An Exploratory Study on Children’s Word-of-Mouth Communication

  • Belem BarbosaEmail author
  • Pedro Quelhas Brito
Conference paper
Part of the Developments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science book series (DMSPAMS)


This study aims to contribute to the understanding of children’s word-of-mouth communication: how it is processed, its dimensions and its relation to other sources of information and to young consumers’ use of the Internet. Theoretical contributions from consumer socialization, new media and word-of-mouth communication studies are assembled, and an exploratory qualitative analysis in the form of focus group interviews with 7–11-year-old children is reported. We provide empirical evidence for word-of-mouth communication being a common activity among children. Observation and marketing exposure both complement and trigger word-of-mouth activity. Electronic word-of-mouth communication is less frequent, but the Internet is a relevant source of information and marketing exposure; it assists children’s learning about products and brands and furthers their purchase decision processes. This study suggests that word-of-mouth communication received by children is more complex and dynamic as compared to extant literature, suggesting that future research further explores its sought and unsought components, as well as its relationship with non-verbal peer influence that results from observation.


Word-of-mouth communication Observation Peer interaction Children Socialization agents 


  1. Ahuja, M. K., & Galvin, J. E. (2003). Socialization in virtual groups. Journal of Management, 29(2), 161–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bachmann, G., John, D., & Rao, A. (1993). Children’s susceptibility to peer group purchase influence: An exploratory investigation. Advances in Consumer Research, 20(1), 463–468.Google Scholar
  3. Barber, N. A. (2013). Investigating the potential influence of the Internet as a new socialization agent in context with other traditional socialization agents. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 21(2), 179–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown, J., & Reingen, P. (1987). Social ties and word-of-mouth referral behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 14, 350–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. De Bruyn, A., & Lilien, G. (2008). A multi-stage model of word-of-mouth influence through viral marketing. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 25(3), 151–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. de la Ville, V.-I., & Tartas, V. (2010). Developing as consumers. In D. Marshall (Ed.), Understanding children as consumers (pp. 23–40). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dotson, M., & Hyatt, E. (2005). Major influence factors in children’s consumer socialization. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 22(1), 35–42. Scholar
  8. Ekstrom, K. (2006). Consumer socialization revisited. In R. W. Belk (Ed.), Research in consumer behavior (Vol. 10, pp. 71–98). Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  9. Hartman, J., Shim, S., Barber, B., & O’Brien, M. (2006). Adolescents’ utilitarian and hedonic web-consumption behavior: Hierarchical influence of personal values and innovativeness. Psychology & Marketing, 23(10), 813–839. Scholar
  10. Hines, T. (2000). An evaluation of two qualitative methods (focus group interviews and cognitive maps) for conducting research into entrepreneurial decision making. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 3(1), 7–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ji, M. (2002). Children’s relationships with brands: “True love” or “one-night” stand? Psychology & Marketing, 19(4), 369–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. John, D. R. (1999). Consumer socialization of children: A retrospective look at twenty-five years of research. Journal of Consumer Research, 26(3), 183–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Libai, B., Bolton, R., Bügel, M. S., de Ruyter, K., Götz, O., Risselada, H., & Stephen, A. T. (2010). Customer-to-customer interactions: Broadening the scope of word of mouth research. Journal of Service Research, 13(3), 267–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Mangleburg, T. F., Doney, P. M., & Bristol, T. (2004). Shopping with friends and teens’ susceptibility to peer influence. Journal of Retailing, 80(2), 101–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mazzarol, T., Sweeney, J. C., & Soutar, G. N. (2007). Conceptualizing word-of-mouth activity, triggers and conditions: an exploratory study. European Journal of Marketing, 41(11/12), 1475–1494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. McNeal, J. (1999). The kids market: Myths and realities. New York: Paramount Market Publishing.Google Scholar
  17. Moschis, G., & Moore, R. (1979). Decision making among the young: a socialization perspective. Journal of Consumer Research, 6(2), 101–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Moschis, G. P., & Churchill, G. A. (1978). Consumer socialization: A theoretical and empirical analysis. Journal of Marketing Research, 4(November), 599–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Okazaki, S. (2009). The tactical use of mobile marketing: How adolescents’ social networking can best shape brand extensions. Journal of Advertising Research, 49(1), 12–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Puchta, C., & Potter, J. (2004). Focus group practice. London: Sage Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Silverman, G. (2011). The secrets of word-of-mouth marketing (2nd ed.). New York: American Management Association.Google Scholar
  22. Simpson, P., Siguaw, J., & Cadogan, J. (2008). Understanding the consumer propensity to observe. European Journal of Marketing, 42(1/2), 196–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stewart, D. W., Shamdasani, P. N., & Rook, D. W. (2007). Focus groups: Theory and practice (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Valkenburg, P., & Buijzen, M. (2005). Identifying determinants of young children’s brand awareness: Television, parents, and peers. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 26(2005), 456–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Valkenburg, P., & Cantor, J. (2001). The development of a child into a consumer. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 22(1), 61–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wang, C., & Chang, S. (2008). Online word of mouth as a determination in adolescents’ purchase decision making: the influence of expertise and involvement. Communications of the IBIMA, 4(1), 1–7.Google Scholar
  27. Wang, X., Yu, C., & Wei, Y. (2012). Social media peer communication and impacts on purchase intentions: A consumer socialization framework. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26(4), 198–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ward, S. (1974). Consumer socialization. Journal of Consumer Research, 1(2), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.University of PortoPortoPortugal

Personalised recommendations