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What is the Effect of a Recommendation?

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We present general and specific findings on the effect of word of mouth on brand decisions.

The general findings cover the main source of information when choosing brands. We report studies covering 23 categories. On average, positive word of mouth (recommendation) was responsible for 31 per cent of brand choice although this proportion varied widely across categories, from 9 to 65 per cent. Personal search accounted for 22 per cent and advertising for 14 per cent. The remainder was attributed to editorial comment in the mass media, sales staff influence and contexts where there was little or no choice.

Our specific findings concern the impact of advice that is sought from other consumers compared with advice that is volunteered by other consumers. We employed two different methods for measuring impact and, in one case, measured the impact of both positive and negative word of mouth. Overall, sought advice had more impact than unsolicited advice; depending on the method, the relative impact of sought advice was 1.5 to 2 times the effect of unsought advice. Negative word of mouth occurred less often than positive word of mouth but had much the same impact when it occurred.

Advertising may be designed to influence either sought or unsought word of mouth. We consider how our findings relate to these alternative strategies.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 2005

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