Take Our Word For It: The Power of “Word of Mouth” Advertising

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Investopedia defines word of mouth marketing (WOMM) as “when a consumer’s interest in a company’s product or service is reflected in their daily dialogues”. In other words, this type of marketing happens when people share their experiences with their peers, which in some way acts as free advertising for brands. For example, someone would simply tweet about a fantastic experience they had at a restaurant or post a video where they share their positive feedback on a product they just bought. You might have done word-of-mouth marketing yourself just by talking to your friends about a certain place you’ve been to that you’d like them to visit as well.

With the rise of social media and its commercialization, word of mouth is more prevalent than ever. Nowadays where everyone is consumerist in their own way, you might sometimes ask or hear someone say “have you tried/seen the new…?”. And then afterwards, people would ask themselves if they’re missing out, or if it’s time to throw out their old stuff to make room for something new. 

The power of word of mouth marketing

Word of mouth marketing happens everywhere, making it an effective medium of advertising. In 2015, Nielsen conducted a global survey measuring the trust levels of its respondents on different types of advertising. Out of the 30,000 respondents polled in 60 countries, 83% said they “completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family”. Moreover, in the Philippines it was shown that 91% of Filipinos trust word-of-mouth recommendations from people they know, although no exact figure was given for how many Filipinos were polled in the Philippines.

In addition, a study published last 2016 that surveyed micro businesses, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Malolos, Bulacan, found that word-of-mouth of social marketing was more effective than traditional marketing (posters, TV commercials, flyers, and more), and that the marketers of these firms were satisfied with the word-of-mouth tactics employed.

It’s undeniable how effective work of mouth marketing is. Oftentimes, it has something to do with how we are as human beings as well.

We’re social beings

Who wouldn’t want to spread word of their car that lasted for 10 years? Or the massage that cured their month-long back pain? People always love to mention things that they enjoyed and would like others to try as well. One way that this is shown is through gossip. Tom DeMichele, editor of FactMyth.com, says in his article that humans are hardwired to be social beings, which means that we thrive in interacting with other people. In fact, a study found that the typical person spends about 52 minutes per day gossiping, typically about a person who isn’t present. 

Tony Brennan from the Department of Psychology of the University of Surrey also mentioned how humans want to keep up with their social networks. They do so by promoting themselves and manipulating information and other people’s reactions for their own advantage, not necessarily with malicious intent. In addition, another article shows that one other function gossip is derived from is due to the fact how various media keep us in touch with the “ever-shifting ideas and fashions that form the currency for social discourse.”

All these simply imply that the social environment is a huge cause for why people would want to share their great experience with a product or service, other than sharing their opinions of a person. And with the widespread usage of social media, it’s not hard to stumble upon customers praising (or complaining) about a product or service.

The Second Customer

Customers who share their praises (or even complaints) are called the second customer; they basically share your content and help you gain more customer traffic. These second customers differ from your primary ones in that they don’t pay for your product or service, but rather they add to your brand value as they spread the word.

For example, Coca-cola’s marketing campaigns are adroitly focused on exploiting the social nature of people. For example, you might recall the Share-a-Coke campaign where the company created a new wrapping around the Coca-Cola bottle to say “Share a Coke with”, prompting people to reinforce or make new social connections. Another campaign was the “Happiness Machines”, which encouraged customers to do various things such as hug the machines, dance to K-Pop, and sing a Christmas carol to receive free bottles of Coke. As content marketer for Oberlo Nicole Ferreira said, “freebie[s] can hook a person in and build their loyalty,” and this is what Coca-Cola managed to pull off.

Red Bull is another great example. They launched a space mission called Red Bull Stratos that involved Felix Baumgartner jumping from near outer space to freefall 34 kilometers towards the ground and land with a parachute. During the event, YouTube set a new record with more than 8 million viewers simultaneously watching the roughly nine-minute launch, beating the previous record of 500,000 during the London Olympics. The program also set three World Records. In addition, Red Bull often associates their PR campaigns by sponsoring or partnering with athletes in extreme sports such as acrobatics, parkour, mountain biking stunts, skydiving, kitesurfing, and more. You may view all of these here. Content marketer for Oberlo Nicole Ferreira also said that “There’s no brand who can get people talking as much as Red Bull.” It’s simply inevitable for people to start talking once they witness stunts as extreme as the ones Red Bull have with their affiliates.

What’s common in all of these campaigns is how they tap into emotion. Vice President for Insight of Unruly Advertising Agency said their data shows that the number one driver in having viewers share videos the most is linked to strong emotional stimulation. And going back to the fact that humans are social beings, adding a dash of emotion to take advantage of that is what would catalyze the impact of your business’s word of mouth campaigns.

Philip Kotler, who is known to be the “father of modern marketing,” said that big companies like Coca-Cola surprisingly lower marketing costs because of the second customer as mentioned. He pointed out that it’s the customers who do the advertising more than the company does, since they are the ones who spread word of the company and its products. And so, one success indicator for your marketing campaigns is when you have customers who had such a great experience with your product or service that they’ll be compelled to share it to their peers.

So why not try implementing WOMM?

What’s there to lose? Aside from the possibility of your company failing to deliver the promise rooted in your values and products to your customers, businesses should consider investing—and maybe even focusing solely—on groundbreaking word of mouth marketing campaigns. It’s been proven to lessen marketing costs, as well as  cultivate brand engagement amongst consumers (and even employees if done the right way) and innovation amongst marketers. There’s also the reality that humans are innately social beings, and that’s something that will stay as long as we exist.

Visual by: Shyleen Ong

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