Bearing a natural characteristic of spreading information among a community, the off-line word-of-mouth marketing significantly influences a business in vital facets such as branding, sales, and customer relationships. Gaining in-depth insights into the topic of off-line word-of-mouth marketing is crucial for a business to thrive. This article presents the off-line word-of-mouth marketing’s several key issues and promotes its special formula in practice which has been unknown before, named The Appretell.

Authors: Anh Giang and Marja Viljanen

The off-line word-of-mouth marketing

The off-line word-of-mouth marketing causes huge impacts on a business. A company’s image could become well-known or quickly deteriorated due to the spreading of reviews, comments, rumors of consumers among a community. Likewise, while a company’s sales could rocket exponentially or plummet significantly, customer relationships are also affected by word-of-mouth sharing among a society. Depending on how consumers share information about a business, whether positively or negatively, the off-line word-of-mouth spreading influences a business’s operation accordingly. Hence, having a comprehensive understanding of the off-line word-of-mouth marketing is important to harness this double-edged sword.

Psychologist George Silverman (2001) is most commonly attributed as the pioneer of the off-line word-of-mouth marketing concept (Brysha 2013). The off-line word-of-mouth marketing is defined as verbal communications conducted off-line between one person and another person, or among a group of people. The term refers to the act of sharing information among people about a subject through conversations, thereby making it widespread. (Naz 2014, 1 – 2.)

Key drivers

The key drivers that trigger the off-line word-of-mouth marketing consist of product characteristics, visibility, and psychological factors, which are presented in the figure below (Berger & Schwartz 2011, 869 – 872).

a figure detailing the key drivers of the off-line word-of-mouth marketing: product characteristics, visibility and psychological factors

Figure 1. The key drivers of the off-line word-of-mouth marketing

First, product characteristics need to be interesting to stimulate word-of-mouth spreading. Interesting products are defined as those which stimulate interest, surprise, draw attention among a community. Consumers find interested in sharing interesting things, rather than discussing boring ones. Besides, products that bring benefits to customers are likely to be recommended among networks. Customers tend to share products that are beneficial to them with their networks, as those products provide customers with values. Statistics show that 94% of consumers assure to share useful products, while 49% of people recommend products they care about. (Berger & Schwartz 2011, 868 – 870; Gunbal 2011.)

Second, the visibility of a product determines how it is spread in the market. Scientists in the field of memory and psychology report that customers tend to involve a product in their sharing conversations when that product is on their top of mind. In other words, customers are likely to talk about issues that appear in their minds with high frequency. Hence, making a product appear in customers’ minds frequently is a key point to spur word-of-mouth spreading through conversations. (Berger & Schwartz 2011, 870 – 871.)

Third, psychological factors which mostly refers to the emotion is the most crucial motivation. Customers are likely to generate more word-of-mouth conversations when the subject mentioned evokes emotion. Several prominent emotions that help spread word-of-mouth effects include love, surprise, hatred, sadness, touching, and appreciation. Brands and products evoking strong emotions, both positive and negative, have a higher chance to trigger word-of-mouth spreading through conversations and rumors. (Phillips, Cordell, Church & Moore 2013, 53 – 54.)

The Unknown Formula: The Appretell

The case company in thesis research (Giang 2020) operates in the education field and is a model of applying the off-line word-of-mouth concept successfully. Using the off-line word-of-mouth techniques, the company makes its key product widespread among a community. The company’s leaders revealed the secret behind their success which was that after learning from the gurus in the field, they compiled the key drivers mentioned above to generate a specific formula. That formula contains all three drivers, yet it has not been known before. Hence, it is named The Appretell.

This novel term is defined as the act of repeating to tell with an attitude of appreciation and gratefulness about what the others have done for us or what brings benefits to us. When someone receives good things from others or receives benefits from something, if that one tells others about these positive experiences and keeps sharing them with appreciation, that one is applying the formula Appretell. The word Appretell is a combination of Appreciation and Tell, which means to tell with the state of appreciation. Specifically, the “re” is placed in the middle of the word, meaning that not only represents to “re-tell”, repeat and keep sharing, but also plays a role as a connection of “Appreciation” and “Tell”.

The formula Appretell correctly applies the key drivers, as it contains all three drivers. First, the features of the product characteristics, which are providing values and benefits to customers, are included in the Appretell. Second, when one keeps telling others about subjects that bring good things to him, it helps increase the visibility of the subjects in the audience’s mind and increase the appearing frequency. Third, the Appretell focuses critically on the most important component of psychological factors – the emotional motivation. The emotional state of appreciation and gratitude stimulates the word-of-mouth sharing of messages to touch audiences’ hearts, embedded in their minds, thereby making it virally widespread. By combining all three drivers into one concrete assembly, a succinct formula named The Appretell is created. Applying this formula, the case company appreciatively shares the values of its key product among their relationship networks, making it go virally with positive branding. The number of learners has increased through times to over 3,000 attendants and the company’s sales grow accordingly. (Giang 2020.)


The off-line word-of-mouth marketing plays a crucial role in a business’s operation. Understanding the off-line word-of-mouth concept and its key issues relating to the drivers that trigger word-of-mouth messages help a company apply its word-of-mouth marketing campaigns more effectively. Using the novel formula, The Appretell, is a feasible strategy to attain successful business achievements.


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Silverman, G. 2001. The Secrets Of Word-Of-Mouth Marketing: How To Trigger Exponential Sales Through Runaway Word of Mouth. First edition. New York: AMACOM.


Anh Giang graduated from the Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management at the LAB University of Applied Sciences and received a BBA degree in International Business on 29 May 2020.

Marja Viljanen is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management at the LAB University of Applied Sciences.

Illustration: (CC0)

Published 6.5.2020

Reference to this article

Giang, A. & Viljanen, M. 2020. The off-line word-of-mouth marketing: key issues and the unknown formula. LAB Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: