The differential impact of brand loyalty on traditional and online word of mouth: The moderating roles of self-brand connection and the desire to help the brand

As we all might know, word of mouth (WOM) plays a significant role within the business field. Indeed, a popular refrain is mentioned by Merlo et al. (2014, p. 82) that “word of mouth is associated with increased customer loyalty”. Several studies (Matos & Rossi, 2008; Watson et al., 2015) have also confirmed this by their research on the relation between customer loyalty and WOM. In this paper, the authors went one step further in this aspect, and investigated how the relation between loyalty and WOM is ‘’affected by the shift from offline to online communication channels and from traditional, face-to-face conversations (i.e., in-person WOM) to online WOM(i.e., eWOM)” (Eelen, Özturan & Verlegh, 2017).

The authors conduct 4 studies in this paper. For the first study, they conduct a survey with regards to ten preselected consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands among 1061 consumers. They follow up with three experiments. In these experiments, they acquired a total of 1473 participants from Amazon MTurk that participated.

For the first experiment, the second study they conducted, the authors replicated the survey. This time however, instead of measuring they tried to manipulate brand loyalty and self-brand connection by asking participants theirselves to come up with brands they could think of.

The second experiment, the third study the authors conducted, focused on loyal consumers and their intentions to engage in in-person WOM and eWOM. The intentions were linked to their perceptions of social risk and psychological benefit. Lastly, the third experiment, the fourth study that was conducted, investigated the actual eWOM behavior of the participants (Eelen et al., 2017).

The findings of the article show that brand loyalty is positively related to word of mouth for CPG products, however, they also indicate that this relation is much weaker for eWOM than for in-person WOM. Another finding was that it appeared that loyal consumers were more willing to engage in eWOM, if there was a self-brand connection present. The last finding was based on the actual eWOM behavior, which indicated that consumers could be motivated to engage in eWOM if they were told that this would be helpful for the brand. It turned out that this approach was effective for loyal consumers, but not for the occasional users (consumers) of a brand (Eelen et al., 2017).

These findings may have several managerial implications. First of all, it provides marketers and brand managers with new insights. As these findings already implied, marketers and brand managers could consider an actionable strategy for stimulating their loyal customers to spread eWOM. Moreover, two specific types of motivation are considered when thinking about tackling this issue. First, the brands could link their customer engagement programs to the consumers’ need for self-presentation. Secondly, it could be done by strengthening the consumers’ identification with the brand. Additionally, brands could also provide customers with several eWOM tools that make it more applicable when the brand is top of mind (think of after purchasing etc.). Lastly, as can be concluded from the paper, that there was a positive relation between eWOM and the use of online media. Marketers may also think of targeting the customers that make heavily use social media, but are not necessarily brand loyal (Eelen et al., 2017).

A good example made in the article itself, was when the business Nutella, was able to organize an online action where its customers could design their own Nutella Jar. The customers were especially people who used social media a lot, but were triggered to also buy the brand, because they had to visit a store and purchase the jar of Nutella first before they could use the label (Eelen et al., 2017).

The article finds its strength in conducting a research that looks into the products side of in-person WOM and eWOM, instead of the service business. As it is also mentioned in the article, a lot of study has been done on the service business (58) but just a few on the product side (8). Another strength of the article would be the several manipulation checks and in-differences methods, to increase the robustness of the findings.  Lastly, the article is able to present convenient managerial implications and theoretical contributions (Eelen et al., 2017).

Now, when considering the weaknesses of the article, one of the most notable would be the fact that the authors tend to fail on exploring more possible differences between subtypes of eWOM. When thinking about the different online channels possible, e.g. Twitter vs. Facebook vs. brand site itself vs. store platform for reviews etc., these channels could all have different implications and customer usage of eWOM. To understand the differences more, the article could have studied the various dimensions that underlie these differences of the channel. Therefore, better insight could have be given to marketers, based on more specific channels for usage, also on which is more effective than the other (Eelen et al., 2017).


Eelen, J., Özturan, P., & Verlegh, P. W. (2017). The differential impact of brand loyalty on traditional and online word of mouth: The moderating roles of self-brand connection and the desire to help the brand. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 34(4), 872-891.

Watson, G. F., Beck, J. T., Henderson, C. M., & Palmatier, R. W. (2015). Building, measuring, and profiting from customer loyalty. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 43(6), 790–825.

Merlo, O., Eisingerich, A. B., & Auh, S. (2014). Why customer participation matters. MIT Sloan Management Review, 55(2), 81–88.

de Matos, C. A., & Rossi, C. A. V. (2008). Word-of-mouth communications in marketing: A meta-analytic review of the antecedents and moderators. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 36(4), 578–596.


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