Product usage and firm-generated word of mouth: some results from FMCG product trials

Alain Samson

The London School of Economics and Political Science


In the literature on firm-generated word of mouth (WOM), market researchers have been concerned with understanding the antecedents, processes and consequences of product-related communication between consumers, with the potential of generating a measurable effect on sales (e.g. Holmes & Lett 1977; Jain et al. 1995; Buttle 1998; Biyalogorsky et al. 2001; Carl 2006; Kirby & Marsden 2006; Kumar et al. 2007; Godes & Mayzlin 2009). In marketing practice, campaigns aimed at producing WOM often involve forms of ‘product seeding’ or trials that allow consumers to directly experience a product. The firm hopes to thereby produce communications (through existing customers or non-customers) that aid in the diffusion of a new product or simply the winning of new customers for an existing one. This paper discusses some findings generated by data from five fmcg product trial campaigns (one breakfast food (muesli), two skincare and two dietary supplement products) with a consumer panel, which employed simple pre- and post-campaign survey instruments with questions ranging from intention to recommend to WOM conversations, product sample sharing and estimated conversions among WOM recipients. The analysis reported in this paper approaches WOM from the perspective of product usage by looking at the effect of user status (users vs non-users; loyal vs non-loyal users), brand usage range and frequency of product use.