Thursday, September 22, 2005

Pre-Press Version of "What's All The Buzz About?" Now Available!

I have recently posted a pre-press version of my manuscript entitled "What's All The Buzz About? Everyday Communication and the Relational Basis of Word-of-Mouth and Buzz Marketing Practices". The official version of the manuscript will be published in Management Communication Quarterly later next year (2006).

You can download the pre-press copy from my Northeastern faculty website download page (please note that you will be greeted with a simple form to fill out that asks for your name, institution, and e-mail address).

This manuscript served as the basis for a BzzAgent white paper entitled "The Value of Managed Word-of-Mouth".

Feel free to post comments to this manuscript here or on your own blog. If you want to comment on your own blog, please provide the link to my download page ( rather than uploading or mirroring the PDF file.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Defining Word-of-Mouth: Nominal, Descriptive, and Evaluative Distinctions

A colleague from the Stockholm School of Economics, Sara Rosengren, recently commented in an e-mail exchange on how I define word-of-mouth in my research.

I am also a bit curious about your definition of WOM. Regarding everyday WOM you use "infomal, evaluative communication (positive or negative) about an organization, brand, product, or service" as a definition. I was wondering whether WOM actually must be evaluative? Couldn't it just as well be only informational (e.g., "there is a sale at Sears")? Russel Belk has written about this a long, long time ago (1971). He then makes a distinction between what he calls "nominal" (just a mention), "informational" (descriptive information), and "evaluative" WOM. I kind of agree that all these types are actually WOM, but often only the "evaluative" part is considered in research. It would be very interesting to hear your thoughts on this issue.

Here is my response to her excellent question:

Here's my take: I think the "informational" versus "evaluative" distinction is a tough line to demarcate from an analyst's perspective. That is, the view of interaction I adopt is a rhetorical view which implies that there is no such thing as "informational" talk; that is, talk is always selective and partial (and thus it can't be "just neutral" or "just informational", if not for the very reason that someone chooses to mention one thing rather than something else or not at all). However, we (as participants in conversations) make a practical distinction between talk that "comes across" as more or less informational or more or less persuasive. For the "WOM Communication Log" survey [used in a research study published in my 2006 Management Communication Quarterly article], there is a question about valence which would allow people to indicate for themselves whether the commentary was negative, neutral, or positive (about 20% of the episodes were reported as involving neutral valence).

The "nominal" distinction is a worthwhile distinction and is especially relevant to the "Total Interactions and WOM Episode" worksheet (the 7-day log where people recorded their number of interactions with people and the percentage of those conversations that included brand-related talk). From initial analysis of actual instances of transcribed WOM episodes we learned that "nominal" mentions are quite frequent, for example in the process of storytelling ("we were eating at McDonald’s when I saw..."). This is a nominal reference, but McDonald's features as scenic element of the conversation rather than as an object of the conversation. To help participants determine which "mentions" to count for the study I decided to only count it as a WOM episode if it was more than just a nominal mention. Of course, I suppose I could have had them count it as a WOM episode if the organization, brand, product, or service was an object in the conversation but this seemed like it would be too confusing. By the way, one thing I'm looking at with the transcribed interactions is how do some "nominal" mentions lead into more extended conversation about the WOM object. (I'm just in the early stages of this).

So, in short, I think Belk's category system can be meaningful and useful (given the point about a rhetorical view of talk) and I should have mentioned it in my article. Perhaps I'll do so in a future article. Thanks for raising this issue!

For those interested, the Russell Belk article discussed in this post is:

"Occurrence of Word of Mouth Buyer Behavior as a Function of Situation and Advertising Stimuli," Proceedings of the American Marketing Association, ed. Fred Allvine, 1971, 419-422.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Remarking on the "Remarkable" Book The Big Moo

I recently received a complimentary copy of The Big Moo which is an edited volume of essays about the importance of being remarkable in a competitive marketing landscape. The book is edited by Seth Godin and has a number of business thinkers as authors of short, motivational essays on how to do things that others would want to comment on.

I am about half-way through the book and so far I've found it to be a mixed bag: some of the essays accomplished their objective and gave some fresh insights and ideas, while other essays seemed a bit trite, and I think I just missed the point of some others. I imagine that most readers will have a similar response in that, like all things, what is insightful to one person appears hackneyed to another. The key thing, though, is that I think any reader will get inspired by at least one of the essays.

A few neat things that I really like about the book iunclude:

1) The philosophy behind the book understands the fundamental principle that individual and organizational activities generate conversations among their stakeholders and organizations need to pay attention to the value of these conversations so that they can be effective and sustainable.

2) The authors of each particular essay are not identified. At first I found this frustrating because I found myself looking first at who wrote the essay before I decided if I was going to read it or not. This way I was forced to read the essays based on the title and then had the added mystery of trying to figure who might have been the author.

3) All of the authors agreed to contribute to the book without any compensation (not uncommon in the academic world but somewhat remarkable in the business world) and all proceeds go to one of three charities listed in the book. The goal is laudable: to spread the word and help light a fire under people to think in ways that help make themselves and their organizations more remarkable. Readers are asked to buy copies of the book and give it to people who they think could benefit from it.

The book was provided compliments of the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association to its membership. Those who received the free, advance copy were asked to comment on it.

By the way, the editor, Seth Godin, and some of the authors will be speaking at WOMMA's latest conference -- Word of Mouth v. Advertising: Consumers in Control -- in NYC on Sept. 28th. Those interested can receive $75 off their membership by using "eventalum" when they register online.