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What’s the Brain Got to Do with Word-of-Mouth?

October 27, 2010

Some companies just have it. That buzz that gets people talking about their latest introductions. Apple has it.  Facebook has it.  Even Dancing with the Stars has it. How did it happen? What’s the secret to generating word-of-mouth about your business?

First, you need to understand the psychology. According to studies done by Tremor, an arm of Proctor and Gamble that’s main job is to scientifically study how the brain affects product decisions, we group things into schemas that fit together and make sense to us.

The products most talked about find a way to challenge our schema in a certain category by introducing something that’s frankly, a little off…. somewhat incongruent with what we are familiar. With that surprise comes charged emotions that compel our brain to grapple with it and further explore what it is.

Ultimately that surprise gives way to a positive or negative reaction – did the product deliver or disappoint? Although both generate word-of-mouth, it’s the positive kind you want! So, how do you disrupt consumers’ schemas?

  • Do things different. Find something no one else is doing and do it.  If you are the first to break a schema and it becomes word-of-mouth, you forever own that new schema.
  • Look for areas you can surprise customers – while staying true to your core branding. It doesn’t have to be shocking, but something people might think, “Interesting…”.
  • Connect emotionally. We’re social creatures, so if you make a connection that creates excitement, we’ll tend to share it with others.

Quick word-of-mouth facts…

  • Offline word of mouth is still the majority – over 70%. It also tends to be more positive than online word of mouth.
  • Online word-of-mouth and offline are not always consistent.
  • 83 percent of online shoppers said they’re interested in sharing information about their purchases with people they know.
  • 74 percent are influenced by the opinions of others in their decision to buy in the first place. *
  • Family and friends’ recommendations trump all other consumer touch points in influencing purchases, according to ZenithOptimedia.#

Sources: Word of Mouth Marketing Summit,,, Manage Smarter, September 2009,, AdAge April 2008.

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