Emotional and motivational elements of successful word of mouth marketing campaigns

According to this thesis paper, Triggering Factors for Word-of-Mouth (.pdf), there are six types of emotions that will drive sharing of messages and content in a word of mouth marketing (WOM) campaign:

Surprise: Suitable for all sorts of marketing campaigns. Most efficient when complimented with another emotion.

Joy: Suitable for a younger audience. Efficient for fun brands and/or when a company is renewing their brand image.

Sadness: Suitable when short-term consumer involvement in a campaign is desired. Efficient for Social Marketing.

Anger: Suitable when short-term consumer involvement in a campaign is desired. Efficient for Social Marketing.

Disgust: Suitable when targeting an audience of young males.

Fear: Suitable when short-term consumer involvement in a campaign is desired. Efficient for Social Marketing.

The authors report that “surprise” is the most prominent emotion in making a person more likely to spread a message, share a story. For example, the element of surprise was what Zappos employed when it launched it’s free overnight shipping campaign in the last decade (yeah, saying this sounds weird to me too), which launched Zappos’ brand equity into the stratosphere. Of course, Zappos was prepared for the crush of new customers through proper testing, targeting, and training and so profits followed as well.

But emotion is not the sole reason a person decides to share; motivation is a critical component too in a WOM campaign. The authors detail the following four motivational factors working in a WOM campaign:

Product-involvement: The consumer is strongly attached to the product and therefore feels the need to talk about it.

Self-involvement: The consumer needs to get encouraged and recognized by others, using the product as a mean to accomplish this.

Other-involvement: The consumer wants to share a positive experience to the receiver.

Message-involvement: The discussion that appears from marketing incentives such as advertising and commercials.

The authors produced this handy graphic to illustrate the typical components of a WOM campaign:

Figure 3 from "Triggering Factors for Word-of-Mouth"
Figure 3 from “Triggering Factors for Word-of-Mouth”

The authors further extrapolate motivation in that consumers have a need for inclusion, affection, and control. Out of this set of motivations, inclusion (the needs for individuation and to belong) is the most important motivational factor in a person’s decision to share. Thus, the authors imply that effective WOM campaigns will incite emotional triggers around surprise and joy while appealing to a person’s need for belongingness and individual recognition.

Photo credit: Jonathan Powell