Karin von Abrams, Senior Analyst
The first edition of “TalkTrack Great Britain,” commissioned by Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG), News International and ESPN from Keller Fay Group, was the UK pilot of a study carried out in the US since 2006. TalkTrack surveys aim to discover how much consumers are influenced by word-of-mouth discussions about brands.
Keller Fay analyzed 14,000 brand conversations by 2,500 adults during two weeks in May 2010. Subjects recorded details of their talk about brands, such as when and how these discussions took place, which media were mentioned, and what the prevailing mood of each conversation was. Researchers also contacted the conversation partners of the 2,500 primary subjects, and asked whether the exchanges had influenced their views of a brand or their purchase intentions.
The most common category popping up in brand conversations was food and dining (mentioned by 64% of people each day). Media and entertainment was a close second (63%), with beverages in third place (57%).
62% of brand discussions were "mostly positive."
But some demographics were more likely than others to share positive views.
Adults earning at least £15,000 ($21,000) a year were more likely to make positive comments about brands, as were married people and those with children. Older people did not often venture complimentary statements, but they also made fewer negative comments—perhaps because many took a “polite” approach and were not inclined to disparage advertisers overtly.
Younger consumers, ages 18 to 24, appeared harder to please. Their conversations included “a high proportion of negative comments about brands overall,” said a Keller Fay representative. Yet consumers in this age group were more likely to be influenced by and refer to media and marketing.
36% of people who mentioned a brand were very likely to make a purchase.
Keller Fay also identified a crucial group of “Conversation Catalysts”: the 8% of respondents who exercised the greatest influence in brand discussions. Members of this self-selecting group were wealthier than the average and more likely to be in a professional job. They mentioned more than twice as many brands each day as the average consumer, and had almost twice as many connections in their social networks.
Advertising was the biggest single media prompt for word-of-mouth discussions, mentioned in 17% of cases. Editorial content, websites and point-of-sale displays were less influential.
Interestingly, the great majority (81%) of brand conversations took place face-to-face, while about 11% happened on the telephone, Keller Fay reported. Only 7% were online.
On this point, TalkTrack results reinforced the conclusions of the “TouchPoints 3” survey by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, for which Ipsos sampled about 6,000 UK respondents between September 2009 and March 2010. Ipsos found that 78% of brand conversations were held face-to-face, with 16% on the phone and 6% online. (This survey took place largely during the winter, which might account for a higher proportion of conversations on the phone, rather than face-to-face.)
Both sets of figures suggest that online discussions about brands play a relatively small role in forming consumers’ views. Yet the internet was the channel most frequently mentioned when media and marketing for brands were discussed, according to the TalkTrack study.
And there is independent evidence that UK web users are open to being involved directly with brands on social media. A study by Connect Insight found that 57% of internet users ages 16 and older polled in June 2010 were interested in doing this.
Here too the attraction of the entertainment and food and drink categories was clear; overall, 23% of respondents said they would be interested in engaging with entertainment, film and music brands, while 16% expressed an interest in food and drink.
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Check out today’s other article, “Email Still Tops Facebook for Keeping in Touch.”