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Saturday, April 19, 2008

When a person finds value in a brand they are inspired to tell others. And because that brand buzz is authentic (not profit-driven), others trust their opinion--and might just buy the brand, too. That is how WOM works. And how it's always worked.

Psst_boygirl_2 While that headline might seem tongue-and-cheeky (or just plain cheesy), you'd be amazed how many times I need to explain this very basic, altogether core notion of WOM to prospects, clients, colleagues and friends.

Or, you might not be amazed. You, too, might have explained it zillions of times over.

I did not learn this WOM logic in business school. Or in the blogosphere. I learned it in life. Because I, too, express authentic recommendations (WOM) all the time. Sometimes I do it to a person's face (just did it on the subway an hour ago regarding a restaurant), sometimes I do so when I'm addressing an audience (be it on a panel at a conference, or to a classroom of students). And other times I've done it here on the blog...through comments on other blogs...or on Twitter.

Oh, I do it over email a lot. And assuredly, I've done so over the phone quite a bit, too.

The same rule also applies if a person does not find delight--but disgust--in a brand (be that brand a product, service,  place,  person, experience, or idea). They also tell others; it's just that their message is "don't try it!" vs. "definitely buy it!"

I've done that too across the aforementioned communications channels.

Ergo, it is the job of marketers to (1) develop and maintain unique brands that are high in value (so as to delight and encourage positive WOM) + (2) devise clever ways to spread awareness/interest/desire about those brands (so that more people can learn, try and recommend those products to others) + (3) listen to the feedback on their brands and the brands that compete with them for market share so as to improve their current brands, or create entirely new ones. Or both.

And this has always been their jobs. It's just that we now have a new medium (or set of social media) that makes WOM easier and increases it to a global footprint. This new medium also enables us to listen to authentic feedback. So we no longer have to rely just on surveys, industry reports and focus groups.

That's it. I just needed a post I could point people to from now on as I'm sounding like a broken record...and this marketer needs to streamline ;-).

PS: One more thing--when brand marketers try to trick the system with less than authentic buzz they are usually outed. And that gets oh so messy and spreads negative WOM. It's also a surefire way to ditch trust (and while not 'tangible,' trust is absolutely an asset). They should instead focus on creating brands that are worthy of buzz in the first place. OK, that's really it.

Comments

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CK, you're awesome: in all my (long) life, I've never seen WOM explained so clearly! You're an amazing teacher.

Good old WOM - the trick is to get paid for it instead of just passing on information that benefits others.

This is what network marketing, MLM, and affiliate marketing, to mention a few are all about.

When was the last time a restaurant or a movie theater gave you a rebate on a referral you gave a friend for a great meal or movie? It happens but not very often.

Get out from under the JOB mentality and learn something new for once.

Keep the job in the short term while you build your business on the side, and then plan the day you can walk into your bosses office, through your keys and creds on his/her desk and say "Sorry, [not!!] I can't afford to work here any more. I am going somewhere that pays me what I am really worth! [more than what you charge the customer for my service]"

Nice model.

It all comes back to *authenticity.* Word of mouth works when (a) an authentic message is (b) spread by influencers. Unfortunately many marketers are trying to game the system by now paying influencers directly, and forget to build an authentic message. And this in turn is hurting a lot of bloggers who fall prey to posting puffery in exchange for freebies.

There is nothing wrong with seeding a message in the social networks. Obama did this as he built his vast marketing machine, but at every stage he kept his message authentic. Companies such as Nikon or Kmart or Sears that simply "pay" bloggers to mention their products, as in the recent Chris Brogan paid-per-post silliness, are buying their way in, but by doing so they erode the authenticity of their message. So they end up with what Dirk Singer of the UK PR shop Cow calls the "illusion of word of mouth" -- lots of mentions but not the real impact.

If I see one more blogger do an off-topic post about a free camera he or she is given, I will simply remove that blogger from my consideration set as a future thought leader. They remind me a little of the teens who slept around a lot in high school -- all in good fun, eh? -- but long-term those boys and girls don't grow up to be good marriage material.

Bloggers, your momma was right. You only have one name. Be careful what you do with it. Try to keep it authentic.

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