Other findings from the research include:
- Positive mentions outnumber negative mentions 6 to 1
- 92% of brand conversations are happening offline, of which 20% happens over phone
- Only 9% of conversations are “mostly negative”
- People are more likely to pass along good mentions than bad ones – so good news travels faster than bad news!
- 41% of conversations mention advertising
- 72% of opinions about brands are shared by family members and personal friends, 13% are shared by co-workers and 7% are shared by a professional or expert on the topic
- The Internet (12%), television (7%) and newspapers (5%) are the top three media channels most frequently referenced in brand-related buzz
- Email, instant message and online chat rooms/blogs comprise 6% of word of mouth
It would have been interesting to see how this data correlates with people’s buying stage. While the study shows that most brand related buzz happens offline, people may be in a more advanced buying stage when looking for brand related information using a search engine than when seeing friends and family at a reception or dinner.
When I asked Ed Keller (CEO of the Keller Fay Group and author of “The Influentials”) that question at a recent conference, he said that the study did not look at the correlation between online research and face-to-face brand messaging. While the research shows that 92% of brand related buzz happens offline, it could be that the effect of online word of mouth is disproportionately more impactful on buying decisions. The “buzzer” may be in an advanced buying stage when he or she is talking up a brand offline – but the recipient of the brand message may not be as receptive as if he or she were actively looking for brand related information online.
On that very topic, Yahoo! and OMD released a study last week that shows that 62% of buyers use a combination of online and offline sources to gather information before they buy.
It would also have been interesting to see what kind of brands people talk up in different situations. If it is true that most people identify or talk “through” their brands, then the brands they talk up with friends and family would likely be different than the brands they talk up during company gatherings. In fact, people’s need to identify or talk through their brands could explain why so much word of mouth happens offline!
The good news is that offline “positive news travels faster than bad news.” We should not forget, however, that online “negative news stays there forever,” and that the impact of a bad customer review can have long lasting effects on brand purchases (according to the same Yahoo!/OMD study, 25% of people have posted online product reviews). Take my recent bout with Mercedes – which after much deliberation I decided to blog (also here, here, and here). When I wrote the posts, thousands of readers came to view those posts. But now, almost two months later, search engines are still sending over 20 people a day to read those posts – that is 140 people a week! And every now and then, someone will share their horror stories with that same brand in the comment section, or they will comment on how they would never buy a Mercedes Benz again – or in one case, an independent garage owner who had been servicing Mercedes for 20 years shares his story of how he is switching brands because of poor product quality and horrible customer service. So over time, what started out as an individual product rant has become a collection of (mostly disgruntled) customer reviews – nevertheless, something of a real useful service to potential buyers.
So while 92% of word of mouth may travel offline – don’t stop your online word-of-mouth activities just yet – at least not until we understand the true impact on buying behavior!