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PhD ceremony Mr. P.S. van Eck: The invisible force that shapes our world. Insights into complex, dynamic social influence processes, a marketing perspective

When:Th 12-09-2013 at 11:00

PhD ceremony: Mr. P.S. van Eck, 11.00 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Dissertation: The invisible force that shapes our world. Insights into complex, dynamic social influence processes, a marketing perspective

Promotor(s): prof. P.S.H. Leeflang

Faculty: Economics

Marketers have many media channels at their disposal that can be used to make small specific groups aware of their products. However, reaching large rather than small audiences became more difficult because of this diversity in media channels. Also, consumers tend to lack trust in most forms of advertisement. Word of mouth (WoM) offers a potential solution to both challenges, as consumers trust their informal interactions with other consumers within their network and information spreads through several consumer networks, thereby reaching a large population. This raises the question to how marketers can use WoM to their advantage.

In order to answer this question, it is important to realize that WoM is a form of social influence. While WoM is mostly associated with informative influence, it also affects consumer decisions through normative influence (i.e., confirmation to the norms of other consumers in the network). This thesis provides an overview of the current knowledge on social influence processes and emphasizes the complexity of these processes. New insights regarding social influence processes are gained by applying agent-based modeling techniques, to a large extent parameterized using empirical data. Besides showing the importance of personal characteristics (e.g., innovative behavior) when analyzing social influence, we also propose a method to link these characteristics with the positions of a person in a social network. Ultimately a model is presented that is applied to give detailed insights in the interaction between traditional media channels and social influence processes, and the impact of both on the adoption of new products.

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