The drivers of word of mouth are: them, you and it

Word of mouth (WoM) is important for all organisations. It is the main source of new business for small and medium enterprises. It is key for the success of niche products, as well as mass market products.


So, we really need to understand what drives WoM, don’t you think?


Based on my work and reading on this topic, I think that there are three fundamental drivers of WoM. Specifically, people will talk about your product, service, or advert if:

  1. Talking about you makes them feel good
  2. They like you
  3. They have something to talk about


Driver #1: Makes them feel good

This is a basic rule of human behaviour: we do more of what makes us feel good. And we feel good when we get a reward, or when our effort is recognised.


It’s interesting how many companies ‘reward’ online complaints with attention and/or refunds, and yet do not do the same for positive word of mouth. I am not even talking about an handwritten note, like this one. A simple acknowledgement, when a customer mentions your company online, is a good start – like this one:

Thank you


Driver #2: They like you

Customers are more likely to rave about a brand, when they have a good relationship with it. Relationship quality increases for brands that are seen as human, and when the brand delights customers.


Companies can delight customers in many ways. For instance, if you sell running shoes / trainers, you can add value by helping the customer get a great fit, by suggesting new and interesting routes, or by offering training motivation:


Having happy customers is good, but having customers that remember how much you delight(ed) them is even better. So, make sure that you interact with your customers in a regular and consistent manner.


Driver #3: They have something to talk about

Sure, customers can write their own testimonials, and many do. But you can make it easier for customers to talk about you, by providing content that is easy to share, and which they will want to share.


Highly shareable content tends to meet one or more of the following basic human drivers:

  • Entertainment – think of all those funny videos filling your Facebook feed;
  • Socialisation -for instance, this post, asking followers to tag friends based on their birth month;


  • Education – interesting or unexpected information is likely to be shared, too, like this Instagram postabout the uses of yoghurt;


  • Self-presentation – This could be the frothy cappuccinos, stylish cocktails, or beautiful views that show the customer in a positive light. But it could also be by giving the customer something unique. Recite Benckiser did just that, when they launched Dettol in China. The company distributed 40,000 sample bottles to social media influencers, generating so much WoM and awareness that sales increased by 86% (you can learn more about this case study here)


What makes you talk (positively) about a brand?

2 thoughts on “The drivers of word of mouth are: them, you and it

  1. Thanks for sharing this piece.
    I undertook a study into word-of-mouth back in 2006-2007. We found major differences in the way men and women use WoM. In broad terms women were great sharers of information, while men tended to use knowledge to assert their own positions. There were also some marked physical differences in the way information was shared: women like to make eye contact, while men went out of the way to avoid it.
    The title of the article, by the way, is from the same mad tea party in Alice in Wonderland that you cited earlier, and one with a great many Oxford connections.
    [Say what you mean, mean what you say-An ethnographic approach to male and female conversations. R Croft, C Boddy, C Pentucci – International Journal of Market Research, 2007]


    1. Hi Robin, I am so sorry I failed to reply to this great comment. I am not sure why, but I missed it.

      That is really, really interesting! I am going to read your paper.


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