Have You Heard? Consumers Still Rely on Word-of-Mouth

But a new survey shows the definition of the traditional marketing method continues to evolve

Nearly a third of consumers (28%) say their preferred way to learn about a new brand, product or service is word-of-mouth, giving the traditional marketing method an advantage over social media (23%), cable TV (12%) and online/digital ads (11%), according to a new survey.

The study by Chicago-based global marketing firm R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., also shows that word-of-mouth recommendations result in a higher research-to-purchase ratio (40%) than social media (30%), online/digital ads (27%) or print ads (16%).

But it’s important to note that the definition of word-of-mouth has evolved beyond in-person conversations with family and friends to include “interactions between acquaintances on social media,” according to an October 2021 news release detailing the results.

“Word-of-mouth outranked all other forms of brand discovery,” according to the news release, “… The majority (55%) of consumers have discovered a new brand, product or service in the past year through word-of-mouth, followed by social media (53%). More importantly, 40% of consumers actually purchased a product after discovering it via word-of-mouth, topping all other channels.”

There is a disconnect between how reliant consumers are on word-of-mouth recommendations and how valuable companies think they are, the survey found. R.R. Donnelley notes that savvy brands should use the latest information to “deliver timely and relevant messaging that gives consumers something to talk about, both in-person and online.”

The results are from twin online surveys of 250 U.S. marketing professionals and 1,000 consumers weighted to be nationally representative and conducted in the summer of 2021.

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