Most studies of word-of-mouth (WOM) in marketing have concentrated either on aggregate outcomes (e.g., new product diffusion) or on the transmission process (i.e., "talking" or "sending" information). This paper instead focuses on the reception process at the individual level (i.e., "listening" to information), and addresses two questions: what makes people listen to WOM, and what are the drivers of the type and extent of WOM impact on recipients' brand attitudes and purchase intentions? Transmitter, message, and transmitter-recipient relationship characteristics are examined as potential drivers of reception/listening and WOM's impact on the disposition recipients have toward focal brands and the certainty or confidence with which these dispositions are held. Two studies demonstrate that (1) WOM impacts disposition and certainty differently, (2) changes in both disposition and certainty affect consumers' intentions to purchase a focal talked-about brand, (3) WOM from strangers in some cases can be as impactful as WOM from friends and acquaintances, and (4) the relatively strong influence of strangers under some conditions seems to be the result of perceptions of the credibility of strangers as sources of information. Overall, the results illustrate that WOM reception is multiply-determined and, above all, the outcome of a complex set of processes.
Stephen, Andrew T., and Donald Lehmann. "Is Anyone Listening? Modeling the Impact of Word-of-Mouth at the Individual Level." Working paper, Columbia Business School, June 6, 2010.
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