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Word of mouth and viral marketing: taking the temperature of the hottest trends in marketing

Rick Ferguson (COLLOQUY, Milford, Ohio, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 2 May 2008




The purpose of this paper is to study examples of emerging marketing trends like word‐of‐mouth and viral marketing, and attempt to determine their measurability in terms of return on investment (ROI).


The study examines real life campaigns from well‐known companies and attempt to measure consumer response beyond merely viewing or participating in the campaign. How much of an actionable response can be evoked and measured from viral and word‐of‐mouth campaigns? Testimonials and commentary from marketers practicing these methods and the pundits that attempt to gauge the effectiveness.


The paper finds that word‐of‐mouth or viral marketing efforts are not always a sure bet. But a well‐placed, calculated and provocative campaign can spark a firestorm of buzz that sometimes can be effective for years in non‐terminal new mediums like the internet. While the jury is still out on finding hard quantitative ROI measurements for these campaigns, they can produce hefty returns for brand awareness.

Research limitations/implications

Tracking ROI for viral marketing and word‐of‐mouth marketing campaigns remains an inexact and difficult science.

Practical implications

The paper suggest following the included Viral Commandments when creating a word‐of‐mouth campaign to ensure marketing resources are put to highest and best use. It also suggests focusing on identification of the consumer as a vital step to build advocacy. Viral marketing should not anchor marketing strategy, but when used effectively can be an important ace‐up‐the‐sleeve.


The paper explores some recognizable viral marketing campaigns and studies the effects they had on product sales, consumer advocacy and brand awareness. It teaches important factors to consider when developing word‐of‐mouth marketing: who is doing it well, who is not, what lasting effects can a campaign deliver, and are there any effective ways to measure return on investment?



Ferguson, R. (2008), "Word of mouth and viral marketing: taking the temperature of the hottest trends in marketing", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 179-182.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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