A few weeks back, we published a story that created an immediate stir. It revealed the results of a Cap Gemini Ernst & Young study showing that, for the majority of consumers, TV advertising is not a big influence in their decisions on which car to purchase.
Martin Nisenholtz, who runs The New York Times Co.’s Internet unit, was captivated by the opposite point — by what did sway decisions. Atop the list of influences was “word of mouth,” cited by 71% of respondents. Direct mail was a distant second at 48%.
Roper research should know; it’s tracked this for 25 years. Its findings show the majority of people rely more than ever on friends and family, rather than advertising or editorial, to decide which restaurants to try, places to visit, prescription drugs to purchase, hotels to stay in and videos to rent.
Roper tracks word of mouth’s rise to the early 1990s, when it saw a growing consumer distrust of institutions and an increase in self-reliance. Keller sees a chance for marketers to influence word of mouth by getting “meaningful information” about products and services to influentials, and then having them spread the word. His advice: “Produce a superior product, get people enthusiastic and they’ll become evangelists.”