Word-of-Mouth and On/Off Line Marketing - Ideas for Leaders
Idea #190

Word-of-Mouth and On/Off Line Marketing

This is one of our free-to-access content pieces. To gain access to all Ideas for Leaders content please Log In Here or if you are not already a Subscriber then Subscribe Here.
Main Image
Main Image


Increases in online communities have led to behaviours that influence online activities, such as shopping, becoming more and more important for executives to understand if they want their businesses to flourish. One of these behaviours is word-of-mouth communication (WOM). In this Idea, the impact of WOM on consumption is analysed, with a discussion of those strategies that work and those that do not.


Word of mouth (WOM) behaviour has attracted a lot of attention from marketing executives in recent years, particularly in light of the increase in size, number and character of online communities. According to a 2012 Marketing Week article, WOM has moved on from the simple message passed on when someone sees a friend face-to-face and recommends a new shop, service or product; the development of digital technology and the rise in smart-phone ownership have ignited the use and value of WOM from social shoppers.

These developments prompted faculty from Brazilian business school Insper to study WOM behaviour and analyze the impact of on/off line communication and consumption. Acknowledging that online WOM customer reviews are an important source of information about product quality to interested consumers, they set out to look into how consumers react and influence the online environment.

Using survey data from just under 250 respondents, Priscila Claro and Silvio Abrahao Laban Neto found overall support for the impact of WOM behaviour on online activity, but not a significant one on consumption directly. Indirectly, offline communication, such as company support for cultural/sporting activities — can impact positive online behaviour, and in turn positive WOM activity. This suggests it is better to use WOM to influence behaviour rather than consumption directly.

In addition, one of their hypotheses was proved wrong; they found that communication strategies that employ online and offline media (such as press and customer evaluations, phone applications, etc.) actually have a negative impact on online consumption. According to Claro and Neto, perhaps consumers view traditional company-driven communication with suspicion, in part because of the extremely high volume of information available today.  They prefer to make purchasing decisions independent of what companies tell them about their products.


The researchers suggest that the widespread belief of managers that their company’s website must provide community content to build brand loyalty and achieve high sales is misleading. In fact, doing so presents enormous challenges and instead, they should focus on effective WOM strategies.

Though companies cannot control what consumers tell others, marketing executives can try to understand how WOM behaviour works, and make efforts to stimulate and generate positive WOM about their products. 



Ideas for Leaders is a free-to-access site. If you enjoy our content and find it valuable, please consider subscribing to our Developing Leaders Quarterly publication, this presents academic, business and consultant perspectives on leadership issues in a beautifully produced, small volume delivered to your desk four times a year.



Idea conceived

December 1, 2011

Idea posted

Aug 2013
challenge block
Can't find the Idea you are after?
Then 'Challenge Us' to source it.


For the less than the price of a coffee a week you can read over 650 summaries of research that cost universities over $1 billion to produce.

Use our Ideas to:

  • Catalyse conversations with mentors, mentees, peers and colleagues.
  • Keep program participants engaged with leadership thinking when they return to their workplace.
  • Create a common language amongst your colleagues on leadership and management practice
  • Keep up-to-date with the latest thought-leadership from the world’s leading business schools.
  • Drill-down on the original research or even contact the researchers directly

Speak to us on how else you can leverage this content to benefit your organization.