Word of Mouth research group

The WOM research group draws together academics with interest and expertise in the field of word of mouth communication. We focus on this emergent area of marketing, drawing on the international reputations of its members. Our research findings are disseminated through top international journals, and via international and national conferences.

Members of the WOM research group have been successful in securing both internal research grants and external research grants (such as Academy of Marketing) to pursue research in word of mouth.

Research has focused extensively on the impact of word of mouth (WOM) on consumers' purchase intentions and their loyalty to the firm. In addition, we are investigating the psychological drivers of WOM behaviour.

Studies have considered WOM behaviour among different consumer groups in a range of product sectors. Ongoing projects focus on understanding both offline and online consumer conversations. Specifically, we are investigating the drivers and impact of online/offline consumer conversations, and the moderating role of consumer knowledge; homophily, narcissism and regulatory mode to name a few variables.

Project collaborators include academics based in the United Kingdom; Australia; Brazil; Libya and Spain.

Our aims

  • Encourage collaboration with fellow researchers in other institutions
  • Engage with practitioners
  • Consolidate Kingston's reputation for WOM research

Recent and ongoing research projects

Relative impact of positive and negative WOM

We examined the changes in purchase intention in response to positive and negative WOM. To our surprise, we found that negative WOM generally has less impact than positive WOM. In contrast, a recent analysis suggests that negative WOM more often brings people to the certainty that they will not buy than positive WOM brings people to the certainty that they will buy, so this issue remains unclear. What is clear is that there is far less negative WOM than positive WOM so that the total effect of positive WOM on purchasing is considerably greater than the total effect of negative WOM.

Reflexive impact of WOM on the sender

This stream of WOM research focuses on understanding the impact of giving WOM on the sender, the neglected participant in the WOM communication dyad. Findings of our research suggests that articulating both positive and negative WOM influences the sender's own self-enhancement (self-related outcome) and their firm-related outcomes such as their commitment, loyalty and intentions to give future WOM about the firm. We challenge the implicit notion in the WOM literature that effect of WOM on the sender is restricted to either self-related outcomes or firm-related outcomes.

We provide empirical evidence that singular WOM episodes hold implications for both the firm and the self. Interestingly, our research suggests that the influence of tie strength between the WOM participants on the effectiveness of WOM given is a localised phenomenon, wherein the influence of tie strength on the effectiveness of WOM given is restricted only to the recipient's attitudes and behaviour and is not extended to the sender.

Psychological drivers of implicit and explicit WOM

We investigate if an individual's inaccuracy in self-perceived knowledge can influence the nature WOM. Specifically, whether an individual's state of overconfidence (i.e. when his/her subjective knowledge about a product or service is inflated) or under-confidence (i.e. when his/her subjective knowledge about a product or service is deflated) drives implicit or explicit WOM. The project aims to contribute to the extant WOM literature by understanding the psychological drivers of implicit and explicit WOM. This is important because the literature has primarily focused on understanding the drivers of WOM but has not investigated whether the drivers of implicit and explicit WOM are distinct. Although the antecedents of knowledge mis-calibration have been researched the consequences have had less attention.

The role of WOM in encouraging brand uptake

Advertising may work with recommendation and purchase opportunities to create purchase and it is difficult to extract the contribution of each. When we ask respondents about the primary factor behind purchase, recommendation is given twice as often as advertising in surveys across a range of categories. In recent work we have looked more carefully at services compared with durables. We find that people claim that their service purchases are more often dependent on recommendation than durable purchases, perhaps because the latter are advertised more.

We also find that nearly half of all durable recommendations are stimulated by advertising whereas less than 10 per cent of service recommendation is so based. This indicates that durable advertising has a strong indirect effect through recommendation. Interestingly, it is not customary to test ads for their carryover into WOM and our evidence suggests that this should be done.

WOM and the older consumer

In other work we have examined how recommendation affects the spending of older consumers. This group is notoriously conservative, often repurchasing the same brand or showing a reluctance to engage in replacement purchases at all. We found that one factor here was the volume of recommendations received by old people. Without workmates and with children no longer at home, the over-65s receive much less advice than younger consumers and this lack of advice is associated with longer replacement intervals.

Advertising to older age groups could be adapted to take account of this lack of recommendations, perhaps taking the form of advice from older peers or encouraging those with influence on older consumers (such as their children) to exert that influence.

Referral success and failure under PWOM and NWOM conditions

Understanding the impact of articulating WOM on the sender is still in embryonic stage. This ongoing project looks at the effect of referral failure and success on the sender's firm-and self-related outcomes under both positive and negative WOM conditions.

Associates

  • Professor Robert East (Emeritus)
  • Dr Hongfei Liu (Southampton Business School),
  • Dr Kamran Razmdoost (ESCP Business School),
  • Professor Jenni Romaniuk (University of South Australia)

Faculty of Business and Social Sciences