Asit Gupta
Sep 1, 2011

Five things you need to know about word-of-mouth marketing

Asit Gupta, CEO and co-founder of Shanghai-based Advocacy, shares his five key points about word-of-mouth marketing

Asit Gupta, CEO and co-founder of  WOM marketing company Advocacy
Asit Gupta, CEO and co-founder of WOM marketing company Advocacy

1. Word-of-mouth (WOM) is not the same as WOM marketing (WOMM)

Often people use these terms interchangeably. However the two are fundamentally different concepts. WOM is the natural voice of the consumer and some WOM exists naturally for most products and brands. This is organic WOM. WOMM is a planned act of marketers and aims to
amplify the quantity and quality of WOM via structured marketing activities.

2. Not all WOM creates purchases. Effective WOMM is more than buzz creation

People often associate WOM with doing a stunt, cool event or creating a viral video. Such tactics are commonly referred to as 'buzz marketing' and 'viral marketing' but are just one of the 5 typical WOMM strategies. While they create amplification and sharing they do not always lead to a recommendation to try or purchase, which is what effective marketing should do.

To drive purchase, WOM conversations need to have advocacy about the product and brand and not just entertaining content with pass-along value. To have ROI, WOM-M should create amplification as well as advocacy.

3. Effective WOM messaging is not the same as mass-media messaging

There is a message people want to hear and there is a message people want to share. They are not always the same. Consumers are not parrots which mouth brand taglines. To get people to talk about brands and products we need to create an “aha”; a disruption which naturally motivates them to share that with their social circle.

These could be interesting product facts which obviously cannot be communicated in a 15-second TVC which just announces the new product with key benefit  and a pretty model. Brands have more layers than just a campaign idea. WOMM allows brand owners to have deeper and layered messaging about the brand.

4. Offline WOM is more frequent and more impactful than online

Even in high web penetration countries like the US, UK and Australia, quantitative studies
like Talk Track have clearly established that most (70 per cent) brand-related WOM is face-to-face. In emerging Asia where web penetration is less than 40 per cent and with a massive skew towards younger demographics, marketers targeting a broader demographic beyond youth should look beyond digital social media to generate reach of their WOM campaigns. Further, even amongst the youth, a face-to-face conversation has much higher impact on driving purchase than a social networking status message.

5. WOM Marketing is complementary to traditional media. It increases ROI of total
media mix

While mass-media builds awareness and familiarity WOM adds a more purchase-focused push to the media mix. Marketers need to look at WOM as adding more effective frequency within the media mix. Think for a moment : Will an additional TVC exposure push consumer to purchase or a recommendation from a friend?

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