Jeff Bezos proven right: Word of Mouth is the future

by Guest Contributor Niels Neudecker | May 15, 2019

Author: Niels Neudecker

Niels Neudecker
Head of Global Connect Centre

Jeff Bezos said of the future of marketing,

The balance of power is shifting toward consumers and away from companies… in the old world, you devoted 30 percent of your time to building a great service and 70 percent of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.”

And our research proves that future is already here.

Amazon has changed our world in many ways. For me personally, the countless number of consumer reviews help me to make better purchase decisions daily. I trust those recommendations more than any marketing campaign. And, it is not just me, 70 percent of consumers trust recommendations on review sites in comparison to 33 percent that trust advertisements. No question, there are brilliant ad campaigns out there, that make me smile, think and buy! But, advertising is often just an addition to Word of Mouth from other consumers, friends, family, influencers or experts.



Word of Mouth can accompany us along our entire consumer journey; for example, when a friend tells us about a product the first time (e.g. a new smartphone), when we narrow down our options by reading online reviews, to making the final purchase decision with the recommendation of a sales person. While brands may reach more consumers through paid media campaigns, Word of Mouth has a powerful impact on brand perceptions when experienced, due to higher levels of trust. That makes Word of Mouth the second most impactful brand touchpoint after TV (comparing 250 touchpoint studies that Kantar conducted between 2015 and 2019).

Across our research we have also learned that women respond better to Word of Mouth, as do consumers in collectivistic (vs. individualistic) societies, e.g. in Asia, South America or Africa. In addition, among target groups that actively block or avoid advertising (e.g. using premium streaming services) and in categories with increasing advertising regulation, recommendations and referrals become even more important. Tailoring marketing activities to these specific groups and providing newsworthy and shareable content, or by incentivising referrals, can stimulate interaction. Ultimately, this will help to create more buzz and leverage synergies with other brand experiences.

Building on Bezos’ prediction we believe that Word of Mouth will play an increasingly important role in marketing, especially in situations where consumers are overwhelmed by the number of substitute options and overload of marketing communications. The use of smartphones, location-based services, and digital assistants will ensure Word of Mouth is shared with ease and speed amongst the wider population. By the increasing use of voice assistants (e.g. in cars or at home) consumers won’t be exposed anymore by countless numbers of consumer reviews, but algorithms will help to determine the single most relevant recommendation based on the consumers preferences, location, time, mood or occasion.

What is your experience with Word of Mouth? How will it change the future of marketing? I am looking forward to your comments. Let’s discuss.


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  1. NIELS NEUDECKER, May 29, 2019

    Right, Duncan, scaling WOM is still a challenge. Nigel Hollis actually just published a new blog post on it that is worth reading:

    And, yes, influencers can be a multiplier of WOM, but with the risk of having "the balloon bursting" in the face of the consumer. You might be interested in Anne Hunter's article on the dangers in an influencer strategy:

  2. Duncan Southgate, May 24, 2019
    Very nice article Niels, agree WOM has a greater role in the future of marketing. It’s great that we now have such comprehensive quantitative evidence about the power of word of mouth. While the impact per person can be huge, the remaining challenge is clearly scale, and how much brands can do to increase scale. The tactics you suggest (providing newsworthy and shareable content, incentivising referrals) make perfect sense, but are still no guarantees. I guess this is why so many brands are turning to influencers to try and ramp up buzz. But that comes with its own potential issues (e.g. PMI’s young influencers in Russia) How can brands best inflate WOM without having the balloon burst in their face?
  3. Niels Neudecker, May 23, 2019

    A few days after I published this blog post I came across a great example of how algorithms help to detect useful recommendations on Amazon. ReviewMeta analyzes millions of product reviews and helps you decide which ones to trust. Check it out:

  4. Aswin Siby Varghese, May 17, 2019
    very true!!
    couldn't agree any less. Friends and colleagues are bigger influencers than any kind of advertising. Advertisement could lead to need realization but the purchase would be driven by research and reviews which are made easily available on diffrent platforms.

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