advertisements, marketing personnel are already conscious of the impact of having an “ordinary and common” individual talk about the product. This is why many brands have opted to pick someone that is not popular, someone that represents the common folk, to speak positively about the product as if what they are saying in the television, print or radio advertisement is a genuine personal appraisal and not a scripted one. Of course, to be able to get a space in television, radio or print media, one has to pay a hefty sum, and because of that, it is impossible an d impractical for the real common folk to talk to the masses via the avenues of mass communication about how he or she felt about a particular detergent brand or hamburger chain.
The internet, through personal websites and blogs, is a very cheap way to make one’s own assessment of products through product reviews. In this particular sphere, the genuine essence of the idea of word of mouth is maximized because blogging meant that the entire worldwide communities hooked in the internet are talking to each other. This explains the idea that an important aspect of word of mouth marketing information transfer traffic is highly dependent on how the need to interact with peers and friends is facilitated and consumed by the consumers themselves. “Interaction with peers triggers new customer needs and alters buying attitude (Swoboda, Morschett, Rudolph, Schnedlitz, Schramm-Klein, 2008, p. 8).
By blogging, people can influence other people not just about particular brand preferences. They can also influence other people about starting to want to buy something which an individual did not know or want in the past prior to the onset of the influence of the input of blogging or of a particular blog article. Through blogs they tell each other what products they find best and what products they find disappointing. They talk to each other, and the speed by which their messages are sent to each other is something that the traditional tri-media cannot match, making the bloggers and what they say to each other more powerful and more influential. Conclusion
How the world is recognizing the true impact of the optimization of a potential of the internet as a powerful tool in marketing particularly through word of mouth marketing today just goes to show that, similar to the case of the traditional tri-media during its early years, new information platforms are always important avenues that affect the people and the different aspects of their lives, one of which is buying attitude and buying preferences. Add to the fact that compared to the era of the early years of the traditional tri-media, the world today at the apex of the influence of the internet on modern day life is also characterized vis-a-vis by the heightened sense of consumerism and capitalism that more and more people are investing in businesses that create new things to sell to the people because they can make people believe they need to buy these things.
As products and brands compete for the limited budget of consumers, elbowing each other to be able to find a place in the grocery or shopping bag, what peers in the internet world has to say to each other about particular items and brands is an important word of mouth marketing hinged on electronic/digital medium of information dissemination that should be consistently studied so that they can have the knowledge on how they can use this tool for their own advantage, marketing-wise. This endeavor has, no doubt, started. But the study of this phenomena brings to light the prospect that the media and platforms of information and interactivity will always be an important tool to shape social attitudes, including consumer attitudes towards buying, brand preference and item selection. “
The social effects of the social media are, by and large, a fascinating research area and a field most likely to shape future consumer or even human behavior (Swoboda et al, 2008, p. 9). May it be traditional word of mouth phenomena or online, internet-based word of mouth, what serves as a constant truth is that word of mouth remains an important and influential aspect of social interaction that affects market power of items for sale because word of mouth affects the buying attitude and consumer preferences. “It appears that electronically transferred or face-to-face WOMC has the potential to alter carefully planned marketing communication programs, depending on how consumers process such information (De Carlo, Laczniak, Sridhar, 2003, p. 225). ” This leans towards the understanding that marketing strategies should always take into consideration word of mouth experiences and its impact and how word of mouth can be controlled to favor a particular product and act as a useful support mechanism in a marketing strategy.
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