Authors: Candice LP Chee and Alan SB Ang
Abstract: Word-of-mouth (WOM) communication is a socially mediated pathway that helps people overcome perceived barriers to healthful behavioural change. A study was conducted in Singapore to examine the effects of person-to-person WOM communication on people’s healthful lifestyle changes. The study draws from the interactional perspective of Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) [1–2], which posits that environmental (social and physical) and personal factors determine behaviour change in a prescribed sequence of operations. Focusing on positive valence, oral communication and the receiver’s perspective, three key constructs underlying WOM were analysed for their contribution to behavioural change in physical activity and healthier diet: i) strong-tie social networks, comprising family, friends and a significant other; ii) interpersonal relational attributes, comprising trust, commitment, relationship quality and satisfaction; and iii) social support, comprising emotional, functional, companionship and informational supports. Using a survey (N=156) and follow-up interviews with a subset of 14 respondents, the study found that social networks, relational attributes and social support significantly influenced healthful behavioural change. Further, individual variables and their subcomponents appeared to have varying effects on different people and different types of healthful behavioural change, suggesting that health promotion marketing should be highly differentiated to be effective.
Keywords: word-of-mouth communications, social cognitive theory, relational marketing, social network, social support, health promotion