What’s the Business Impact of Word of Mouth?

Everyone believes word of mouth has an impact on business from increasing awareness to driving sales. But proving the return on investment in word-of-mouth marketing has been an elusive quest for marketers.

Earlier this year, WOMMA set out to answer this increasingly important question.

Working with brands like AT&T, Frito-Lay, Intuit, PepsiCo, Weight Watchers and Discovery Communications, WOMMA was able to get its hands on confidential data connecting brand-related conversations to business-enhancing performance. (Brands listed above are sponsors of the study.)

The Keller Fay Group and Converseon added in more brand-related conversation data that Analytic Partners and Sequent Partners then plugged into sophisticated econometric models. (Agencies listed above are sponsors of the study.)

The output off all this rich data and deep analysis gets us marketers closer to understanding the business impact of word-of-mouth marketing.

As an agency sponsor of the study, we at Brains on Fire were given an early look at the findings and created nifty data-graphics that share key findings from the just-released WOMMA “Return on WOM” study.


One of the most interesting findings from the study reveals word-of-mouth conversations, including social media mentions, is responsible for 13 percent of all consumer sales, which equates to $6,000,000,000,000 (trillion!) of annual consumer spending.

Within high-consideration product categories the impact word of mouth has is even greater, accounting for about 20 percent of consumer sales. That makes total sense to me because whenever I make a decision to buy something important or expensive, I seek out and trust recommendations from friends and friends of friends.


Marketers sometimes forget that word-of-mouth marketing and paid advertising are not adversaries, they are allies. It’s not a matter of deciding between word of mouth OR advertising, it’s a matter of using word of mouth AND advertising to get MORE people talking. According to the WOMMA study, word of mouth, including social media, increases the reach and impact of paid media by 15 percent. So, the larger your advertising spend the more you can expect people to talk about your brand. Cool.

The offline/online conversation divide is always interesting. Yes, we know from Keller Fay that 9 out of every 10 mentions of brands in daily conversations happens offline (face-to-face) and less than 10 percent of brand mentions happen online (social media, texting, etc.). We now have a new figure to add to the offline/online conversation divide:


This study reveals offline word of mouth has more influence on driving measured business results than does online word of mouth. These business results cover a wide range of key performance indicators that can include: total sales, revenue growth, market share, conversion rate, website traffic, ratings, referrals, etc. Of course, the influence of online word of mouth speaks to the added trust and credibility that comes from seeing/hearing a person talk about a brand rather than reading something someone says online about a brand.

To add to the credibility factor offline word of mouth has on the impact of a business, the study informs us marketers that 1 offline word of mouth conversation is more powerful than 5 paid media impressions. Whoa, chew on that!


Wanna learn more? Check out this infographic and read the research summary document.


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