WOM source characteristics and message quality: the receiver perspective

Tri D. Le (School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia) (International University, VNU-HCM, Vietnam)
Angela R. Dobele (School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Linda J. Robinson (School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

Marketing Intelligence & Planning

ISSN: 0263-4503

Publication date: 4 June 2018



Word-of-mouth (WOM) literature has identified the roles of source and message in WOM influence, but the relationship between them is yet to be investigated. The purpose of this paper is to explore this relationship by examining the mediation of message on the impact of perceived source characteristics from the perspective of the receiver. The paper also considered the mutual relationships between source characteristics and message quality.


A quantitative survey of prospective students was conducted to empirically examine the proposed conceptual model. A sample of 509 respondents was analysed using structural equation modelling.


The findings suggest the significant impact of expertise, trustworthiness, homophily and opinion leadership of the WOM source on the judgement of message quality and the indirect effects on WOM influence mediated by the message quality. The results also indicate the moderating effects of receiver involvement and the valence of the message on the impact of message quality.

Practical implications

The findings of this paper can inform the strategic development of WOM marketing. A deeper understanding of source characteristics and the role of the message may enable marketing practitioners to better target appropriate influencers for seeding programmes that stimulate WOM communication about their brands or products.


This study examines how the receiver’s evaluations of message content mediate the relationship between source characteristics and WOM influence. Source and message are two elements of communication which are processed when people receive information. However, nascent research examines their effects on each other. This research contributes to the understanding of this relationship through an empirical examination of the direct effects of primary source characteristics on perceived message quality.



Le, T., Dobele, A. and Robinson, L. (2018), "WOM source characteristics and message quality: the receiver perspective", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 440-454. https://doi.org/10.1108/MIP-10-2017-0249

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