iStock_000019244120Small-resizedWhat prompts consumers to talk about a brand online vs. offline? Do social, functional or emotional drivers have the same influence on word of mouth in both channels?

To find out, Mitch Lovett mitch.lovett@simon.rochester.edu, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Simon School of Business, University of Rochester, and his colleagues used NetBase to investigate how the characteristics of a brand affect word of mouth (WOM) for the brand, both online and offline. The results of their research were published in the Journal of Marketing Research from the American Marketing Association.

How Researchers Used NetBase

For their study, Mitch and his colleagues constructed a data set around online and offline WOM and characteristics for more than 600 of the most-talked-about U.S. brands. They used NetBase to analyze the online conversation around three characteristics (excitement, esteem, and differentiation), 10 product categories and 41 brands. For each category and characteristic, they identified a set of themes. For example, for cars and excitement, they looked for such themes as “great experience” or “popular model.” For beauty products and excitement: “newest beauty obsession,” and so on.

Researchers counted how often each theme appeared in the brand’s WOM mentions and total brand mentions over one year. That gave them a “content score” for each brand and characteristic, which was the number of times respondents mentioned a characteristic with respect to the brand, divided by total mentions.

Insights from the Study

Mitch and his colleagues found that the most important drivers for online WOM are social and functional factors, while for offline WOM, it’s the emotional factor that prompts people to talk about a brand. Their findings have implications for marketers planning campaigns to increase positive online and offline WOM and use it to drive sales.  For example, marketers can more effectively create “talkable brands” by identifying the brand characteristics that prompt consumers to talk about the brand. The study also shows that even if finding ways to clearly differentiate your product doesn’t have a direct competitive benefit, it does have an indirect benefit of increasing sales by generating more WOM—and that justifies the investment in creating brand differentiation.

You can find the abstract of the paper, “On Brands and Word of Mouth,” on this journal page. The full paper is available on Mitch’s website here.

A recent NetBase eBook examines how marketers can sharpen campaign messaging using social analytics—potentially finding messages that increase WOM both online and offline. Download Sharpen Campaign Messaging with Social Insights to learn more.