Examining the effectiveness of WOM/eWOM communications across age-based cohorts: implications for political marketers

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Purpose: Political marketing is unable to reach out or influence voters as it once did. This study aims to identify means for political marketers to effectively reach to voters. Specifically, this study examines the role of different WOM/e-WOM political messages (shallow vs deep) delivered through various communication channels on voters’ message evaluation, believability, attitude towards the message and communication, message involvement, voting intentions and WOM/e-WOM intentions. Design/methodology/approach: Two experimental design studies were conducted to test the research hypotheses. Data were collected from age-based voting cohorts through snowball sampling and online consumer panels. Findings: The results suggest that political WOM/e-WOM messages received via different communication modes are perceived differently by age-based voting cohorts in terms of message evaluation, believability and attitudinal dispositions. The perceived credibility of the communication source makes a difference in such evaluations and dispositions. Also, the complexity of message impacts behavioral intentions of age-based voting cohorts differently. Older (younger) voter cohorts are more receptive to complex and detailed (short and brief) messages. Political message involvement mediates the relationship between message believability and voting intentions, as well as WOM/e-WOM intentions. Research limitations/implications: The results are limited in terms of generalizability due to the experimental nature of the studies. Future research may seek to use actual candidates and examine the effects of moderators such as the cognition-based needs of respondents to engage in central or peripheral processing. Practical implications: Political marketers can achieve greater credibility and effectiveness and partially restore political marketing’s reputation by honoring three guidelines: construct shallower (or deeper) political marketing messages when targeting younger (or older) voting cohorts through internet-connected (or traditional) delivery modes. Originality/value: This paper explores an important but under-researched area in political marketing (i.e. the use of WOM/e-WOM messages in political marketing) and identifies important differences in attitudinal and behavioral dispositions of age-based voting cohorts impacted by the choice of communication mode and message complexity. Moreover, the perceived credibility of the communication source (sender) can sway communication mode preferences for age-based voting cohorts.

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Journal of Consumer Marketing

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e-WOM and WOM, generational cohorts, political marketing, political marketing messages