Firm-Created Word-of-Mouth Communication: Evidence from a Field Test
In this paper, we investigate the effectiveness of a firm's proactive management of customer-to-customer communication. We are particularly interested in understanding how, if at all, the firm should go about effecting meaningful word-of-mouth (WOM) communications. To tackle this problem, we collect data from two sources: (1) we implement a large-scale field test in which a national firm created word of mouth through two populations: customers and noncustomers, and (2) we collect data from an online experiment. We break our theoretical problem into two subproblems. First, we ask: “What kind of WOM drives sales?” Motivated by previous research, we hypothesize that for a product with a low initial awareness level, WOM that is most effective at driving sales is created by less loyal (not highly loyal) customers and occurs between acquaintances (not friends). We find support for this in the field test as well as in an experimental setting. Hence, we demonstrate the potential usefulness of exogenously created WOM: conversations are created where none would naturally have occured otherwise. Then, we ask: “Which agents are most effective at creating this kind of WOM?” In particular, we are interested in evaluating the effectiveness of the commonly used opinion leader designation. We find that although opinion leadership is useful in identifying potentially effective spreaders of WOM among very loyal customers, it is less useful for the sample of less loyal customers.
Volume (Year): 28 (2009)
Issue (Month): 4 (07-08)
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