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San Diego State University

Fowler College of
Business Administration

A new research study led by a faculty member of the College of Business Administration at San Diego State University (SDSU), indicated that in spite of the vast popularity of online marketing, consumer buying behavior was more likely to be influenced by word-of-mouth conversations between people sharing strong social ties than any other form of communication.

The research, which was recently published in the Journal of Marketing Research, was led by SDSU marketing professor, Dr. Andrew Baker. It was the first academic research study of its type that tests the theory that consumers are more likely to purchase a product when information is conveyed to them by a trusted friend, relative or colleague in an off-line conversation rather than through an online source.

Baker and the other researchers determined that buying decisions to purchase a specific brand were most heavily influenced when word-of-mouth occurred offline between closely-connected individuals. Similarly, people’s intentions to pass along brand information by word-of-mouth were strongest when the original conversation happened offline between closely-connected individuals.

“Even with the billions of dollars spent each month on online advertising, blogging and other internet messaging, our findings indicate that direct conversation has the greatest impact on influencing intentions to purchase a particular brand.” said Baker. “A lot of social media marketing today tends to emphasize triggering online brand conversations between people who may not be closely connected to one another. Our results underscore that marketers shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of real-world conversations because, ultimately, people focus more closely on specific brands when the dialogue is offline.”

Drs. Naveen Donthu and V. Kumar, both professors of marketing at George State University, joined Baker in conducting the research study.

Baker’s next line of research will concentrate on which brand characteristics are most impacted by word-of-mouth conversations.