Ed Keller, CEO of the Keller Fay Group (kellerfay.com) just reported the results of the most recent TalkTrack® studies, with a special focus on teen WOM.  Most readers, I'm sure, are familiar with the terrific TalkTrack® methodology, but here's a quick overview just in case.  Keller Fay's syndicated research program measures brand-related WOM - both offline and online - by interviewing 36,000 American consumers between the ages of 13 and 69 annually.  Participants, of whom about 5000 are teens, maintain a diary for one day of their WOM conversations about products, services, and brands, and then complete an online survey.  Keller's recent overview of teen WOM is based on data obtained from July 2009 - June 2010.

The TalkTrack® findings confirm something we already knew, and which I've previously discussed in my book, Connecting With Consumers: young consumers are more actively engaged in WOM about products, companies, and brands than the general public.  In short, teens talk, and much of that talk is about brands.  And most of that talk happens offline.

Here are some of the key findings from the teen WOM study:

  •  Teen WOM is more frequent than the general public in all categories, but especially technology, telecommunications, media/entertainment, and retail/apparel.
  • Teen conversations about brands are equally stimulated by TV and the Internet at levels above the overall public.
  • The top 5 most talked about brands for American teens:  Coca-Cola, Apple Computers, Verizon, iPod, and Ford.  The next five: Pepsi, McDonald's, AT&T, Sony, and Nike.  In the top 20 for teens, but not the overall public, are Sprite, Samsung, and Hollister.  By contrast, Target, HP, and Honda appear on the general public's most-discussed list, but do not appear on teens' top-20 list.

  • As for talked-about categories, media and entertainment top the list, with nearly eight in 10 having one or more conversations per day (vs. 57% among the general public).  This is followed by food/dining (69%), tech (67%), sports/recreation (63%), telecom (63%), retail/apparel (59%), and beverages (58%).  45% of teens talk daily about personal care/beauty and automotive brands.

Based on these findings, Keller recommends that firms need to think holistically when attempting to engage teens in brand-related conversations, by not neglecting offline channels in addition to online ones, and tapping both TV and the Internet to stimulate WOM.

Good Experiences Motivate Women to Share Product Info

In another study, marketing and communications firm Harbinger, in conjunction with Ipsos, conducted a survey of online N. American females 18 years and older.  Consistent with the Keller Faye teen research, Harbinger reported that women are using a combination of off- and online forms of WOM to seek and spread the word on products and services.  Perhaps the most striking finding is that most of the respondents turn to friends and family for product information, thereby making WOM their top source.  They seek and share information on a variety of product categories, with appliances, restaurants, autos, and entertainment leading the list.  Among the other findings:

  • Less than one-third (28%) of women decide what products or services to buy without seeking some kind of help.
  • New mothers are the most active and motivated to get and spread messages about products and services.

A focus on specific categories sheds some light on motives underlying the female participants' desire to share information.  For food and beverages, 58% claimed they would do so because of a good experience, whereas a bad experience would motivate 46% to spread the word.  Experiences with appliances represent an even stronger WOM stimulant, with 80% of women surveyed indicating they discuss their good experiences, and 73% their bad experiences.  Overall, in all 13 categories considered, sharing good experiences (i.e., satisfaction) and a desire to help others make smart purchases, were stronger WOM generators than bad experiences (i.e., dissatisfaction).  Finally, despite the popularity of social media among the online survey participants, a distinct preference for sharing information with friends and family face-to-face was apparent (up to 90%), a finding that also pertained to strangers or acquaintances (36%, vs. a website, 32% or a social networking site, 27%).

Pretty interesting findings, and also quite familiar.  They conform well to my discussion in chapter 4 of Connecting With Consumers, particularly in terms of some popular misconceptions about WOM, including beliefs that dissatisfaction is a greater stimulant of WOM than satisfaction, online WOM more common, and negative WOM more frequent than positive WOM.