Date of Award

Summer 7-12-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Marketing

First Advisor

Naveen Donthu

Second Advisor

V Kumar

Third Advisor

Edward Rigdon

Fourth Advisor

Scott Weaver

Abstract

To aid in resolving some of the ambiguity in the literature about the impact of different forms of WOM on brand performance, this dissertation investigates how WOM influences three consumer responses to WOM: purchase, WOM retransmission, and additional information search. The author investigates these questions by analyzing a database comprising more than three years of detailed WOM data from a unique, nationally representative panel merged with other secondary sources that provide various measures of brand strength (the American Consumer Satisfaction Index and Harris Interactive’s Equitrend). Using a series of hierarchical regression models, the results from this study reveal numerous insights into the contextual factors that moderate the impact of a WOM episode. For example, negative WOM about a brand has a larger absolute effect on consumer purchase intentions than positive WOM, but positive WOM has a larger positive effect on WOM retransmission than the positive effect of negative WOM. Offline WOM tends to exacerbate the effect of positive and negative brand sentiment on purchase intentions. WOM between stronger social ties tends to have greater impact on brand-related responses than WOM between weak ties, except in the case of motivating additional information search. The results also indicate that strong brands (those with higher levels of brand equity) tend to reap greater benefits from WOM. For example, negative, mixed, or neutral WOM has greater influence on purchase, and WOM from weak social ties about strong brands motivates higher levels of information search than when WOM from weak ties is about weaker brands.

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