How Negative is Negative Word-of-Mouth?


Spiegel Research Director Ed Malthouse and Associate Researcher Su Jung Kim presented their research findings as part of Social Media Week, answering the question, “How Negative is Negative Word-of-Mouth?”

Social Media Week is a biannual series of talks and events that showcase trends and new ideas in online communication. Around the globe, eight cities, including Chicago/Evanston hosted the 2013 series.

Social and online media have given consumers far greater opportunity to interact with brands and reduce the amount of control a brand can exert in regards to its online image.

Quantifying the impact of negative word-of-mouth is difficult, but Spiegel researchers used a data set which included both social media posts and purchase behavior to analyze how negative word-of-mouth impacts purchase behavior.

Spiegel researchers found that viewing negative-word-of-mouth messages decreased consumer purchase behavior by 5 percent. In addition, consumers who posted a strong negative emotion were likely to decrease spending, whereas customers who post negative emotions less intensely are likely to increase spending.

Keeping in mind the research findings on negative-word-of-mouth messages, marketers could engage disgruntled consumers through helping them see the benefits of using a specific brand and providing them with an opportunity to engage in the brand's positive traits.