The power of word of mouth marketing

You may have already seen our article in ‘My Customer’ discussing the importance of experiential marketing to drive word of mouth. In this piece Jill Pinner, Chairman of Fizz discusses the power of word of mouth and how brands can effectively use this to their advantage to increase sales. But in case you didn’t, here’s the full article:

One of the most powerful forms of marketing is arguably the oldest – word of mouth. In a matter of seconds people have the power to destroy or promote a brand. Recent research conducted by Google and Ogilvy substantiates this with findings showing that consumers are more influenced by word of mouth when making purchasing decisions than by print media, TV, movies and brand websites.

Though brands have always been conscious of consumer power of recommendation, developments in digital technology and the rise in smartphone ownership have ignited the use of brand advocates and word of mouth from social shoppers. Today word of mouth marketing is executed across a number of mediums such as Twitter, online forums, blog posts and reviews. Brands now therefore need to not only engage directly with customers, but to have these customers talking about them through their social channels.

The need is now greater than ever before for brands to invest time and money in building strong relationships with their customers. By ensuring a customer is happy and has had a good experience, that person is far more likely to refer friends, family and colleagues to use a product or service. In my opinion this can only be successfully achieved through face-to-face interaction, therefore brands must invest time and money into this approach.

Experiential activity is a popular marketing tool which can foster positive word of mouth recommendations. It results from a consumer’s direct experience with a product or service, with most success achieved when that experience deviates from what’s expected. For example, earlier this year PepsiCo launched its ‘Unbelievable’ campaign which saw the brand install an augmented reality bus shelter on New Oxford Street. The intervention locates a special real-time display on the exterior face of a billboard wall, which visualises a realistic augmented live stream of exaggerated events from the inside – from a giant robot crashing through the road’s brickwork to a passerby being abducted by flying saucers, the interactive experience creates unusual scenarios on the street.

Yet the part of the campaign that clearly stood out was the Vine element – fans were asked to submit their own six second Vines doing unbelievable things, using the hashtag #LiveForNow. The best videos were then displayed on Pepsi billboards across the capital. This is a great example of the potential of social media to spread a brand’s message, and in this case, the power of a brand letting consumers becomes part of the campaign.

Another brand which has successfully leveraged word of mouth marketing through social media is Nestlé. To rejuvenate the Kit Kat brand amongst 16 – 24 year olds, the brand allowed customers to vote via social media for their favourite new flavour of the company’s Kit Kat Chunky chocolate bar. By successfully leveraging social media for the Kit Kat brand, Nestlé UK was able to induce positive word of mouth through the development of consumers who served as brand advocates.

Brand advocates are crucial for any brand and by rewarding die-hard fans brands can create ‘brand influencers’ who will ultimately spread the word. Last year fashion retailer Asos launched ‘AccessAllAsos’ aimed at letting people with a passion for Asos “get closer” to the retailer, rewarding them for being advocates with freebies and exclusive discounts. In return the retailer found these advocates began tweeting outfits and blogging about new products on the site.

Consumers have become over-whelmed by product choices and have started to zone out of the ever-growing barrage of traditional marketing, yet word of mouth cuts through the noise quickly and effectively. It is a key facet of promoting both brands and events, whilst the power of social media means that word of mouth is more important than ever before and brands must take note.