Word of mouth: understanding and managing referral marketing

Francis A. Buttle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

404 Citations (Scopus)


Marketing practitioners and theorists routinely cite the power of the personal referral on customer behaviour. However, relatively few companies have tried to harness the power of word of mouth (WOM). Scholars have been pondering WOM over 2400 years, although modern marketing research into WOM started only relatively recently, in the post-war 1940s. WOM can be characterized by valence, focus, timing, solicitation and degree of management intervention. Most recent WOM research has been conducted from a customer-to-customer perspective, even though WOM is found in other contexts such as influence, employee and recruitment markets. Marketing research into WOM has attempted to answer two questions. What are the antecedents of WOM? What are the consequences of WOM? This paper integrates that research into a contingency model and attempts to identify researchable gaps in our knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-254
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Strategic Marketing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • referral marketing
  • relationship marketing
  • word of mouth

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