This study empirically documents the existence of a
reverberating echoverse for brand communication, in which there are complex
feedback loops (“echoes”) between the “universe” of corporate communications,
news media, and user-generated social media.
explosive growth of social media has dramatically altered the brand
communications environment, and firms are trying to figure out the nature of this
environment, what drives business
outcomes, and what strategies work best. This
study is the first to assess how a rather comprehensive set of components can
influence each other and demonstrates complex feedback loops among all of them. We
theorize the existence of the "echoverse" as the entire communications
environment in which a brand/firm operates, with actors contributing and being
influenced by one another’s actions.
We test our framework in the financial
services industry over the 2007-2013 period and assemble a comprehensive
data set including corporate communications, news stories, social media, and
business outcomes for the top four U.S. banks.
The figure illustrates the
strength of the echoverse, with arrow widths reflecting the % of significant effects.
For 22 of 25 arrows (or for 17 of 20
between-source arrows), there is at least one significant effect, providing
clear statistical evidence for the echoverse.
We document the echoverse and show that
it has changed as online WOM has become prevalent. Over time, online WOM has fallen into a negativity spiral, with negative messages leading
to greater volume, and firms adjusting their communications strategies in
response. Corporate communications have moved increasingly from one-to-many to
one-to-one while consumer WOM moves from one-to-one to one-to-many. Companies
benefit from using social media for personalized customer responses, although
there is still a role for traditional brand communications (e.g., advertising).
must manage the echoverse to get desired business outcomes, which increasingly
implies effectively managing online WOM (public and firm). Traditional consumer
sentiment measures may be declining in relevance as online WOM becomes more
important. As consumer brand communications increasingly move from one-to-one
(e.g., conversations) to one-to-many (e.g., social media), communications
should shift emphasis from one-to-many (e.g., advertising) to one-to-one (e.g.,
personalized tweets), making online marketing increasingly a brand communications
Questions for the Classroom
- How has the echoverse changed over time?
That is, as social media use has grown, have relationships between the
echoverse sources changed over time, with some becoming more significant and
- What is the
role of traditional marketing communications tools such as advertising as
opposed to social media tools in terms of influencing business outcomes?
- What are some
possible implications for managers of the asymmetries in the echoverse?
Kelly Hewett, William Rand, Roland T. Rust, and Harald J.
van Heerde (2016) Brand Buzz in the Echoverse. Journal of Marketing: May 2016,
Vol. 80, No. 3, pp. 1-24.
Kelly Hewett is Assistant Professor of Marketing, University
of Tennessee (e-mail: email@example.com).
William Rand is Assistant Professor of Marketing and
Director of the Center for Complexity in Business, Robert H. Smith School of
Business, University of Maryland (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Roland T. Rust is Distinguished University Professor and
David Bruce Smith Chair in Marketing, and Executive Director of the Center for
Excellence in Service and the Center for Complexity in Business, Robert H.
Smith School of Business, University of Maryland (e-mail: email@example.com).
Harald J. van Heerde is Research Professor of
Marketing and MSA Charitable Trust Chair in Marketing, Massey University, and
CentER Extramural Fellow, Tilburg University (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).