Ogilvy Cannes Study: Behold the Power of Word of Mouth

can you hear me now

Can you hear my brand now?

A new study by Ogilvy, Google and TNS presented at this week’s International Festival of Creativity at Cannes ironically highlights the effect PR can have on ad campaigns as applied to brand perception and sales.

In short: word of mouth is the most powerful factor when it comes to consumers’ relationships with brands.

The six-month survey (full report here) interviewed nearly 2,500 consumers who’d recently purchased products in the auto, beauty and smartphone categories. Key (unsurprising) findings include this list of the top ten “points of influence”:

  1. Word of mouth (74%)
  2. Retailers and store visits (69%)
  3. You Tube – how-to videos, product visualisation, entertainment (64%)
  4. Twitter (61%)
  5. Company/brand websites (59%)
  6. Facebook (56%)
  7. Pinterest (56%)
  8. Newspapers and magazines (55%)
  9. TV and movies (51%)
  10. Search (51%)

Another shocker: consumers use the same psychology to make purchasing decisions that they use when choosing which content to consume: they want something that plays to their interests and passions. Key word: purpose.

Some other findings:

  • Media usage has little effect on media influence: time spent with media is less influential than emotional and practical impressions
  • Experience matters more than exposure: simply being aware of a brand isn’t enough
  • Consumers choose the brands that engage them on their passions and interests 42% more often than they do those that simply urge them to buy something

Of course those purposeful, engaged customers are also “1.6 times more likely” to share the #1 influence factor by telling others about the brand and its products. Here are the top reasons consumers choose to buy:


Researchers also have some helpful (but, again, unsurprising) suggestions moving forward:

  • Make ads “shareable” on social, whatever that might mean
  • Invest more heavily in those top touchpoints
  • Directly demonstrate how products fit within consumers’ lives

So while the study focuses on ad creative, it hints at the new model of developing a brand experience that has to go well beyond traditional TV spots to be effective. Ad and PR executives already know this; Ogilvy and Google just offered further confirmation.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.