With 95% of advertising today failing to generate ROI because of vehicle proliferation, cynical time-starved consumers and escalating costs, by embracing word of mouth (WOM), marketers can motivate consumer communication, discussion about their brand, build brand equity and generate buzz. Planning a WOM campaign comes down to:
- the audience
- the message
- the vehicle
- the metrics
Finding the right combination will give a WOM marketing campaign the greatest chance to spread faster than a hot stock tip at a cocktail party.
Gallop surveys show that while around 90% of people trust their family and friends, only about 15% trust corporations.
So when a company says how great their product is, 15% believe them. When their friends talk about a product 90% believe them. The more positive buzz you can get about your product or services, the faster the word spreads and the more powerful the message is.
WOM Is About Creating Buzz
Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing is hot, as new digital channels like email and SMS accelerate peer-to-peer exchange and consumers turn their backs on traditional advertising.
But there are lots of missed opportunities and lost budgets due to miscommunication between marketers and their agencies.
What Marketers Need To Know About WOM
WOM marketing is the overall term for:
An honest targeted conversation based on something valuable that creates buzz.
The buzz itself is the objective of WOM marketing – to have as many consumers talk about a brand or a product to as many friends and acquaintances as possible. Marketers can create buzz by choosing the right –
- Targets: evangelists or influencers
Evangelists are consumers who voluntarily convert others to a brand or product. These people can be employees, vendors, consumers – anyone who develops an emotive connection with the brand. Apple, for instance, has many evangelists, who keep trying to convert Windows users to their niche Macs.
Marketers can also target influencers – consumers who have influence on others because they’re recognized experts on a subject or known for passing on great ideas. Influencers use rational arguments while spreading the word, as opposed to evangelists, who are emotive.
- Channels: viral or traditional
Traditionally, word of mouth happened at bars and corporate water coolers. In viral WOM campaigns, consumers pass on messages using new channels like the Net, mobile phones, and MP3 players. These devices fuel much faster distribution – the AXE feather campaign by Dare Media in the UK, driven by WOM, resulted in 50 million hits inside 12 months with each person who went to the site staying on the site for an average of 9 minutes.
How To Build A Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Campaign
Content: anything consumers want to share.
Messages that spread well in WOM marketing have three key characteristics:
1) They meet the emotive or rational goals of the evangelist or influencer;
2) They are entertaining, fun and interactive and
3) Consumers can pass them on easily.
A Successful WOM Campaign Starts With Four Classic Choices
With WOM, consumers become an extension of the marketing department by helping spread the word and create buzz. While some of the tactics are different, marketers who wish to “recruit” consumers need to address the same four planning questions as in any marketing effort.
- Who do I target?
- How do I get the word out?
- What is the message?
- How do I measure the results?
Taking these one at a time:
- Who do I target?
All decisions are initially made emotionally then justified pragmatically. Therefore, evangelists have a strong effect. Symbiotic brands will have such evangelists while firms that sell complex products like PCs need to concentrate on influencers who can endorse choices.
- How do I get the word out?
More than 60% of online Europeans are engaged in online activities, and 20% of them have looked at product reviews from other Net consumers. Consumers downloaded a video from LiveVault, starring John Cleese, more than 300,000 times, increasing the traffic on its Web site by ten and generating thousands of sales leads.
- What’s the message?
Marketers should think about the reaction they want to get from the recipient. They have an enormous toolbox for viral campaigns – including online videos, online games, Internet forums, blogs, and podcasting as well as more traditional methods like referral programs or product seeding
With I Love Bees – an alternate-reality gaming campaign – Microsoft mobilized more than 10,000 fans to take part in a real-world game based around the Halo 2 video game and united 600,000 fans online by creating curiosity and interest.
- How do I measure the effect?
Buzz may sound like a fuzzy concept, but it’s traceable. Vendors like BuzzMetrics, Intelliseek, and Viral Tracker look at key metrics like spread, analyze the tone of what’s being said, identify the key “connectors”, and determine how the campaign is affecting the company’s image.
Best Practices Show The Power Of WOM Marketing
Many firms have created buzz by making the right target, channel, and content choices. These companies got outstanding results in terms of awareness, participation, and traffic online:
Virgin created an “influencer team” of 300 customers to create buzz around its brand, new products, and key messages, attracting more than 4 million customers.
For the launch of its new A3 premium compact, Audi introduced “The Art of the Heist” – staging the theft of the new car and asking consumers to help them find the thief, using a mix of traditional and new media channels like live participation and blogs. In just one day, more than 200,000 people got involved in the search.
Marketers of today are embracing word-of-mouth marketing as the antidote to traditional advertising’s waning effectiveness, and as a way to build momentum for a product or service.
To be successful, marketers should:
- Forsake one-way campaigns for two-way dialogues.
- Give control of the messages to the participant in the conversation and abandon carefully crafted positioning statements for more personal language.
- Consumer loyalty is declining; conventional loyalty strategies fail because they are one-sided and ignore critical loyalty drivers. To turn the tide, brands need to shift to symbiotic loyalty, building consumer trust through emotive connections, actively cultivating endorsements, and minimizing costs by knowing when, what, and where to invest in loyalty – and when to end unprofitable relationships.
- Firms need to use viral marketing to get commercial messages to mass audiences. For success, marketers should focus on winning over Online Influencers – and letting them do the evangelizing instead.
- Tipping point. Podcasting, the latest addition to on-demand media, has attracted the attention of both tech-savvy young early adopters and innovative brands seeking to create some buzz while the phenomenon is still new