The research objectives of this paper are to propose explanations for why some service firms are disguising commercially sponsored messages as genuine word‐of‐mouth (W‐O‐M) and to discuss the potentially harmful consequences that they can encounter as a result of this strategy.
Objectives are achieved through conceptual analysis of extant literature.
This paper finds that service firms may be placing messages disguised as W‐O‐M on internet blogs due to the recent popularity of blogging, the sheer power of W‐O‐M in the marketing mix, and because services offerings often entail experience qualities. Using a different platform, some service firms may utilize brand pushers because the social risk inherent in some service purchases leads consumers to rely more heavily on perceived social norms. Moreover, brand pushers are able to offer vivid message content in a flexible format. Lastly, various companies within the service sector may be asking celebrities to present their paid endorsements under the guise of unsponsored W‐O‐M because genuine support is a critical driver of endorser effectiveness.
Service practitioners are advised of the potential erosion of customer commitment and trust that can result from presenting a commercial message under the guise of sincere W‐O‐M. Ethical and legal implications of such strategies are also outlined.
This paper fills a gap in the services literature in that it specifically addresses the motivations and potential consequences that service firms can encounter by disguising a sponsored message as genuine W‐O‐M.
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited