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Word of mouth

For other uses, see Word of mouth (disambiguation).

1 Storytelling

Word of mouth or viva voce,[1] is the passing of

information from person to person by oral communication, which could be as simple as telling someone the
time of day. Storytelling is a common form of wordof-mouth communication where one person tells others
a story about a real event or something made up. Oral
tradition is cultural material and traditions transmitted
by word of mouth through successive generations. Storytelling and oral tradition are forms of word of mouth
that play important roles in folklore and mythology. Another example of oral communication is oral history
the recording, preservation and interpretation of historical information, based on the personal experiences and
opinions of the speaker. Oral history preservation is the
eld that deals with the care and upkeep of oral history
materials collected by word of mouth, whatever format
they may be in.

Storytelling often involves improvisation or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every
culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural
preservation and in order to instill moral values.
The earliest forms of storytelling were thought to have
been primarily oral combined with gesture storytelling for
many of the ancient cultures. The Australian Aboriginal
people painted symbols from stories on cave walls as a
means of helping the storyteller remember the story. The
story was then told using a combination of oral narrative,
music, rock art, and dance.

Traditionally, oral stories were committed to memory and

then passed from generation to generation. However, in
literate societies, written and televised media have largely
replaced this method of communicating local, family, and
cultural histories. Oral storytelling remains the dominant
medium of learning in some countries with low literacy
In marketing, word-of-mouth communication (WOM) rates.
involves the passing of information between a noncommercial communicator (i.e. someone who is not rewarded) and a receiver concerning a brand, a product,
or a service.[2] When WOM is mediated through elec- 2 Oral tradition
tronic means, the resulting electronic word of mouth
(eWoM) refers to any statement consumers share via the Oral tradition (sometimes referred to as oral culture or
Internet (e.g., web sites, social networks, instant mes- oral lore) is cultural material and traditions transmitted
sages, news feeds) about a product, service, brand, or orally from one generation to another.[8][9] The messages
company.[3] The process in which the sender of word-of- or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song
mouth communication is rewarded is referred to as word- and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayof-mouth marketing This process relies on the added ings, ballads, songs, or chants. In this way, it is possible
credibility of person-to-person communication, a per- for a society to transmit oral history, oral literature, oral
sonal recommendation.[4] Using WOM as an opposing law and other knowledges across generations without a
force to commercially motivated word-of-mouth market- writing system.
ing has been coined Proconsumer WOM.[5] Researchers
have formulated a series of recommendations for how Sociologists emphasize a requirement that the material is
nonprots and public sector organizations can utilize Pro- held in common by a group of people, over several generations, and thus distinguish oral tradition from testimony
consumer WOM eectively.
or oral history.[10] In a general sense, oral tradition
WOM has been researched for many years and as a re- refers to the transmission of cultural material through
sult much is known about what drives WOM (e.g. cus- vocal utterance, and was long held to be a key descriptomer satisfaction, trust and brand commitment) and tor of folklore (a criterion no longer rigidly held by all
its far-reaching consequences (e.g. aective/emotional, folklorists).[11] As an academic discipline, it refers both
cognitive, and behavioral) for both consumers and to a set of objects of study and a method by which they
organizations.[6] WOMs eectiveness as an information are studied[12] the method may be called variously oral
source for consumers can be broken down into two fac- traditional theory, the theory of Oral-Formulaic Comtors: WOMs reach and WOMs impact. These two fac- position" and the Parry-Lord theory (after two of its
tors are in turn explained by 13 other drivers.[5] Despite founders). The study of oral tradition is distinct from
much research many research questions remain unan- the academic discipline of oral history,[13] which is the
swered in the area of WOM.[7]
recording of personal memories and histories of those

who experienced historical eras or events.[14] It is also

distinct from the study of orality, which can be dened
as thought and its verbal expression in societies where the
technologies of literacy (especially writing and print) are
unfamiliar to most of the population.[15]

Oral history

Oral history is the recording of personal memories and

histories of those who experienced historical eras or
events.[14] Oral history is a method of historical documentation, using interviews with living survivors of the
time being investigated. Oral history often touches on
topics scarcely touched on by written documents, and by
doing so, lls in the gaps of records that make up early historical documents. Oral history preservation is the eld
that deals with the care and upkeep of oral history materials, whatever format they may be in.[16]


Word-of-mouth marketing implies that an organisation

takes active steps to encourage WOM (e.g. oering a reward to the WOM sender), whereas normal
WOM implies that the sender is not rewarded. Wordof-mouth marketing, which encompasses a variety of
subcategories, including buzz, blog, viral, grassroots,
brand advocates, cause inuencers and social media marketing, as well as ambassador programs, work with
consumer-generated media and more, can be highly valued by product, social media and performance marketers. Proconsumer WOM has been sugggested to act
as counterbalance to commercially motivated word-ofmouth marketing.[5] Because of the personal nature of
the communications between individuals, it is believed
that they are more credible. Research points to individuals being more inclined to believe WOMM than more
formal forms of promotion methods; the listener tends to
believe that the communicator is being honest and doesn't
have an ulterior motive (i.e. the receiver believes that the
sender is not rewarded for engaging in WOM).[17] Wordof-mouth depends on the extent of customer satisfaction
with the product or service,[18] and on the degree of its
perceived value.[19]
To promote and manage word-of-mouth communications, marketers use publicity techniques as well as viral
marketing methods to achieve desired behavioral response. Companies can focus on brand advocates, the
people who proactively recommend their favorite brands
and products online and oine without being paid to do
so.[20] Inuencer marketing is also increasingly used to
seed WOMM by targeting key individuals who have authority and many personal connections.
Marketers place signicant value on positive word-of-


mouth, which is traditionally achieved by creating products, services and customer experiences that generate
conversation-worthy buzz naturally.[21] The relatively
new practice of word-of-mouth marketing attempts to inject positive buzz into conversations directly. While
marketers have always hoped to achieve positive word-ofmouth, intentional marketing relying on such techniques
is subject to regulation in some jurisdictions. For example, in the United States, deliberate eorts to generate benecial consumer conversations must be transparent and honestly conducted in order to meet the requirements of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act
that prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices.[22]
To help marketers understand the dierence between legitimate and unfair practices, a number of professional
organizations have put forward recommendations for ethical conduct.[23][24] A Nielsen global survey in 2013 found
that word-of-mouth is not only the most trusted source of
consumer information, but it is the most likely to be acted
Despite the belief that most word of mouth is now
online (or on mobile) the truth is the very opposite. The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science has
shown that to achieve growth, brands must create word
of mouth beyond core fan groups - meaning marketers
should not focus solely on communities such as Facebook. Moreover, according to Deloitte further research
has shown that most advocacy takes place oine - instead it happens in person. According to the Journal of
Advertising Research: 75% of all consumer conversations about brands happen face-to-face, 15% happen over
the phone and just 10% online. This is backed up by research by WOM specialists, Keller Fay[25] .
WOM and media are intertwined. Although WOM is
seen by consumers as being dierent from and more
credible than paid media, most instances of brands being mentioned in WOM refer to paid media and marketing touchpoints[26] . Furthermore, marketing mix modeling conrms the power of WOM (attributing 13% of
sales across several industries), including a 15% uplift in
paid-media eectiveness[27] . Thus, there can be synergy
between WOM and other forms of marketing.
Research has also shown important dierences in WOM
between males and females after they have a negative
consumption experience.[28] Males, seem to always engage in higher negative-word-of-mouth (NWOM) when
they have low image impairment concern, i.e., they are
not worried that their image will be harmed in the eyes
of word-of-mouth recipient. When image impairment
concern is high, males always engage in lower levels of
NWOM. In contrast, females engage in higher NWOM
to those with whom they are close (strong ties), regardless of image impairment. Thus, when females are close
to someone, they will tell them about negative product
experiences without worrying how such communication
will aect their image. Males on the other hand will not

engage in NWOM if they think such NWOM will harm
their image.


Long-established systems utilising word-of-mouth include:

the grapevine
the salon
the bush telegraph[29]
the lecture circuit

See also
Electronic word-of-mouth
Oral communication
Oral history
Oral tradition
Train of thought
Two-step ow of communication
Word-of-mouth marketing


[2] Dichter, Ernest (1966). How Word-of-Mouth Advertising Works. Harvard Business Review 44 (6): 147166.

[6] Lang, Bodo; Hyde, Ken (2013). Word of mouth: What

we know and what we have yet to learn. Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior 26: 118.
[7] Lang, Bodo; Hyde, Ken (2013). Word of mouth: What
we know and what we have yet to learn. Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior 26: 3.
[8] Vansina, Jan: Oral Tradition as History, 1985, James
Currey Publishers, ISBN 0-85255-007-3, ISBN 978-085255-007-6; at page 27 and 28, where Vasina denes
oral tradition as verbal messages which are reported
statements from the past beyond the present generation
which species that the message must be oral statements
spoken sung or called out on musical instruments only";
There must be transmission by word of mouth over at
least a generation. He points out that Our denition is
a working denition for the use of historians. Sociologists, linguists or scholars of the verbal arts propose their
own, which in, e.g., sociology, stresses common knowledge. In linguistics, features that distinguish the language
from common dialogue (linguists), and in the verbal arts
features of form and content that dene art (folklorists)".
[9] Ki-Zerbo, Joseph: Methodology and African Prehistory, 1990, UNESCO International Scientic Committee for the Drafting of a General History of
Africa; James Currey Publishers, ISBN 0-85255-091X, 9780852550915; see Ch. 7; Oral tradition and its
methodology at pages 54-61; at page 54: Oral tradition
may be dened as being a testimony transmitted verbally
from one generation to another. Its special characteristics
are that it is verbal and the manner in which it is transmitted.
[10] Henige, David. Oral, but Oral What? The Nomenclatures
of Orality and Their Implications Oral Tradition, 3/1-2
(1988): 229-38. p 232; Henige cites Jan Vansina (1985).
Oral tradition as history. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press
[11] Degh, Linda. American Folklore and the Mass Media.
Bloomington:IUP, 1994, p. 31
[12] Dundes, Alan, Editors Introduction to The Theory of
Oral Composition, John Miles Foley. Bloomington, IUP,
1988, pp. ix-xii

[3] Kietzmann, J.H., Canhoto, A. (2013). Bittersweet! Understanding and Managing Electronic Word of Mouth
(PDF). Journal of Public Aairs 13 (2): 146159.
doi:10.1002/pa.1470. Retrieved September 17, 2013.

[13] Henige, David. Oral, but Oral What? The Nomenclatures

of Orality and Their Implications Oral Tradition, 3/1-2
(1988): 229-38. p 232; Henige cites Jan Vansina (1985).
Oral tradition as history. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press


[14] Oral History

[5] Lang, Bodo; Lawson, Rob (2013).

Word-of-Mouths Eectiveness and How to Use
Journal of NonIt as a Proconsumer Tool.
prot & Public Sector Marketing 25 (4): 374399.
Retrieved 22
January 2014.

[15] Ong, Walter, S. J., Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen, 1982 p 12
[16] Keakopa, M. (1998). The role of the archivist in the collection and preservation of oral traditions. S.A. Archives
Journal, 40,87-93.

[17] Grewal, R., T. W. Cline, and A. Davies, 2003. EarlyEntrant Advantage, Word-of-Mouth Communication,
Brand Similarity, and the Consumer Decision-Making
Process. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 13(3).
[18] Stach, A. and A. Serenko, 2010. The Impact of Expectation Disconrmation on Customer Loyalty and Recommendation Behavior: Investigating Online Travel and
Tourism Services. Journal of Information Technology
Management, XX(3), p. 26-41.
[19] Turel, O., A. Serenko, and N. Bontis, 2010. User Acceptance of Hedonic Digital Artifacts: A Theory of Consumption Values Perspective. Information & Management, 47(1), p. 53-59.
[21] Word of mouth advertising:
[22] Laws Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission
[23] Word of Mouth Marketing Association Ethics Code
[24] American Marketing Association Best Practices for
Word-of-Mouth Communications
[25] Social TV: The Real Action is Not Online, It is Still
Face-to-Face, says CBSs Dave Poltrack - The Keller Fay
Group. The Keller Fay Group. Retrieved 2015-09-14.
[26] The Social Power of Television: Whats In It For Advertisers - The Keller Fay Group. The Keller Fay Group.
Retrieved 2015-09-14.
[27] Results Worth Talking About: The ROI of WOM WOMMA. WOMMA. Retrieved 2015-09-14.
[28] Zhang, Yinlong and Feick, Lawrence and Mittal, Vikas,
How Males and Females Dier in Their Likelihood of
Transmitting Negative Word of Mouth (2014). Journal
of Consumer Research, Vol. 40, April 2014. Available at
[29] Dolgin, Alexander (2008). The Economics of Symbolic
Exchange. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 228.
ISBN 9783540798828. Retrieved 2014-12-03. Word of
mouth can overcome the information cascade devised by
marketing specialists. This is important as objective testimony to the power of the bush telegraph.
[30] "Luther asserted, 'It is the manner of the New Testament
and of the gospel that it must be preached and performed
by word of mouth and a living voice. Christ himself has
not written anything, not has he ordered anything to be
written, but rather to be preached by word of mouth.'"
Quoted in: Whitford, David M (2014). Preaching and
Worship. T&T Clark Companion to Reformation Theology. Bloomsbury Companions. Bloomsbury Publishing.
p. 161. ISBN 9780567445087. Retrieved 2014-12-03.


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