Most WOM is positive

15 November 2010

NEW YORK: More than 60% of word of mouth among US consumers concerning brands and companies is positive in tone, new figures show.

Specialist consultancy Keller Fay continuously tracks online and offline WOM from 36,000 Americans to gauge popular perceptions about firms and products.

Based on over 172,000 pieces of data collected during the 12 months to July 2010, it reported 66% of relevant discussions are "mostly positive", while just 8% were "mostly negative."

Categories generating the strongest results included children's goods, personal care, dining, food and beverages.

Telecoms, financial services and healthcare tended to post lower scores, although even here feedback remained essentially favourable overall.

Further findings revealed that complimentary WOM was awarded a 66% credibility rating by respondents, compared with 43% for critical news.

In terms of impacting likelihood to purchase, 61% of people had been influenced by active endorsements but only 28% changed their views after hearing less pleasant information.

Some 58% of Keller Fay's panel were also liable to pass on flattering remarks, measured against 38% repeating disapproving opinions.

"While it's theoretically possible that consumers could use word of mouth channels to 'diss' brands and spout off about negative experiences, this is not in fact what they do most of the time," said Ed Keller, ceo of Keller Fay.

"Why not? Because the 'ask' in word of mouth is for advice and recommendations about smart choices."

Separate research by Keller Fay and Universal McCann in 15 sectors found there was an 81% correlation between WOM levels and the number of influencers talking about particular segments.

Graeme Hutton, svp and director of consumer insights and research at Universal McCann, thus argued marketers must specifically target this important demographic.

"If a brand is to maximise its conversation potential, it is not enough to focus simply on creating that conversation with consumers, a parallel communications strategy should often be embraced for influencers," he said.

Data sourced from Keller Fay; additional content by Warc staff