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«International Journal of Management, Accounting and Economics Vol. 2, No. 9, September, 2015 ISSN 2383-2126 (Online) © Authors, All Rights Reserved ...»

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International Journal of Management, Accounting and Economics

Vol. 2, No. 9, September, 2015

ISSN 2383-2126 (Online)

© Authors, All Rights Reserved www.ijmae.com

Antecedents of Positive Word of Mouth and its

Effects on Attitude toward Product

Morteza Soltani1

Assistant Professor, Department of Management, Farabi Campus, University

of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

Morteza Khavari

Department of Management, Farabi Campus, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran Abstract Regarding to interpersonal and informal nature of word of mouth, this advertising practice always is considered as a reliable communication source and a potential power playing a critical role in customers’ decision making process.

According to the prominence of word of mouth in the customers’ decision making process, the present research tried to study some features of listener (background knowledge, purchase involvement) and some features of the speaker or the source (expertise, experience, evidences, and reliability) that cause listener to apply it encountering word of mouth by proposing a model. This is an applied study in term of goal and a descriptive-correlation study in term of methodology. Research statistical population included students of one of Tehran major government universities. Data collected using questionnaire and analyzed by structural equations model using Smart pls2 software. Research results showed that four features of listener are directly related to applying word of mouth by listener. Further, the two factors of purchase involvement and listener background knowledge only moderate the relationship among experience, reliability and the evidences presented by source by using word of mouth.

Keywords: Word of mouth, purchase involvement, background knowledge, source expertise, source experience.

Cite this article: Soltani, M., & Khavari, M. (2015). Antecedents of Positive Word of Mouth and its Effects on Attitude toward Product. International Journal of Management, Accounting and Economics, 2(9), 1020-1036.

Corresponding author’s email: morteza_khavari@ut.ac.ir International Journal of Management, Accounting and Economics Vol. 2, No. 9, September, 2015 ISSN 2383-2126 (Online) © Authors,

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Introduction Word of mouth communication is the most powerful human communication way transferring companies or organizations’ positive advertising message from one individual to another with no cost. This is performed using face-to-face conversation.

Word of mouth is a powerful, strong means, which should be included in effective strategies of marketing and advertising. In some cases, this approach is a neutral tool, as the message transferred both positively and negatively regarding that the proponents of a commercial brand always create positive loading for word of mouth; while, in contrast, the opponents and subversives create a negative advertisement through transferring negative meaning (load/ charge). However, in general, word of mouth is known for over 50 years as one the most critical issues in marketing literature. Recent studies show that word of mouth communication significantly influenced consumers in terms of products’ acceptance and product prevalence process (Arndt, 1976; Brooks, 1957; Coleman, Katz, Menzel, 1966; Zipel, 1974; Engel, Kegerreis, Blackwell, 1969; Holmes and Lett, 1977;

Lu, 2006; Martilla, 1971; Sheth, 1971). Indeed, nowadays, while many scholars assumed that positive word of mouth led to persuading the consumer in some areas such as goods purchase, the conducted studies demonstrate that consumers do not apply the whole word of mouth communication; the consumers encountering these communication initially investigate the value of communication by studying some factors; then, make decision on whether applying the information obtained by word of mouth (Dichter, 1966).

Overviewing the studies on this issue clearly reveals marketing literature gap, which is always influenced by the point that what will occur to the audience following word of mouth and how these events influence the audience consuming behavior (Sweeney, Soutar, and Mazzarol, 2008). Generally, studying this area may usefully help marketers to understand when word of mouth largely influences and how the best communication may cause increased customer lifetime. Thus, the objective of this research is to develop a framework of processes making the consumer apply positive word of mouth to the product and change under the influence of some attitude factors. In this regard, the present research studied effective properties of word of mouth source and audience influencing this process. The question raised here is that how the audience (listener) applies the word of mouth created by the speaker.

Research theoretical foundations

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Cox (1967) simply referred to word of mouth as nothing but conversation (dialogue) about products. Arndt (1967) stated that face-to-face word of mouth is between the messenger and the receiver in which the receiver receives information about the brand, product or a service name and brand through noncommercial channels. Of course, this definition has two considerable points. First, it requires oral and face-to-face interaction between the receiver and messenger, which seems that it needs adjustment and updating in cases including electronic communication (chat rooms); and second, the receiver must infer that the message sender is not related to the considered goods or service. West Brooks (1987), in another definition, defines word of mouth as any informal communication by a consumer with another consumer on possession, usage, the product or service specific characteristics (Jalka and Salmin, 2009). One traditional view of word

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of mouth assumes two individuals talking about a brand, product or service (Libai et al, 2010). This type of advertising classified as a post-purchase behavior. This phenomenon embraces oral interaction of products’ buyers in transferring their experience of using the product; reinforcing and or weakening perceptions of buyers in such advertising are determining parameter encouraging or discouraging others to buy the desired products (Mazzarol et al, 2007).

Significance of word of mouth

There is authentic and considerable literature about the significance of word of mouth on marketing and consumer behavior. The value of oral advertising clears once the consequences and effects on buyers are potentially and really observed. Positive interpretations and explanations of pleased and satisfied customers cause increased purchasing; while, negative comments and interpretations of dissatisfied customers may lead to reduced purchases (Ghafari ashtiyani, 2005). Strowing (1996) and Davis (2008), on the significance of this advertising approach, figured out that profitable financial flows created by this approach through attracting new customers and revisiting of the previous customers. Word of mouth also critically influences decision making process; though, the consumers often receive both positive and negative word of mouth from a certain individual at the same time. Word of mouth, in general, is known as a powerful factor of influencing consumer choice. Institutes increasingly use pleased, satisfied customers as their products’ speaker and benefit through using word of mouth such as improving market position. Marketers considering two areas of word of mouth (positive and negative word of mouth) as marketing tool can recognize the message containing consumer’s positive and negative attitudes (Lee and Yeeng Chung, 2007).

Word of mouth acceptance by audience (listeners)

Applying and accepting word of mouth typically refers to this issue that to what extent the listener uses word of mouth, the information presented by the speaker in word of mouth, in its purchase decision-making. Earlier studies on word of mouth mainly considered this as final and consequence variable; few studies mentioned the mediatory and situational factors surrounding word of mouth; it is regretful as understanding and recognizing these critical factors is considerably important regarding that word of mouth is not effective in any situation (Martin and Lueg, 2011). Therefore, this research particularly considered the aforementioned problem. However, many variables influence this issue; this research tried to study the effect of prominent and repeated variables of marketing and interpersonal relation literature, restated in many studies, which are probably effective in accepting word of mouth by the listener. According to the aforementioned, some key variables are defined as follows; then, research conceptual model is presented.

Research hypotheses and conceptual model The effect of reliability, experience, and expertise on applying word of mouth by the receiver

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One of the effective factors of word of mouth efficiency causing approval or rejection once the individual is exposed to the message of word of mouth is studying individual factors of the message sender by the message receiver such that once the receiver faces word of mouth, it evaluates the resource in terms of reliability, expertise, experience, and opinion leadership in order to approve or reject the advertising. Evidently, these evaluations, as part of effective factors of individual decision making about word of mouth approval or rejection, influence individual decision making (Sweeney et al, 2008).

Of individual factors, which were evaluated in several studies, three common and dominant factors include 1. Source reliability; 2. Source expertise on the recommended product; 3.

Source experience of using the recommended product

In general, the three mentioned factors were assessed by several forms in word of mouth. Huafeng (2010), in a study, investigated the effect of two factors of source expertise (skill) and reliability. The results showed that regarding cost moderating effect, the two factors of source expertise and reliability may lead to positive word of mouth, which influences the consumer behavior changing. Whereas, Sweeney et al, (2012), in another study, demonstrated that there is a difference between the sender and receiver expertise, which indirectly changes the receiver’s tendency. Thus, according to the research results, the sender and receiver expertise difference firstly influences the message efficiency and permeability; and then, it is the message permeability influences the receiver’s tendency changing. In another study conducted by Wnegenheim and Baieyn (2004), the results showed that source expertise is influenced by the moderating effect of financial and functional risk on consumer. On source experience, it stated that according to information process theory, this is always true that the experience of information source is particularly related to consumers’ decision making process. Indeed, source experience can reduce purchase risk for the message receiver (Batman, 1979). In this regard, results of Sheth study revealed that 48% of the individuals intending to buy rustproof for steel partitions purchased the product influencing by recommendations of an experienced source.

According to the studies conducted on these three variables and regarding that the effect of the three variables individually evaluated in various studies or through different mediators and moderators, this research intended to first independently study the effect of the three variables on applying word of mouth by receiver; next, the effect of the two previous knowledge and receiver purchase involvement moderator as the most common variables of marketing literature, which will be discussed in the following, on variables’ relationships and applying word of mouth variable will be measured. Therefore, the

following hypotheses are suggested:

H1: Source reliability influences applying word of mouth by receiver.

H2: Source experience influences applying word of mouth by receiver.

H3: Source expertise influences applying word of mouth by receiver.

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In fact, the provided evidences of a source, to some extent, mention that how much the receiver of word of mouth communication message believes that a source can prove its credit and claims on the information offered about the product. According to the presented definition, it stated that the individuals who easily represent their claims legitimate on any product certainly enjoy more evidences comparing the individuals who are unable of verifying their claims (Rinard, 1988). In fact, if a word of mouth source could properly justifies the product efficiency and proves its claims, this would even cause that the receiver sometimes ignore all individual and even product related factors and accept the speaker’s message (Dicher, 1966; 154). Thus, considering the significance of this variable in convincing and as it is disregarded in word of mouth literature, the following

hypothesis is suggested:

H4: Evidences obtained from word of mouth source claims influence applying word of mouth by the receiver.

Effect of applying word of mouth on the consumer’s attitude Once the receiver receives positive information of a product from word of mouth source, the receiver belief led to this issue that if the product purchased, it would bring positive outcomes that probably results in improved receiver attitude toward the product.

Results of some studies show that positive word of mouth leads to improving consumer attitude toward a specific brand (Sundaram and Webster, 1999). While, in another study, Podnar and Javernik (2012) investigated the effect of word of mouth on consumer’s attitude and purchase probability in term of the moderating effect of others’ influence.

Research results indicated that negative word of mouth influences consumer’s attitude;

whereas, positive word of mouth has no positive, significant effect on consumer’s attitude. Moreover, others’ effect variable is not the moderator. Therefore, according to various results obtained about the effect of word of mouth on consumer’s attitude, the

following hypothesis is suggested:

H5: Applying word of mouth by receiver influences receiver’s attitude toward the product.

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