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Wednesday, April 20 2011

The Journal of Marketing Communications Wants You


Journal of Marketing Communications

Special Issue:  Word of Mouth and Social Media

Editors:  Allan J. Kimmel and Philip J. Kitchen



The Internet and mobile devices have come to occupy a central role in the transmission of word of mouth (WOM) and the spread of marketing buzz, an impact that has shown phenomenal growth over the past decade with the emergence of blogs, Internet forums and discussion groups, text messaging, email, and the like.  In fact, the most powerful media form is WOM and it is no longer limited to face-to-face encounters. Moreover, WOM today can spread with lightning speed to reach countless numbers of consumers.  As marketers strive to adapt to these rapidly evolving technological and social developments and keep pace with their markets, researchers have followed suit, as evidenced by the growing body of scientific literature on various aspects of WOM communication (i.e., the act of a consumer creating and/or distributing marketing-relevant information to other consumers) and related personal influence phenomena (e.g., brand communities; brand ambassador programs; product seeding campaigns).  Nonetheless, to date, relatively little academic research scrutiny has been devoted to WOM as it relates to social media and other web-driven consumer-generated phenomena, such as blogs and consumer Internet forums. Moreover, there is a paucity of academic research relating to the strength of consumer-to-consumer communications as compared to B2C and B2B.  There is evidence of resistance by marketers in staying with the time-worn, but tested and tried traditional types of communications.


This special issue of the Journal of Marketing Communications is intended to bridge this knowledge gap by providing an outlet for innovative and timely contributions pertaining to online WOM, as disseminated through the broad array of social media (a category of online media where people are talking, participating, sharing, networking, and bookmarking, including social sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr; social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook; online forums; and corporate and consumer-generated blogs.   


Topics for the special issue include but are not limited to:

  • methods of using social media for generating WOM
  • comparisons of online and offline WOM dynamics and consequences, including the interplay between these various forms of WOM
  • the conversational, as opposed to dyadic, nature of online WOM disseminated through social forums
  • antecedents to and conditions facilitating online WOM
  • the impact of negative online WOM and complaint behavior
  • the impact of online WOM on sales
  • the dynamics, spread, and consequences of marketing-relevant online rumors
  • rhetorical analyses of online WOM conversations
  • brand-related storytelling in blogs and online forums
  • segmentation analyses of online WOM participants
  • the integration of WOM with other on- and off-line techniques
  • where WOM fits in terms of integrated marketing communications from an organizational or consumer-based perspective.


Submissions to the special issue should be original empirical or theoretical contributions and should not be under simultaneous consideration for any other publication.  Online WOM should not be treated as a peripheral aspect of the paper, but must serve as a central focus.  As a guide, papers should be between 4000 and 6000 words in length, including an abstract of no more than 200 words.  Manuscripts should be submitted electronically in Microsoft Word format to the guest editors before 1st May 2012.  The format of the manuscript must follow Journal of Marketing Communications guidelines.  For the Author guidelines, please visit


All questions regarding the suitability of manuscripts should be sent to the Editors.



Dr. Allan J. Kimmel                             Dr. Philip J. Kitchen

ESCP Europe                            The Faculty of Business

Marketing Department                 Brock University

79 avenue de la République         500 Glenridge Avenue

75543 Paris, France                    St Catharines, Ontario, Canada L2S 3A1





Thursday, November 18 2010

Customer Product Reviews: Undeniably Influential

"For many purchases, shoppers find the best advice comes not from family and close friends but from strangers who have similar interests or who embody a lifestyle the shopper aspires to achieve."  So says eMarketer principal analyst Jeffrey Grau in a recent article at eMarketer about some new evidence attesting to the significant impact of customer product reviews.  This is not new news, just more of it attesting to the influence of online reviews.

In this most recent study, ChannelAdvisor surveyed US Internet users this past summer and found that a staggering 92% claimed to read product reviews, of which a nearly equal percentage were either influenced to purchase (46%) or dissuaded from making a purchase (43%).  Only 3% revealed that their decisions were unaffected by online reviews.

As stated in the eMarketer article, product reviews now represent a significant part of the shopper's pre-purchase search ritual, and the tendency for consumers to search out reviews for products they are considering has continued to rise, both in terms of number of reviews they consult and the amount of time they spend perusing them.  Back in 2006, in a widely-cited academic study that appeared in the Journal of Marketing Research, authors Chevalier and Mayzlin found that consumers who consult user reviews at book-selling sites, such as and, prefer to read the actual reviews themselves to mere summary statistics, such as average number of starred ratings.  Here is a summary of some other findings from that study:

Here are some findings from a 2007 e-tailing group study (published in 2008) regarding average frequency that consumers consult online reviews prior to a purchase and the average number of reviews consulted prior to a decision:

In their just-released follow-up report, the e-tailing group, in conjunction with PowerReviews, revealed that shoppers' embrace of online customer reviews has strengthened since the 2007 analysis revealed that 64% of shoppers read reviews always or most of the time before making a purchase decision.  That percentage apparently hasn't changed, but what has is the degree of immersion in the reviews:

  • 64% of shoppers took 10 minutes or more to read reviews, vs. 50% in 2007
  • 33% took a half hour or more to read reviews, vs. 18% in 2007
  • 39% read eight or more reviews before buying, vs. 22% in 2007 
  • 12% read 16 or more reviews before buying, vs. 5% in 2007
Despite this growing immersion, the e-tailing study also revealed that consumers who consult customer reviews for assistance in making a purchase decision, are not wholly convinced about the credibility of the reviews, with 35% of the study's respondents expressing mixed feelings about the reviews' authenticity.

The authenticity issue has been an ongoing problem with the widely-popular hotel/restaurant user review site,  Consumers often express concerns that glowing reviews are posted by proprieters themselves, a possibility tripadvisor spokespersons have acknowledged that they are very sensitive about and that they have taken steps to monitor.  Meanwhile, venue proprietors recently have attacked tripadvisor for continuing to post dated critiques that do not acknowledge more recent upgrades in service.  And yours truly is wondering why some of my Paris restaurant reviews mysteriously disappear from the site, with no explanation forthcoming from tripadvisor.  Just the other day I posted a comment about a fine little bistrot within walking distance of the Beaubourg Pompidou Center, Pramil.  At tripadvisor, Pramil is ranked as the number 6 best restaurant in Paris, out of several hundred.  I pointed out that while Pramil is a pretty good restaurant, and one that I recommended at my Paris Restaurants and Beyond blog, there are many better venues in the French capital and the number six rating makes no sense.  Perhaps it was the reference to my blog that killed the post, but within 24 hours of its appearance, it was gone.  Why?

Saturday, October 23 2010

Who's Talking About What?: Latest Research

Ed Keller, CEO of the Keller Fay Group ( 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. 

Friday, May 21 2010

WOM Survey

New study on word of mouth . . . appearing soon at this site.