Thinking about word-of-mouth research

After the initial satisfaction of receiving a good set of marks on my first set of assignments and the subsequent period of relaxation, it’s time to start thinking about the next set  (the start of this semester has gone so quickly!).

I’ve been thinking about word-of-mouth marketing for my dissertation research proposal, trying to pin down some possibilites for a specific research questions.

I chose it as an area of interest for a number of reasons:

  • It works – people trust recommendations more than any other source of promotion.
  • Its a hot topic – word-of-mouth has always existed but now organisations are actively trying to manufacture and encourage it.
  • i’m interested in how and why messages spread and the role of influential people (opinion formers, connectors, mavens etc.) in the process.


It’s a  fruitful area for research but broad in spectrum so I’ve been brainstorming some issues as a starting point:

  • To which domain does the discipline belong? – Marketing, PR, Advertising or none? Does it even matter?
  • What is the place of word-of-mouth and buzz marketing within the PR framework? Can PR add anything to word-of-mouth management that marketers can’t?
  • Where does it fit in within the wider context of communications strategy? How does it interact with other communications disciplines?
  • How has online communication and specifically social media impacted on the way word of mouth spreads?
  • How can the success of word-of-mouth campaigns be measured accurately?
  • What makes messages ‘sticky’ enough to be spread via WOM?
  • What are the ethical considerations? – the role of stealth Marketing, customer impersonation etc.
  • Which is more successful – organic (naturally occuring) WOM or amplified (stimulated/encouraged by campaigns) WOM?
  • Is paying brand ambassadors (even with full disclosure) an effective way to promote your brand?

These are broad questions, some of which have probably been answered in some capacity before. I plan to identify specific gaps in research after I’ve read around the subject more, but if anyone has got any pointers I’m open to suggestions.


About Tom Craik

Senior Account Executive at Finn Communications, a PR and Word of Mouth agency based in Leeds. Baby face. Northern Monkey. Attention junkie. Space man. Fake tan. Dancefloor dreamer. Analyser. Deliberator. Wordsmith. Book worm. Head in clouds. Telecaster. Dance floor master. Closet rasta. Free love. Fresh jokes. Old gear. Naff beard. Existential. Influential. Left of centre. iPod. Math rock. Psych Folk. Dropping dubstep. Chicken Balti. Laos. Berlin. Bass bin. Circle pit. Guggenheim. Baltic. Cabernet. Globalised. Wired. No house. No car. Going places!
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