Author: Laurence Borel

4 recent academic research articles on UGC and eWoM

Things have been manic juggling  university and work over the past few months each bringing their own set of challenges. Now, I’m wondering if I have any readers left?!

I just thought I would share some  of the recent academic thinking around UGC, virality and eWOM. Marketers, take note!

Muntinga, D., G., Moorman, M., and Smith, E., G. Introducing COBRAs, Exploring motivations for brand-related social media use, International Journal of Advertising, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2011, pp. 13-46

Summary: this article explores people’s motivations to engage in brand-related social media both in terms is consumption and contribution.

Christodoulides, G., Jevons, C. and Bonhomme, J. (2012) Memo to marketers: quantitative evidence for change: how user-generated content really affects brands?, Journal of Advertising Research

Summary: this interesting study demonstrates quantitatively how UGC really affects brands.  Co-creation, community, self-concept and consumers’ involvement all impact CBBE (consumer-based brand equity) and thus should be taken into account when it comes down to measuring Social Media ROI.

Adjei. M., T., Noble, S., M., and Noble C., H., (2010) The influence of C2C communications in online brand communities on customer purchase behavior, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 38: 634-653

Summary: It is a well-known fact that consumer-to-consumer (C2C) communications strongly impact the decision-making process. This research demonstrates that C2C Communications help with uncertainty reduction. Positive conversations had a positive impact on immediate purchase intention and sales. Furthermore C2C communicating customers had higher purchase frequencies and showed more cross-buying behaviour.  

Berthon, P., Leyland, P., Campbell, C., (2008) Ad Lib, When customers create the ad, California Management Review Vol. 50 Nb 4.

Summary: This article looks at the various motivations that drive consumers to create their own ads including intrinsic enjoyment, self-promotion, and finally changing perceptions.

I’ll post more articles in the coming weeks and months. Meanwhile, feel free to share other interesting academic articles in the comments box.

Social Media and Consumer Behaviour – results of last year’s study (qual/quant)

Social Media usage when purchasing a smartphoneTowards the end of last year I carried out a small piece of research on how social media is utilised and affects consumer behaviour specifically for high-involvement products, in this instance smartphones.  I’ve been meaning to post the findings for ages, alas, things got a little busy last term. Without further ado, here’s a summary my study.

Research background and objectives:

the Internet and word of mouth, both offline (friends, family, colleagues) and online (social networks, blogs) can heavily influence the information search and evaluation of alternative stages of the decision-making process. It is estimated that 98% of the population uses Social Media, and at least 30% of consumers looking at brands’ profiles on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (Euromonitor International, September 2012).  Information-search represents the primary stage in which marketing can provide information and influence consumers’ decisions (Wilkie & Dickson, 1985). But with consumers adopting different search strategies, identifying the platforms of their information-search behaviour is a challenge for brands. The purpose of this paper is therefore to examine:

  • How consumers research a high-involvement purchase, in this instance smartphones
  • How is social media used in relation to information-search and purchase decision
  • How do consumers determine the reliability of a source/user-generated post
  • Who talks to whom about what and the effect this has on purchase behaviour

Methodology

This empirical research used a two-phase sequential mixed methods approach by triangulating both qualitative (detailed views) and quantitative (statistical numeric trends) methodologies

Summary of results 

The purchase journey; three distinct types of consumers identified

Not all consumers are equal, and although they do engage in extensive problem solving to form a new product category concept (Howard, 1994), their decision-making process greatly differs.

Using Malhotra’s data assembling technique (2012, p.392), 3 clusters of consumer behaviour based on information-search activity and personality variables were identified. Secondly, specific survey questions helped us segment and quantify their behaviour further.

Group 1 – Technophobes: Technophobes are a group of consumers who are scared of technology and represent 10% of the consumers surveyed. They are cost-conscious consumers who are satisfied with a feature phone.

The trigger pushing them to search for a new phone tends to be a phone call from their service provider and their information-search process tends to be lengthy as they delay the purchase as much as they can. These consumers do not keep up with the latest technologies and will talk to a number of their friends before making a final purchase.

Group 2 – Tech Fashionistas: Tech Fashionistas represent the largest group of consumers identified (70% of consumers surveyed). They are interested in knowing what’s available on the market and tend to own high-end smartphones, which is used for a multitude of activities on a daily basis, such as making calls, texting, emailing, surfing the Internet, social networking, or listening to music.

Tech Fashionistas tend to own latest and ‘best’ smartphones, and spend considerable amounts of time reading about the latest gadgets, using a number of sources of information. Multiple brands are often considered in the journey, albeit not at once; a bad comment for instance may deter a consumer from purchasing a product and then the process will start all over again. At post-purchase evaluation stage, they will share their thoughts about their phones in social networks, and will actively recommend phones to Technophobes.

Group 3 – Tech Experts: Tech Experts live and breathe technology and represent 20% of consumers surveyed. Because they see themselves as experts, they are often content creators, either reviewing phones on their blog, or creating YouTube review videos, thus influencing Tech Fashionistas.

Tech Experts are active shoppers; even though they feel they are not researching the purchase of a phone they are in fact constantly researching the latest products to create content for their blogs or YouTube. Reviewing smartphones for these consumers is a hobby, and they will only purchase the phone that exceeds their expectations.

Sources of information

Whilst the need recognition occurs offline, the information-search process takes place online. We wanted to identify which online sources are the most commonly used for information search, and the likelihood to trust each of these sources.

Figure 1. Sources looked at when researching smartphones ranked by likelihood to trust each source (on a scale of 1-5 where 1 is not likely to trust, and 5 very likely to trust)

Likelihood to trust a source

Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT) suggests that the onset of a relationship is characterised by high levels of various uncertainties, and because uncertainty is difficult to deal with, relationship partners communicate and seek information to reduce ambiguity (Berger, 1987; Weiss et al, 2008).

As highlighted in the figure above, consumer-to-consumer exchanges both offline (friends recommendations) and online (Google Search/blogs) were most commonly used, and trusted sources of information, above manufacturers’ owned channels, such as websites (trust mean score: 3.23) or brochures (trust mean score: 2.88).

The qualitative in-depths interviewed highlighted that whilst brands’ owned properties (websites, brochures) are accessed at information-search stage, they are mostly used for product awareness, whilst blogs in comparison, were used in much more depth and frequency.

‘I think I looked at the website once just to see the tech spec of the phone, then I read a number of blogs for in-depth reviews’ (Male, 25 years-old)

Brands’ social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ were only used by a small number of respondents for information-search, thus resulting in lower trust scores.

Post-purchase evaluation: Likelihood to recommend online

At post-purchase evaluation stage, the three types of consumer behaviours identified, Technophobes, Tech Fashionistas and Tech Experts, once again, showed very distinct behaviours.

We analysed consumers’ levels of Technographicism (Li & Bernoff, 2008) in other words online participation, to understand their attitudes towards social technologies both for information-search and at post-purchase evaluation stage.

65% of consumers surveyed claimed that they would recommend a smartphone within their social networks. When the performance of the smartphone exceeded expectations (positive disconfirmation of expectations), consumers were likely to share their experiences online. On the other hand of the spectrum, if the performance was below expectations, consumers were again very likely to share their frustration online.

Conclusion

The research has helped us identified three groups of consumers who research very differently a high-involvement purchase but are nevertheless inextricably interlinked. Technophobes are influenced by Tech Fashionistas who are themselves influenced by Tech Experts. Of the three groups, Tech Fashionistas, the largest group of consumers, and the only group going through a typical decision-making process cycle from information search through to post-purchase evaluation.

For Tech Fashionistas and Tech Experts, Social Media plays a significant role at both-information search and post-purchase evaluation. Google Search/Blogs, forums and YouTube videos were the most trusted sources of information. A positive, review could influence the purchase, but a negative comment could detract from the purchase, and the information-search cycle will start all over again until a product exceeds expectations. Consumers will form a hierarchy of attributes they seek in smartphones, and will seek uncertainty reduction through information search for the desired smartphone attributes.

The most trusted sources of information were consumer-to-consumer communications both offline (friend recommendations) and online (blog reviews, YouTube videos, comments), In all cases, apart from the Technophobes who avoid researching themselves, the stimuli responsible for influencing or disrupting the decision-making process was a piece of user-generated content. Reliability of the recommendation was based on the quantity of comments agreeing with the content creator.

As Tech Experts ultimately influence Tech Fashionistas and Technophobes, communication efforts should focus on generating content about the product hierarchy features that matter the most to consumers to ensure discoverability and positive word of mouth through Google search and blogs, the most trusted platforms for information-search.

Bibliography

Magazines

Adjei, M.T., Noble S. M., & Noble C.H., Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science (2009) The influence of C2C communications in online brand communities on customer purchase behaviour

Arnstein, S, AIP Journal (July 1969) A Ladder of Citizen Participation

Berger, C. R (1987), Communicating Under Uncertainty, Newbury Park: Sage

Beatty & Smith (1987) Journal of Consumer Research, External Search Effort: An investigation across several Product categories

Claxton, J.D, Fry, J.N, & Portis, B (1974) A taxonomy of prepurchase information gathering patterns, Journal of Consumer Research, 1(12) 35-42

Furse, Punj & Stuart (1984) A Typology of Individual Search Strategies Among Purchasers of New Automobiles, Journal of Consumer Research 10(4), 417-43

Gordon & Ford-Hutchinson, (September 2002), Brands on the Brain, Admap, Issue 424

Klein L, R, Ford, G.T (2003), Consumer Search for information in the digital age: an empirical study for prepurchase search for automobiles, Journal of Interactive Marketing, 17(3) 29-49

Laroche M, Journal of Business Research (July 2010), New Developments in modelling Internet Consumer Behavior, Journal of Business Research, Issue 6

Moorthy, Ratchford & Talukdar (2001), Consumer Information Search Revisited: Theory and Empirical Analysis, Journal of Consumer Research

Weiss, A.M, Lurie, H.H & MacInnis D.J. (2008) Listening to Strangers: whose responses are valuable, how valuable are they, and why? Journal of Marketing Research 45, 425-436

Wilkie & Dickson (1985) Shopping for appliances  – Consumers’ Strategies and patterns of information search, Marketing Science Institute, Working Paper

Websites

Euromonitor International (Sept 2012), Brands and Cyberspace in Europe: Are They Reaching Consumers or Just Reaching Out? Available from: http://www.euromonitor.com/ [Accessed 30 November 2012]

Euromonitor International (Oct 2012), Mobile Phones in the United Kingdom, Category Briefing Available from:  http://www.euromonitor.com/ [Accessed 30 November 2012]

Market Research Society’s Code of Conduct available from: http://www.mrs.org.uk/standards/code_of_conduct/ [Accessed 25 October 2012]

http://www.marketing-made-simple.com/articles/purchase-funnel.htm#.ULHrGuOTuRk [Accessed 25 November 2012]

O’Reilly & Batelle (2009), Web Squared: 5 years on Available from: http://www.web2summit.com/web2009/public/schedule/detail/10194 [Accessed 1 December 2012]

3 examples of community building email marketing campaigns

Email marketing works best when you are focusing on making your subscribers happy and building relationships with each email campaign. A happy email subscriber is an engaged one; it’s not just about selling, it’s also about telling a story, your brand’s story, and building a community around it. In the age of too much information, an email marketing campaign created for engagement purposes can really do wonders.

Here are 3 examples of brands doing a fabulous job at engaging subscribers, and building a strong community.

1) Mention – The Social Brand 

Mention is a French monitoring application that can be used for both personal and professional use. It’s not as powerful as the big boys such as Radian 6, Sysomos or Brandwatch, however Mention does a great job at tracking a brand’s real-time online mentions via their nifty app. Mention recently email their user-base to introduce their new community manager; I was completely disengaged with the tool, but this email put them back on my radar.

Mention email marketing

2) Lady Gaga: Snippets from the community

Lady Gaga may be a pop princess, but she’s undoubtedly the queen of social media. As a member of Lady Gaga’s Little Monster online community, members are invited to share their pictures and stories. This carefully curated monthly newsletter, features stories uploaded by her fans. So if you haven’t visited the community for a while, you’ll certainly be temped too. 

Lady Gaga email marketing

3) Diesel – Integrated Marketing Strategy at its best 

Clothing brands are increasingly attempting to appealing to consumers’ emotional reasoning by creating whole news lifestyles around their brands. Successful Living has been Diesel’s tagline for the past couple of years, and it seems that they are attempting to reinforce the positioning online with the launch of their ‘pop up’, encompassing music, fashion and art. This email was their launch email, which also encourages subscribers to check out the Diesel Village website and Tweet using the #DieselVillage Hashtag

Diesel Email Marketing

What are your top tips for creating engaging emails?

Academic analysis of Three’s #danceponydance campaign

I am only a few days away from my first exam in 10 years, and figured I would kill two birds with one stone by blogging about the super cool Three #danceponydance campaign whilst revising!

One of the most important components of an IMC campaign is the advertising message. The commercials we watch on TV, hear on the radio or see in magazines are a source of entertainment, motivation, facination fantasy or sometimes irritation. Underlying all these messages however, are a creative strategy that determines what the advertising message will say or communicate and creative tactics for how the message will be executed.

Like any other area of the marketing and promotional process, the creative aspects and the development of the campaign theme is guided by specific gals and objectives.

An interesting aspect of mobile phone companies for the last 10 years has been the evolution of their slogan, a soundbite representing the brand, in the case of mobile phone operators represent how consumers use their mobiles:

  • In the early 2000’s O2 slogan was ‘a breath of fresh air’ at a time, where consumers were wary of contract 
  • Vodafone used the slogan ‘How are you?’ between 2003-2006; of course in these years, mobile phone functionalities were pretty basic (Remember this 2007 video?)
  • In 2009, T-Mobile harnessed the growth of smartphones and launched their ‘Life’s for Sharing’ campaign and Liverpool Street flashmob 
  • Then came Everything Everywhere (now EE); the name speaks for itself
  • And the list goes on

The messaging of the dance pony dance advert, uses a number emotional appeal, hoping that the positive feeling of the pony will transfer to the brand: surprise and joy. The likeable appeal of the ad can help reinforce brand attitudes and lead to brand equity.

But this advert is taking traditional appeals one step further, by encouraging consumers to engage with, and talk about the advert in social media. And whilst UGC (pony creation) can lead to a higher brand recall and likelihood of purchase, Three still maintain a huge control over the videos created… or do they?

Keep on Internetting!

3 books to bring out the best of yourself at work

I haven’t had an awful lot of time to blog recently due to the sheer volume of coursework involved in my marcomms module. I wonder if I still have any readers?

But even though I haven’t been blogging much, I have certainly been reading an awful lot both journals, and books. Without further ado, here are some highly recommended books to bring the best out of you in the work place.

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. This book is a practical guide for anyone who wants power, observes power, or wants to arm himself against power. The 48 Laws of Power is taught in business management classes and is influential with a wide array of entrepreneurs, musicians, athletes, and movie stars (Thanks Debbie!)

The Start-up of you by LinkedIn c0-founder Reid Hoffman, prompts readers to start thinking of themselves as a start-up. and inspire you to take charge and accountability of your professional career. The authors intertwine interesting historical references and extensive personal experiences to provide a roadmap to transforming your career.

Brain Rules: 12 principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, home and school by John Medina. My academic work is increasingly leading my to look at how the human brain works in relation to advertising messages. Most people do not know how the brain works, and this book offers some interesting insights into how we’re wired. A must read.

Which books have you been reading recently?