Viral Marketing Communication - The Internet Word-of-Mouth: A study on consumer perception and consumer response
Abstract: Advancements in communication technology have given rise to the evolution of a new electronic form of word-of-mouth – Viral marketing communication (VMC). VMC is a form of marketing tactic which encourages individuals to spread a marketing message to others by means of the internet. Currently, VMC is still considered to be at a premature phase of development, therefore information about its behavior and magnitude has yet to be clearly set upon and determined. In addition, limited research has been done on consumer perception and response to such marketing techniques. The objective of this thesis is to explore consumer receptivity, perception and behavioral response to this relatively new marketing strategy. With the use of a structured questionnaire conducted with 236 respondents and in-depth interviews conducted with 15 consumers, we analyzed their response and perception with regards to five different platforms on which viral marketing can take place on the internet, namely 1) E-mail, 2) Video, 3) Blog, 4) Social networks and 5) Forums. Employing a pluralistic approach as our research methodology, both the quantitative and qualitative results worked hand in hand in the analysis of our hypotheses and provided valuable findings regarding the way consumers view and react towards traditional word-of-mouth and VMC. Our main findings showed that 1) VMC helps to raise consumer awareness but does not significantly impact their purchasing decisions, 2) Consumers attach different trust levels to the five platforms of which forums have the highest trust and credibility level, 3) Consumers do not view VMC as spam messages, 4) Consumers are more receptive to VMC which market services compared to products, 5) Negative VMC has a stronger influence on consumers than positive VMC and 6) Monetary incentive is not the strongest motivator in influencing consumers to actively spread messages. With this study, we hope to provide new insights on VMC as a marketing tool from a consumer standpoint and serve as a first step for future research on how VMC can successfully reach out, connect with and influence consumers.
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