What Drives Immediate and Ongoing Word of Mouth?

Imagine the following situation. You are browsing on the Internet, and suddenly you see the following product: a projection alarm clock which also projects the time on your wall. You think it is a very interesting and cool product, so you decide to buy the product. The next day, your package is delivered and you can enjoy the product. What is the likelihood that you are going to tell someone about this product? Probably very high, because the product is interesting and nice. However, do you think that you will still be talking about this projection alarm clock in two months? According to Berger and Schwartz (2011), you probably won’t.


Word of Mouth (WOM) is really important nowadays, because it generates brand impressions and it affects buying behaviour of consumers (e.g. Leskovec et al., 2007). As discussed in class, WOM can increase persuasion, trust, informedness and willingness-to-pay.

The question is: Why are some products talked about more than other products? Berger and Schwartz (2011) shed light on this question. These researchers conducted research into the drivers of immediate and ongoing WOM. By making the distinction between immediate and ongoing WOM, it is not only examined whether certain product types create more WOM, but also when different product characteristics are more important. Whereas previous research especially focuses on the consequences or effects of WOM, this research focuses on its drivers. This is important, because marketing campaigns can be adjusted accordingly to benefit the most from WOM.

It is often believed that a product should be interesting to create WOM (e.g. Dye, 2000). However, Berger and Schwartz (2011) argue that WOM is more driven by accessibility, especially in the longer-term. In other words, is the product top-of-mind or not? The authors identified two factors that can encourage accessibility. First, products that are cued more often by the surrounding environment should increase accessibility, and second, public visibility might make the product more accessible.

The researchers examined whether products that are more interesting, publicly visible, or cued by the environment create more WOM, both immediately and over time. A unique data set specifying face-to-face WOM on more than 300 products was analysed, and both a field experiment and a lab experiment were conducted to test this.

Now, let’s move on to the most interesting part, the results. The most important results are the following:

  1. Being cued, publicly visible, and interesting all shape WOM, but the relationships vary over different time horizons.
  2. Products that are cued more by the environment or are more publicly visible receive more overall WOM. More interesting products, on the other hand, did not receive more overall WOM (see figure below).


  1. Products that are cued more by the environment receive more immediate WOM and more ongoing WOM.
  2. Products that are more publicly visible receive more immediate WOM and more ongoing WOM.
  3. The relationship between interest and WOM varies over time. Interesting products receive more immediate WOM, but do not receive any more ongoing WOM (see figure below).


Coming back to the situation described earlier, it is likely that you will talk about the alarm clock projector immediately, because the product is interesting. However, the likelihood that you will talk about the product in two months is much lower, because the product is not publicly visible. Unless, of course, you are cued by the environment.

A strength of this article, in my opinion, is that the researchers made the distinction between immediate and ongoing WOM. Many practitioners seem to believe that the ‘coolness’ of a product, or how interesting a product is, create the most WOM. However, this research showed that this is not always the case.

It is demonstrated how different factors can influence WOM. Taking into account these results, practitioners can design more successful WOM marketing campaigns. For example, links between a product and cues in the environment could be strengthened to make the products more accessible. Also, it might be valuable for managers to think about how products can be made more visible, in order to create more WOM.


Berger, J. and Schwartz, E.M. (2011) ‘What drives immediate and ongoing word of mouth?’, Journal of Marketing Research, 48(5): 869-880.

Leskovec, J., Adamic, L.A. and Huberman, B.A. (2007), ‘The Dynamics of Viral Marketing’, ACM TWeb, 1(1): 1-39.

Dye, R. (2000) ‘The Buzz on Buzz’, Harvard Business Review, 88, 139–46.

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