Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Secret Sauce Behind Word-Of-Mouth Advertising

It’s day 2 of the Future of Consumer Intelligence conference and one big trend is forming: Word of Mouth is important… very important. Several of the speakers have touched on the relevance of Word of Mouth in today’s advertising playground. On day 1 we had a panel of Millennials that discussed things they’re interested in and what makes them tick. Almost all of them mentioned how they rely heavily upon Word of Mouth platforms like Yelp and YouTube. The groundwork was set around this topic and Jonah Berger drove it home in this morning’s keynote presentation.

Author of the book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Berger shared a few key points from his book. Here are a few of the things that struck me:

Expand your Word of Mouth advertising by focusing on the people who already love your product

Berger made the point that people error in thinking that trying to reach out to a targeted group of non-users is the best way to increase Word of Mouth. In other words, finding people who match the profile of your current customer. Berger argues that the best way to increase Word of Mouth is to let the people who already know and love you do it. To explain this view, he used an example from his work as a professor. Berger mentioned that publishers often send professors free books in the mail, with the hope of including the book in the curriculum. One time he received a package from a publisher with two copies of the same book. The books came with a note, “We think you’ll know someone who will love this book too”. This publisher knew that Berger would be the best advocate for the book and would be able to target and share the book with someone who would really enjoy it.

Being a “secret” is valuable

Berger gives two examples of this concept. The first example was a bar in NY called Please Don’t Tell. This bar has no advertising and requires people to go into a phone booth and use a rotary dial phone in order to enter. The bar is so popular that to get in you must have a reservation. This bar leverages the element of secrecy to grow its Word of Mouth advertising. People enjoy being able to be the first person to introduce someone to the bar.

The other example he gave was the McRib at McDonalds. Berger states that the McRib was introduced to help defuse the demand for chicken nuggets. Over time McDonalds has kept the McRib on the menu but never at the same time in each region. By strategically altering when and where the McRib is featured has created a rather humorous following. There is actually a website designed to help people know when and where the McRib is on the menu.

Top-of-mind means tip-of-tongue

Berger points out that one of the key attributes of successful Word of Mouth advertising is getting people to think about your product or service indirectly. He believes it’s important to link yourself to things that are used frequently. A good example is peanut butter and jelly. When people say peanut butter, most people begin to think about jelly as well. Another is example is how Corona has tried to position itself with the beach. The idea is to get people to think about Corona when they visit the beach.

I think Berger did a great job at trying to put a “formula” behind a popular strategy. The bad news? It’s only a matter of time before this strategy is diluted. Marketers are famous for beating a strategy to death. Think of email…. When email first came out, email open rates were ridiculously high. Now-a-days most people are happy with an open rate in the single digits. How long will this strategy be effective? It’s hard to put a number on it but don’t wait around because it won’t be long.

Follow the conference on Twitter by tracking the hashtag #FOCI14


Isaiah Adams is the Manager of Social Media Development at Optimization Group, a marketing research and analytics firm that uses cutting edge technology to help clients make fact-based decisions. Optimization Group has a dedicated place on its site where agencies can learn how to use research to help their clients succeed called the Advertising Agency Hub.
Follow Optimization Group on Twitter @optimizationgrp

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