This paper aims to investigate the impact of product release on word of mouth (WOM) behavior within and across rival online brand communities for technology products and evaluate competing predictions made by social identity theory and the group problem solving perspective of rumors.
In Study 1, 72,749 messages posted by 5,777 users over a 13-month period on two rival online brand forums were content analyzed using linguistic inquiry and word count, a linguistic content analysis program. In Study 2, two experiments were conducted to verify the theoretical explanation offered.
Marked differences were found as WOM transitioned from pre-release rumor to post-release facts. Prior to release, brand loyalists show an increased willingness to spread positive WOM about rival brands’ products. However, this willingness dissipated upon product release. This is in noted contrast to predictions made for experience goods.
This study examines the uncertainty generated by a rival brand’s upcoming new product within a brand community. While centered on a technologically oriented consumer group, this study addresses a longstanding theoretical conundrum and provides interesting areas for future research.
Surprisingly, it is the most active and ostensibly loyal brand supporters who spread pre-release rumors about rival brands. Managers should not assume that “loyalists” will not seriously discuss the potential offerings of rival brands. Product rumors thus present rival marketers with a unique “move it or lose it” opportunity to spread positive buzz among rival brand loyalists. However, this window of opportunity closes rapidly upon product release.
This is the first paper to examine the nature of new product rumors at this scale, including both pre- and post-release WOM.
Thompson, S., Loveland, J. and Castro, I. (2019), "From rumor to release: Does product release influence WOM in brand communities dedicated to technology products?", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 53 No. 2, pp. 345-365. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-11-2015-0776Download as .RIS
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