Using Word-of-Mouth to Portray an Image of Being Knowledgeable
Pyle, Martin Allan
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Word-of-mouth (WOM) is a powerful phenomenon, with the potential to determine a brand’s success by influencing both purchase decisions and the consumers’ experiences. While the predominant view suggests that WOM behavior stems from satisfaction with the brand, self-presentation can also motivate people to share their experiences. This dissertation examines how the desire to convey a particular image, one of being knowledgeable about a product category, motivates and affects WOM behavior. The conceptual framework suggests that social circumstances influence when people feel the motivation to use WOM to convey an image of being knowledgeable about a product category. Relative assessments of the salient audience’s capabilities resulting in perceptions that the speaker possesses more or unique information will likely activate this self-presentation goal. This motivation leads speakers to follow a consistent and systematic pattern of changes to both the content and phrasing of their WOM messages. Specifically, speakers will mention more brands, include claims to establish their credentials, mention both the pros and cons of a brand, adopt objective language, and include more technical jargon in their messages. From the receivers’ perspective, the changes to the content and phrasing result in augmented perceptions of the speaker’s credibility, though the changes affect different dimensions of this construct (i.e., through knowledge perceptions and trustworthiness perceptions). The predicted changes also enhance receivers perceptions regarding the persuasiveness of the message. Empirical testing of the conceptual framework involves three studies, a survey and two scenario-based experiments. The conceptual framework and findings in this dissertation yield important implications for both theory and practice.