Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Debate on Word of Mouth Marketing

Fun debate taking place over at the Adrants Network on Soflow

WOM marketing is just like any other form of marketing out there. If used the wrong way...or more likely, used stupidly by marketers that don't understand the method...it can have horrible consequences for the brand. But used the right way, it can be the most honest form of marketing out there and can build not only business, but a brand's image.

A few years ago, I was Red Bull's Student Brand Manager at Miami University. I think a lot of us would say this job was all about WOM. My job was to praise the glories of Red Bull with the goal of getting bars/stores to carry it and students to drink it. Now there could have been a fine line here if I wasn't honest with my association with the company. But in all activities, I would start off by saying I worked for Red Bull. The key thing with all of this is that I loved the brand and wanted to talk about it. It wasn't just some brand paying me to talk about a random thing. So in a way, this wasn't WOM, it was true 1:1 marketing when I talked with my fellow students and gave them a can to try.

Now contrast that with a company like BzzAgent. I've actually been a BzzAgent with them for close to two years now, ever since Seth Godin worked with them on Purple Cow. The campaigns I sign up for are a lot like Red Bull....I only do those that interest me and I want to talk about. If I sign up for a campaign and I either A.) Hate the product, or B.) Think the messaging is fake, I just don't bzz. Simple as that. But I know there are BzzAgents that aren't doing that. They are just talking up every campaign they can find. That is where the line gets iffy. BzzAgent has the potential to either continue being a great company or fall into a dangerous trap of fake WOM. I think they will come out on the good side, but the second that starts slipping is when I'm not bzzing anymore.

WOM is about giving brand evangelists the tools to talk about your product. If they love it, they will praise it all day long. The danger is when people start talking about your brand just because they are paid to do it, or get rewarded in some way. All of us as marketers have the duty to not cross the line, no matter how tempting the reward might be on the other side.


Blogger Bruce said...

Word of Mouth Marketing
by Bruce DeBoer March 01, 2005 | www.synthesiscreative.com/blog.php

We all know what word of mouth is; welcome personal communication, right? It’s when a trusted source offers insight, suggestions, or advocates a product or service. Janice, my new iPod is killer. Hey, Joe – you gotta try this. You know – stuff like that.

We’ve all witnessed products becoming hot, so hot that everyone talks about it and wants it. It’s what teen life is all about as well as I remember. Water cooler discussions about everything from last nights TV to the latest technology create product advocates faster than any mass media exposure.

Put the word "marketing" behind "Word of Mouth" and you have one of the latest promotion trends. Have a product you want talked about? Hire a WOM company to create buzz. Provide them product and they will seed agents who pose as those trusted advocates that you’ve come to rely on.

Agents bring a new wine to your party and exclaim its wonders. They spread the word about the next great gizmo that only they have: cool isn't it?

Seeding as been part of marketing for ages but this feels different. It’s deceptive. You want buzz? Produce a product or service worthy of it, seed it in a transparent manner, create a promotional campaign that offers value to your prospective customer. By value I mean offer information, entertainment or anything customers will think is valuable. In return, you will get buzz and permission to keep communication channels open.

Seeding is good, deception is not.


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