Is Word of Mouth Better Than Advertising?

Jonah Berger author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On writes about when and how word of mouth is better than traditional advertising.

A great deal of research finds that word of mouth is more effective than other types of marketing. Whether compared to traditional advertising, media mentions, or promotional events, word of mouth is more useful in creating new users and customers. Indeed, McKinsey suggests that “word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising in categories as diverse as skincare and mobile phones.”

According to Jonah, word of mouth is better due to two main reasons:

1) Trust

Not surprisingly, we trust our friends more than we trust ads. Ads always say the product is great. “Nine out of ten dentists prefer new Shiny White toothpaste.” “Critics agree that Blastoids 7 is the best movie of 2013.” But because ads always say the product is wonderful, we tend not to believe them.

Our friends, however, will tell it to us straight. They’ll tell us if the product is good, or bad, and as a result we’re more likely to believe their recommendation.

2) Better Targeting

Word of mouth is also more targeted. Say your company sells golf clubs. To target your message at potential customers, you might advertise in a golf magazine. But while some of the magazine’s readers might be in the market for clubs, many may not be. So in the end, some of the ad dollars are wasted.

Word of mouth is much more focused. No one’s going to talk to you about a great baby clothes website if you don’t have a baby. People only tell you about things that they think are at least somewhat relevant to your interests. Word of mouth is like a searchlight that goes through a social network, finding the most interested receivers for a given piece of information.

He then goes into asking:

So is word of mouth always better?

Well, not quite.

First, it’s slower. Think of a long line of people playing a game of telephone. Social media and online communication have definitely sped the diffusion of information. But word of mouth still moves from person to person, sequentially, so it takes time to spread.


Second, the effectiveness of word of mouth depends on getting people to talk. Word of mouth can be highly effective, but whether it is or not depends on whether people actually spread the word. It’s not enough just to be on social media or post things once in a while. To get people to talk about you, your business, or your idea, you need to understand why people talk and share in the first place.

Finally he concludes:

So which is better, word of mouth or advertising?

It depends.

So, how does this apply to recruitment advertisement?.


Three things are essential in recruitment sourcing:

  1. Reach, you need to reach enough people to have a decent choice.
  2. Relevancy, you want quality not only quantity.
  3. Time to hire, the longer the chair is empty, higher is the cost, in productivity and revenue loss.

While word of mouth can be very efficient, especially if you have a good reputation a combination of advertising, direct approach and referrals is an optimised sourcing strategy.

To read the whole article click here and if you would like to go over ways that both word of mouth and advertising can benefit your recruiting efforts call us at 514 874-0210 ext. 222


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