Who knew there were so many smart people in advertising? I just got back from the WOMMA Word of Mouth vs. Advertising conference in NYC. There was a lot of word of mouth about this word of mouth – and it lived up to the buzz. My neck is sore from nodding my head so much. The rest of the crowd was equally as enthralled. As two of the last panelists commented “we’re well into cocktail hour and you’re still here….why?”
If there was one overriding message to the conference it was this…..the consumer is in control. You can lie, manipulate, and coax, but the truth will always come out. WOMMA CEO Andy Sernovitz pronounced:
Ads will never again be free from real people providing real feedback — and bringing to light the underlying claims of every campaign. Truth always rises to the surface.
So, with this power shift, who controls WOM? Do consumers control WOM? Or do marketers control WOM? And if marketers can’t control WOM, why has a whole marketing industry grown up around it?
From the insight I gained, here’s how I’d answer that question…
Marketers can control the trigger – the action, event, website, ad campaign – that starts consumers talking. They can set up touch points to try to reach “influencers” and get them to spread the message. But…it is consumers who will control the message they spread.
Pete Blackshaw asks an interesting question – Is WOM a long or short term strategy? I think it’s both.
It’s a short term strategy when you are truly just trying to create buzz – an outrageous event, a quirky video, a downloadable coupon for free ice cream. The objective is to get attention or drive a short term action. My complaint about some of these strategies is they often don’t tie in directly with the brand. There were differing opinions about Burger King’s Subservient Chicken – 400 million views – but did it sell any food?
It’s a long term strategy when you are trying to build a relationship with your customers and when the WOM is tied in directly with the brand or brand attribute. Like a cookwear maker creating cookbooks with recipes targeted at their customers, software companies allowing employees to blog openly about what’s going on and getting customer feedback on product development, or providing ongoing sports training programs for people participating in charity runs.
One thing that struck me over and over was how the secrets to effective WOM are also the secrets to marketing to women:
· Be authentic
· Be relevant
· Create a remarkable product
· Be 100% accountable – how you deal with negative WOM is almost more important than how you handle positive WOM
· Listen – allow your customers to share their opinions with you – let them craft the message