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No 980:
Networked Narratives: Understanding Word-of-Mouth Marketing in Online Communities

Robert Kozinets (), Andrea C. Wojnicki (), Sarah J. S. Wilner () and Kristine De Valck ()

Abstract: Word of mouth marketing — the intentional influencing of consumer-to-consumer communications — is an increasingly important technique. The authors overview and synthesize extant word of mouth theory and present a study of a marketing campaign in which mobile phones were seeded with prominent bloggers. Eighty-three blogs were followed for six months. Findings reveal the complex cultural conditions through which marketing “hype” is transformed by consumers into the “honey” of relevant, shared communications. Four word of mouth communication strategies are identified — evaluation, embracing, endorsement and explanation. Each is influenced by communicator narrative, communications forum, communal norms and the nature of the marketing promotion. An intrinsic tension between commercial and communal interests plays a prominent, normative role in message formation and reception. This “hype-to-honey” theory shows that communal word of mouth does not simply increase or amplify marketing messages. Rather, marketing messages and meanings are systematically altered in the process of embedding them. The theory has implications for how marketers should plan, target and benefit from word of mouth and how scholars should understand word of mouth in a networked world.

Keywords: Word of mouth; online communities; online consumer behavior; advertising and promotions; consumer communication; Internet marketing; (follow links to similar papers)

JEL-Codes: M30; (follow links to similar papers)

51 pages, May 1, 2009

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