February 1, 2015

Word of Mouse - Are You Facilitating and Promoting it?

"Word of Mouse" is a phrase used by  Philip Kotler in his description of interactive marketing in 13th edition of his book "Marketing Management".  More about it.

Word of mouse is the online version of ‘word of mouth’ – the wide, user-driven spread of a message or communications agent. This is also being termed as ‘viral’, and its use online by businesses is often referred to as online viral marketing.

Advertisers are finding new ways to get consumers to buy into their brand and buy their products as there is clutter in the traditional media.

In particular, forward-thinking brands are using a specific viral marketing approach that generates widespread awareness and ultimately sells more. It features advertainment content.

This word-of-mouse approach is user-driven rather than advertiser controlled.  Its messages (and the brand behind it) are endorsed by influencers and consumers. Its agents are seeded via editorial, not advertising routes. It has no campaign cut-off point and it provides an ever-increasing return on investment. Yet, it also integrates well with traditional marketing, to give brands the best of both  approaches – ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’.

The most successful use of viral marketing is not stand-alone, but as an integrated part of a brand’s overall strategy. Its point is to create buzz and provide help in building brands, but other marketing and sales techniques have to follow.

Its main strategic purposes are the following.

To maintain or boost a cost-effective level of brand awareness during media-spend ‘downtime’, usually by releasing web-only viral material that retains brand and campaign themes.
To kickstart new communications – which often means releasing a web-first viral edit of a mainstream ad before it hits TV, to create buzz and exploit exclusivity.
As a stand-alone tool for brands that either cannot afford above-the-line marketing, or require only online
distribution to a widespread target group.

To leverage the word of mouse channel, a  story should be told in different way, i.e. in  a way appropriate to the peer-to-peer and file-sharing activities web users engage in.

So, understanding the place of word-of mouse in the overall mix and using it strategically rather than tactically, within the context of web users’ behaviour, are key to success of this approach.

Virgin Mobile and Mazda, have undertaken number of online viral campaigns.

Facilitating word of mouse involves developing a buzz angle, gaining influencer advocacy, and seeding campaign news and the viral agent (usually an ‘advertainment’ video clip) on the most influential, specialist seed routes – as core editorial, not advertising, content.

Unlike finite-period online ad campaigns, which target a brand’s core market, viral marketing aims to enable
the buzz and the viral agent to reach the widest possible number of online users (among which any brand’s target market lies). The approach  kickstarts buzz and viral spread – then it is up to users, who become brand advocates and free media channels as they pass the viral agent around via email, providing valuable  peer-to-peer brand endorsement.

Mazda and Virgin Mobile use our online tracking system to measure viral spread and user interaction with their brands beyond the initial seed routes, to quantify the impact of viral marketing on brand awareness. The main difference in their use of our approach is strategic.  Mazda’s activity is driven by and integrated with CRM activity; Virgin Mobile’s falls within the remit of its brand marketers. Both brands emphasise the importance of using viral seeding and developing creative strategies that ensure the material is appropriate for online audiences.

The results speak for themselves. Mazda’s ‘Parking’ campaign was rated the number one viral campaign of 2003 by Campaign in the UK and Germany, and delivered a measurable response from over one million
web users within only eight weeks.

James Kydd, Virgin Mobile’s brand director, claimed that viral marketing was used strategically,  as a key part of overall  marketing mix and it had made a big impact on the brand exposure for a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing methods in 2003.

If you get the approach right, word-of-mouse can be an extremely valuable addition to brand marketing. And if, as  Malcolm Gladwell said in The Tipping Point, ‘The most powerful selling of products and ideas takes place not marketer to consumer but consumer to consumer’, then bottom-up, peer-to-peer driven techniques like viral marketing need to be effectively used.

How Not to Ruin Your Social Media Campaigns




2013, 2014

Marc Ostrofsky - Book Word of Mouse

New Advertising Alternatives - 12 October 2013


Planned Revision schedule for marketing chapters is in February and March

Updated 1 Feb 2015, 2 July 2014

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