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June 13, 2006

How’s your word of mouth?

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Large and midsized companies aren’t doing enough to leverage word of mouth (WOM) marketing when compared to their smaller firm counterparts, despite realizing its importance. A new JupiterResearch study says only 33 percent of large and midsized companies monitor their WOM, as opposed to 66 percent of small companies. Knowing how effective WOM advertising can be, personally I think both of those numbers should be higher.

What are you doing to create WOM marketing for your company? And what measures have you set in place to monitor your results?

You may or may not be aware of this, but the FIFA World Cup is going on. It’s sort of the Super Bowl of soccer, and despite the somewhat lackluster showing from the United States team (is it our fault Italy is next?), most everyone seems to have soccer fever. Even the search engines are on board, giving users immediate OneBox results and schedule information. (And of course Google has specialized logos for the thirty-two or so teams competing.) Do they care about the World Cup? Of course, not. They’re trying to convert that closet soccer enthusiast searcher into a lifetime Google/Yahoo!/Ask user.

While the engines are doing a great job, the company utilizing word of mouth the best is Coke. What are they doing? Like the United States will need to do to overtake Italy, they’re attacking the field at all angles to create conversation with their consumers.

Obviously, Coke is running a heavy promotional campaign. There are TV spots, banners at the game and an endless supply of Coke hats and water bottles. That’s all to be expected and it’s not what’s generating buzz. The most powerful thing they’re doing right now comes from their weallspeakfootball.com blogging network. Currently the network encompasses more than 30 bloggers from 15 different countries, including some of the best known European bloggers. It’s becoming the MySpace of the World Cup, and you can bet this is a campaign soccer fans will remember long after the World Cup ends on July 9th.

The success of Coke’s blogging network is based on one thing: it grabs users at what Pete Blackshaw calls ‘the ex-spot’ or the moment of experience where consumers are best positioned to talk (more like, gush) about something. Coke is getting soccer fan-users excited about sharing a common experience (the World Cup) and then piggybacking off that excitement to make them excited about Coke. It’s genius and it’s working.

Coke has taught marketers an important lesson. To capitalize off word of mouth you have to hit your company’s specific ex-spot. If you’re running a Web site, create something that will get users excited (an interesting article, a promotion, etc.) and then make it brain dead easy for them to refer that offer to a friend. No complicated forms or log-ins necessary. Just get them excited and then present them an outlet to share that excitement.

If you have a brick and mortar store, your customer’s ex-spot is right at the end of that checkout counter. Get them there, still reeling from their purchase, and give them a way to share the feeling with others. They’ll be happy to do it.

We now live in a user-generated content world. Savvy consumers no longer care about what you have to say about your product. They want to know and tell others what they think. Give them that opportunity and allow your company to capitalize off the positive buzz. Hit customers while they are in the “brand groove” and you’ll quickly learn why positive word of mouth can be the most powerful form of advertising at your disposal.

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