Word of Mouth Isn’t Dead

By on Dec 13, 2018 in Marketing

Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is an old hat that has learned new tricks. Nielsen reports that 92 percent of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. A study by The American Marketing Association adds that 64 percent of marketing executives believe that word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. So why have only six percent of marketers mastered the new potential WOMM?

WOMM with Purpose

Jay Baer’s latest book, “Talk Triggers,” explores how businesses can capitalize on WOMM. His first tip is to strategize. Too often, businesses rely on happenstance, like tripping on a rock and noticing that it’s a chunk of gold. But by intentionally creating word of mouth opportunities, you get people to talk on purpose and control the message.

Next, Baer recommends repeatable strategies. One-hit-wonders don’t build a brand. What can you do, and continue to do, to keep customers talking? Doubletree’s free cookie program is a prime example of intentional, repeatable WOMM. Every check-in and free cookie is a WOMM opportunity. More than 25 years later, the free cookies still generate buzz.

Learn from Sprint’s Mistake

Lastly, Baer encourages businesses to be unique. Sprint demonstrates how sameness backfires.

Sprint hired actor Paul Marcarelli, formerly of the Verizon “Can you hear me now?” campaign. Verizon’s campaign, which lasted for nearly a decade, was a huge success. Sprint’s attempt at piggy backing on that success only sort of worked.

Sprint spokesperson David Tovar told the New York Times that the new commercial was viewed 14 million times on YouTube. Nearly 1,000 articles (including this one) mention Marcarelli’s brand switch.

Sprint’s Marcarelli stunt stimulated more than 3 billion impressions but the conversation wasn’t exactly good. Few consumers talked about Sprint’s improved network. People wanted to know how much Marcarelli got paid. Consumers on social media thought the move was funny but desperate.

Jeff Nelson, Verizon’s VP of corporate communications coolly responded, “Sprint’s using our 2002 spokesman because they’re finally catching up to Verizon’s 2002 network.”

Critics agreed that Sprint showed its age. Few consumers talk on the phone anymore. The conversation has switched to video on exquisite displays, and texts.

What’s worse is that the conversation ended quickly. After the initial ad, Sprint impressions plummeted. Sprint’s next Marcarelli commercial only received about 30,000 views on YouTube. Subsequent commercials demonstrated a decline in interests.  Unlike the 10-year strong “Can you hear me now?” conversation, Sprint’s recycled Marcarelli doesn’t have staying power.

The moral of the story: don’t recycle your competitor’s content. Avoid sameness. Sameness isn’t talkable, at least not long term, Baer explains. It’s your unique approach that will get thumbs moving on social media and make a lasting impression.

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