How harmful is negative Word of Mouth?
We’ve all been taught that negative word of mouth is most harmful for our products and brands. Consumers bashing our products would harm it in such a way that almost nobody dares to buy it anymore, however can we still take this for granted in the current environment?
I guess we have all experienced something like this, but let me share an example. When I was only 12 years old and travelling to Turkey with my parents we stayed in one of these â€œall-inâ€ resorts. It was like paradise for me! Everything was provided; rooms were cleaned every day, water sports were for free and the foodâ€¦ just excellent. I had not seen so much choice of food in one dining room before in my life.
Nevertheless, there were unsatisfied people there; they did not like the food. The main reason, there was no mayonnaiseâ€¦â€¦â€¦.The staff even had an explanation for it, namely they could not preserve it well in the hot weather and wanted to prevent people from getting sick, still these consumers were bashing on the food for a week and claimed they lost weight.
It got me thinking how reliable is this negative word-of-mouth?
Also academic articles prove that there is far less negative word-of-mouth than positive word-of-mouth. (â€œUnleashing the Power of Word of Mouth: Creating Brand Advocacy to Drive Growthâ€; Ed Keller, December 2007, Journal of Advertising Research) Of every 8 brand conversations only 1 is negatively loaded. Positive word-of-mouth is a bigger part of our lives, since it is more fun to talk about happy experiences than sad experiences.
Consider yourself searching on references on your possible holiday destination; do you rely on the few people bashing the place? Or do you look to the places which are reviewed by a lot of people and look at the overall picture? Most people rely on the last one; hence it’s more important to get consumers talking about your product or service. As long as the overall rating is positive, WOM will only help you!
This is even more important in industries where trial has a low barrier, for example watching TV programs. It will cost you nothing to watch a TV program; you can switch channels every second if you don’t like the show after all. So, when there are a lot of conversations on a specific TV show consumers are more likely to watch it, even when they are negative. WOM makes consumers curious (â€œWord of mouth and the viewing of television programsâ€ J. Romaniuk, December 2007, Journal of advertising research).
Based on this I would say, let people talk about your brands, even when it is negative. Research the conversations and make improvements on the negative items!