Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

How can a product survive a review like this?

Extraordinary review of a new product by an acknowledged expert:

Pogue’s review of Zune

What an example of the kind of word of mouth no one wants to get for a new product!

So, how do you avoid such negative word of mouth?

Involve people like David Pogue as consultants from the beginning, so that you can build in features that reviewers will give positive reviews to. (He probably wouldn’t do it because of the conflict of interest, but there are other people who are just as astute and practical, just not such good writers!) But, I’m afraid that’s too superficial.

The truth is, you have to have the right philosophy, viewpoint, mindset, frame of mind – whatever you want to call it. Apple has a profound respect for the customer and an deep understanding of design. Apple understands the whole Decision Experience. That’s why the iPod isn’t just a player. It’s a whole system that makes all the decisions seamless, easy, simple and fun. Everything about the music experience is made easy, elegant, even beautiful: finding, tasting (trying), refining one’s tastes, acquiring, managing, playing, sorting, etc. (except for backing up and sharing).

Microsoft, on the other hand, has a profound understanding of cut-and-try: getting something out into the marketplace, then learning from the feedback how to gradually refine it. That’s why everyone is wary of Microsoft 1.0 anything. It’s OK if you are very early in a marketplace where no one has a product or no one has a good product, but everyone wants it. In other words, fine for wild innovators, which Microsoft has long-ago ceased to be. But against Apple???!!! Particularly iPod???!!!!!! No, I don’t think so. Microsoft just doesn’t get it — particularly doesn’t understand the overwhelming power of WOM.

I trust Apple to get it right the first time, then improve it. I don’t trust Microsoft to get it right until version 3.0 at least. That’s why I’ll unhesitatingly put Apple’s new operating system on my Mac, but wait for a long time (if ever) to put Vista on my Windows machines. (Written on a Mac by an ex-windows lover)

George Silverman

Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and Consultant

Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

main website:
www.mnav.com blog: wordofmouth.typepad.com

A great example of product promotion

November 7, 2006 |  by  |  General  |  , , ,  |  No Comments

How’s this for a great product sample? It’s hilarious, but the reason I’m posting it is that it’s a great marketing example of giving out a sample in the hope it goes viral, I’m sure. As you probably know, I’m not a fan of gratuitous virality attempts, but I’m happy to participate in this one because the thing to be passed on is an actual part of the product instead of some video stunt that’s only tangentially associated with the product, just contributing buzz – otherwise known as noise – in non-word-of-mouth marketing circles.

Click on the link below, then click on the catalog (if you’re blocking Flash on websites, enable it for this site). Click on the lower right hand part of the cover of the catalog, and the pages turn, where you can sample pages from the parody catalog. A perfect way to sample, just waiting to go viral.

SkyMaul: The Catalog Parody by Kasper Hauser

George Silverman

Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and Consultant

Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

main website: www.mnav.com    blog: wordofmouth.typepad.com

Example of How to Promote a WOMworthy Product Via Word-of-Mouth Marketing: AeroPress

Here’s a great example of word-of-mouth marketing, on many levels.

Background: I’ve recently gotten into home coffee roasting. It’s a growing trend that you’re going to be hearing a great deal about. The whole home coffee-roasting phenomenon is rife with wonderful word-of-mouth examples and case studies, about which I will be posting soon. [There is a whole universe out there that every marketer can learn a tremendous amount from in the worlds of green coffee bean sellers, roasting machines (including hot-air popcorn poppers!), grinders and coffee makers. The brilliant marketing and the blunders of these people provide some amazing examples of how to market products on extremely low budgets in long-tailed, niche markets.]

Anyway, I saw a post in Josh Rubin’s Cool Hunting Blog about a coffee maker, the Aerobie AeroPress, and landed on its website. I actually did not land on its home page, but on the page referenced in the Cool Hunting Blog, which is an info page.  (Click here for the page)

Wow! It’s a masterpiece (I suspect because it is probably constructed by an amateur, probably the inventor himself. :update: see update at end). It’s better than the home page (pretty good, also) Almost the whole thing is carried by a series of testimonials, which they brilliantly call “reviews.” (I’m going to change my vocabulary over to mostly use the word “review” instead of  “testimonial.”)

There is a list of short testimonials, whoops reviews, that are extremely specific and to the point. They are sourced from an impressive bunch of people, starting with “It makes the absolute best cup of coffee I’ve tasted in my entire life.”  –Louis Singer  –Cook’s Junction. Instantly, you are – or at least I was – hooked.

Notice an important principle of word-of-mouth marketing here: your customers can say things for you that you just can’t say yourself. If the headline were, “the best cup of coffee that you’ve ever tasted,” it would be totally unbelievable. Unless, of course, it was followed by a quote, thereby giving it credibility. There follow another 15 very interesting short quotes. Some general, some specific. Some with sweeping praise, others with short stories. Study these reviews carefully. They are a living lesson on the kinds of testimonials you want to elicit, using the techniques in my book. I could spend an entire workshop on just this one page, particularly these 15 testimonials reviews.

Then, and only then, once you are hopelessly hooked if you are a coffee lover, it is followed by five very short paragraphs under the heading “There Are Several Reasons Why AeroPress Coffee Tastes So Good:”

Total immersion of the grounds in the water

results in rapid yet robust extraction of flavor.

Total immersion permits extraction at a

moderate temperature, resulting in a smoother brew.

Air pressure shortens filtering time to 20

seconds. This avoids the bitterness of long

processes such as drip brewing.

The air pressure also gently squeezes the last

goodness from the grounds, further enriching the flavor.

Because of the lower temperature and short

brew time, the acid level of the brew is much

lower than conventional brewers. Laboratory

pH testing measured AEROPRESS brew’s

acid as less than one fifth that of regular drip

brew. The low acid is confirmed by coffee

lovers who report that AEROPRESS brew is

friendlier to their stomachs.

Notice, EVERY feature followed by a benefit. Simple. Elegant. Not a wasted word. (Wish I could write like that!) Look the paragraph above. Laboratory third party proof assertion, followed by confirmation. No hype adjectives. No BS. Totally  believable. Hot damn, this is good.

Then, the question is going to be, “Well, how does it compare with my present methods?” So, a comparison of brewing methods follows, specifically telling you the shortcomings of drip brewing, espresso machines, pod brewers and French presses. These negative comparisons are not just bald, self-serving assertions, they are often put into the mouths of third parties, a.k.a. word of mouth.

Then, it tells the story of the invention of the AeroPress by Alan Adler, a Stanford University mechanical engineering lecturer who is also the inventor of the Aerobie, a Frisbee-like object that holds the record for the world’s furthest thrown object (about a quarter of a mile) and President of the Aerobie company, which has about 15 other extraordinary products.

AEROPRESS is the result of several years of applied research by inventor/engineer Alan Adler. He conducted numerous brewing experiments, measuring the brew with laboratory instruments. The experiments demonstrated that proper temperature, total immersion and rapid filtering were key to flavor excellence. He then designed and tested dozens of brewers before settling on the AEROPRESS design. The design was further validated by coffee lovers who tested prototypes in their homes. Adler has about forty U.S. patents and an equal number of foreign patents. He is President of Aerobie, Inc, Palo Alto, California and a lecturer in mechanical engineering at Stanford University. Adler’s best-known invention is the Aerobie flying ring which set the Guinness World record for the world’s farthest throw (1,333 feet).

(Notice the great example of soft-sell, inferred WOM throughout.)

Then they have a link to a list of walk-in and Internet retailers in the United States and internationally. When you go to those sites, you see other reviews, none of which is less than four stars and most of which are five stars. Furthermore, you can buy this thing for less than $30. (On an obnoxious, interruptive commercial it would be worded “not $1500 for an expensive espresso machine, not $1000, not $500, no not $250 or even $100. Yours for only one single payment of $25 plus shipping! Of course, on the AeroPress site, they only imply that it is inexpensive and let you be pleasantly surprised later.)

By the way, I learned on several of these other sites that Alan Adler participates in coffee discussion groups. Another a word-of-mouth lesson: join the discussion. I haven’t found any examples yet, but I’m sure he acts like an engineer and not a marketer: fact and evidence-based, reasonable, noticeable absence of hype, plenty of real-life examples, etc. One negative: he doesn’t have a blog yet; I’d subscribe in an instant.

Of course, I ordered it, paying a little extra at my favorite coffee site, Sweet Maria’s, so that I could take advantage of shipping efficiencies and trying a couple more examples of their extraordinary green beans. Sweet Maria’s is a wonderful example of how to differentiate your product through informational and educational enhancements. I use their example in word-of-mouth speeches all the time. More about them in some future posts.

How’s that for word of mouth? I got so excited that I’m posting about it before it even arrives! Of course, that’s several more lessons: when you get someone this excited, you better deliver the goods or you will have more than a disappointed ex-customer; you will have an angry one. Also, you can create an insanely great product in a mundane, niche market if you include all the right ingredients: On the one hand, it’s just a tube with a plunger. On the other hand, its years of dedicated experimentation, plus huge amounts of creative intelligence, plus a whole lot of other things, resulting in the extraordinary elegance and simplicity of a tube with a plunger that’s going to save me from countless horrible cups of coffee in hotel rooms. I can’t wait.

Update: Got so enthused, I spoke with their General Manager, Alex Tennant. He confirmed what I expected: Although he has an MBA in marketing, he is not a professional marketer — he runs the company. He and Alan, their engineer president, wrote all of the copy. No agencies involved. He says, ”Our aim is to create extraordinary products.“ These guys don’t have a separate marketing function. Or, to be more precise, their whole company is the marketing function: creating extraordinary products and then being straightforward in presenting them honestly, letting their products and their customers do the talking. How often does that happen? I’ve gotta meet these guys.

Further update: I’ve been using it for months now, and it’s the best coffee maker I’ve ever used. You have to get used to the taste (was a little disappointed at first) because there is absolutely no bitterness, so cream can overwhelm it unless used very sparingly. I now often drink it black, or with very little cream. Most people have never tasted really fresh-roasted coffee (between 1-7 days after roasting is the flavor peak). It’s a different experience. The problem is now that I can’t stand almost any coffee that I get anywhere else.

For the enthusiasts: As of now, my favorite is Sweet Maria’s Puro Scuro Blend green coffee (unroasted) roasted in the Behmor Coffee Roaster, then made in the AeroPress. Heaven.

Word of mouth helps people separate the good from the crap

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked in my speeches and interviews is, “Don’t all the word-of-mouth tools, such as feeds, blogs, the proliferation of other web sites, etc. cause chaos? There is so much crap out there, how do people sort it out?”

It turns out that WOM is a self-improving system (much more about this concept in upcoming posts — subscribe to this feed, I think they’re going to be spectacular!!!) People become infomediaries, screeners, reviewers, etc. Tools are developed to help people sort, filter and evaluate information and sources. We are in the beginning of the Information Revolution — the means for creating and delivery have gone through the roof (word processing, voice dictation, digital cameras on the creation side, and the web, cell phones, ebooks, etc. on the delivery side). But the means to manage these have lagged. So, Google results flood us, but we haven’t developed sufficient means for sorting out all the hits.

We are now seeing – and will continue to see at an increasing rate until the problems are sufficiently solved – a great deal of energy put into the invention of information management systems, as distinct from creation and delivery systems. These are becoming spectacularly popular, such as digg and del.icio.us. While they have been getting a lot of attention, I think their significance is underestimated.

I just stumbled upon a great one that I think will be the next very big hit: StumbleUpon

It’s an add-on to Firefox or Internet Explorer, and makes the switch from Safari to Firefox a no-brainer. It installs a toolbar and when you click on its Stumble button, it takes you to a website that fits your preferences, which you can continually adjust by rating the websites. The choices are uncannily interesting. It’s almost spooky. The selections are in your preferences (some of mine are marketing, magic, etc.) and they are the ones that are highest rated by other people. You can also rate web sites that you navigate to in the course of other browsing. It has built-in communities, ways of viewing other like-minded people’s selections, etc. It’s the most addicting thing I’ve found on the web in years: much better than digg and the others. It’s like having BoingBoing that is custom tailored to your interests. Beware, it’s highly addicting.

George Silverman

Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and Consultant

Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

www.mnav.com wordofmouth.typepad.com

WOM Lessons of Windows on Intel Mac

As I predicted, it happened. I won’t rehash
the thousands of blog posts on the subject of running
Windows on the Intel Mac. For those who haven’t
heard, and for the record, Apple announced yesterday
an official version of a program that allows Windows
to run on the newer Macs with Intel chips and they
announced that it will be built into the next update
of their operating system.

Thousands of blog posts
were instantly posted yesterday. The announcement
made the front page of the New York Times and the
front page of the second section of the Wall Street
Journal today. All of this despite the fact that
Apple virtually hid the announcement: no usual big
splash, not on the home page of their web site, buried
in their web site. This, despite the fact that it’s
one of the biggest announcements in the computer
industry in the last decade.

The reason I’m talking about it here is because
it illustrates many word of mouth and other marketing
principles, and allows us to make many predictions.

As I’ve said before here and here, there is a huge disconnect
between the word of mouth for Macs and their actual
sales. Only about 2.6% of business users use Macs.
But more than half of them say that they would switch
to Macs if they could do so painlessly.

This illustrates the principle that word of mouth
is not enough. Word of mouth is only powerful because
it gets people past the decision blocks that conventional
marketing is not effective with. Issues having to
do with experience, credibility, simplification,
subtle interpretation, reassurance, encouragement
and real-world practical nuts and bolts. Advertising,
sales people and other conventional marketing methods
do not work very well on marketing blocks that involve
these issues. Friends, colleagues, experts and advisers
are much more helpful in these areas.

Now, there is a gradual way to switch to the Mac,
as I’ve described in previous posts.

My analysis of the Mac decision map has revealed
many blocks. The biggest one is the lack of a way
to try OS X and to switch to it gradually. This new
development is important because it wipes out these
blocks.

Word of mouth ultimately wins. Blatantly inferior
products like Windows, GM and Ford cars, AT&T
and Verizon long distance telephone service ultimately
lose because information transmitted independently
through word of mouth will ultimately overwhelm (in
both credibility and quantity) slick ads. It doesn’t
matter how big the company is. Especially when those
ads are insulting to customers. (For instance, depicting
them as dinosaurs, as Microsoft does.) These were,
and are, the largest companies in the world. It doesn’t
matter. Google may be headed in the same direction.
People love telling other people about new and better
search engines, and the cost for switching is very
low. For instance, ask.com and accoona.com have been
mentioned to me many times in the last week and I’m
actively trying them out, even though I love Google.

The cost of switching to Apple has always been high,
until now.

The takeaway here is to keep your eye on the steps
that people need to go through in the decision process.
This will reveal all sorts of blocks and opportunities
that will allow you to have very high prediction
accuracy.

Oh, yes, the predictions. The necessity to reboot
when switching between OS X and Windows is a huge
block. My guess is that it will not take more than
a few weeks, given the enormous interest shown, to
develop a switching program that does not require
a reboot. In fact, it may already be here. Today’s
Wall Street Journal mentions a beta program called
Parallels that purports to do this.

I predict that GM and Ford will continue to take
themselves into deeper holes before desperation causes
them to take some very bold moves. First there will
be the corporate financial moves, which may bring
them breathing room but will do nothing for their
sales. Then there will be some dramatic product quality
moves. I have no way of predicting whether these
moves will be too little or too late. I am very pessimistic,
because the only thing that will save them is to
turn around word of mouth. But they don’t even
begin to understand what word of mouth is, as evidenced
by the Tahoe CGM campaign. They’re just using
word of mouth as another manipulation. They need
to bring in the customer by having the customer help
them design the car, not the ads. They need to openly
and transparently share their commitment and steps
to solving the product quality problems.

That’s what Apple did. They paid attention
to the enormous desire of their customers to be able
to run Windows on their Macs for the few programs
that cannot be translated to OS X. The announcement
released an almost overwhelming torrent of word of
mouth. Sales will go through the roof because the
solution is already “good enough” and
will only get better.
Another prediction: there will be an enormous fight
the other way around. People will get OS X working
on Windows boxes. This will probably unleash a gigantic
fight from Apple. While I believe that they should
have the right to attach any conditions to the sale
of their programs, this would be a mistake. They
could sell a huge number of operating systems without
the machines. This would result in huge incremental
profit. Since they always seem to be able to stay
ahead of the other machines in features, quality
and attitude, they would compete very well on the
boxes, too. But only if they stay the “good
guy” and don’t turn people against them
by coercive actions.

Give the people what they want, don’t fight
their desires and their WOM, empower them to go the
next steps and don’t set up obstacles to what
they are going to do anyway. So far, so good.

George Silverman
Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and
Consultant
Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth
Marketing

www.mnav.com      wordofmouth.typepad.com

Technorati Tags:
Word-of-mouth marketing, , , WOMM

GM revises 2005 loss to $10.6 bln after charges – Mar. 16, 2006

GM revises 2005 loss to $10.6 bln after charges – Mar. 16, 2006:

GM revises ’05 loss $2 billion higher

The automaker says actual losses were $10.6 billion; company also says it will delay its annual report due to an accounting error.

March 16, 2006: 7:27 PM EST

DETROIT (Reuters) – General Motors Corp. on Thursday revised its loss for 2005 to $10.6 billion, $2 billion more than initially reported, due to charges associated with its restructuring, the bankruptcy of its former subsidiary Delphi Corp. and its finance arm GMAC.

Over 10 Billion dollar loss last year! See what happens when you: don’t thrill the customer, engage in hype marketing and lose the WOM battle? See what happens when your top executives get a new car every few months and never have to get regular maintenance — let alone repairs — at a regular dealer? See what happens when what you experience is totally different from what your customer experiences?

See what happens when you follow Jack Trout’s advice and rely on advertising to tell your positioning story? You know, the one that no one listens to, or that no one believes?

George Silverman

Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and Consultant

Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

www.mnav.com

wordofmouth.typepad.com

Windows will now boot on a Mac

The contest for putting Windows on a Mac that I posted about here has been won. Details here.

The implications are enormous, on many levels. First of all, it shows that a desirable outcome can be encouraged by a very interesting kind of word of mouth: user, customer, consumer initiated contests or incentives.

Also, it shows that products will get modified, even if the customers don’t know how to do it themselves.

As I’ve written about before, and spoken about at the WOMMA Orlando conference, this is a very big step for Apple. Now that Windows can be run on the Mac, there is little reason for people not to switch to Macs, the clearly superior machine and operating system. They can now do so gradually, and have Windows for any custom programs (or games) they may have to run.

I hope Apple doesn’t fight this development. It’s the best thing that has happened to them since the return of Steve Jobs and the launch of the iPod & iTunes.

I will we awaiting further developments before switching. I’ll wait for some software to catch up to run natively on the MacIntel machines. Also, the Windows installation has to be simple and seamless, preferably without a re-boot. Most importantly, I have to make sure that Dragon Dictate Naturally Speaking will work on the WinMac. Since it makes calls to the chip, it is not obvious that it will work. I use Dragon to do my more lengthy writing of long articles and books. There is nothing remotely close on the Mac. Everything else is better on a Mac.

George Silverman

Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and Consultant

Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

www.mnav.com wordofmouth.typepad.com

Told You So

Told You So
I hate arrogant titles like this one, but I have been shouting about the coming implosion of Big Pharma for several years. Well, it’s here. Consider these three factoids from, again, Forbes: In the last 3 years big pharma have laid off 70,000 folks. Pfizer, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Schering Plough have lost $394 billion in market cap in the last 5 years. And, as biotech adds muscle, Amgen and Genentech are on a trajectory to pass Merck in sales by about 2009.

(More on ‘told you so.’ As the industry began to stagger, the defense mounted by most of the ‘premier’ players was … you guessed it … major mergers.)

Posted by Tom Peters | Comments?
The Tom Peters Weblog 3/9/06 12:00 PM”

(Via The Tom Peters Weblog.)

They would tell you that this is because of the pipeline drying up somewhat. It is really due to the companies spending more and more on marketing that works less and less. They need to do even more with physician-to-physician marketing. See my Open letter to Pharmaceutical CEOs.

 

Brand Autopsy: George Knocks Trout Out of the Water

Brand Autopsy

Here’s part of what John Moore had to say about the Jack Trout Forbes.com article attacking word-of-mouth marketing. Read the whole thing, here.

Jack … it’s not about you. It’s not about how you, or any one marketer or one company for that matter, can control consumers with marketing missives. It is about how consumers can help marketers spread marketing messages.

In today’s multi-channel, multi-dimensional environment, marketers cannot begin to place marketing messages everywhere consumers are. The costs do so are way too prohibitive. WE NEED HELP. WE NEED TO ENLIST THE HELP OF CONSUMERS TO HELP US. The game has changed from when and where marketing messages are delivered to HOW and WHY marketing messages are delivered. Some companies get this (Apple, YouTube, Google, Scion, Skype) and some companies don’t (AT&T).

Trout has been touting the marketing concept of positioning for over three decades now. I’ve studied his writings on the topic and I’m a firm believer in this positioning concept. But I believe that if a marketer has properly designed a positioning strategy for a product/service, WOM will not only get people mentioning the product’s name … WOM will also get people mentioning why that product/service matters. Dig?

Ya know … when it comes to meaningful words on Word-of-Mouth Marketing, Trout is a fish out of water.

Right on, John.

Technorati Tags:
Word-of-mouth marketing, , WOMMA, , WOMM

Jack Trout Attacks WOM marketing – We’ve made it!

Jack Trout attacks Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Is Word Of Mouth All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

(Via WoM Watch)

In a dazzlingly out-of-touch article for forbes.com, Jack Trout has attacked word-of-mouth marketing. This probably means that word-of-mouth marketing is now a big enough threat to the establishment that it is worthy of attack. It’s rather sad to see such a venerable old-line marketer so out of touch. It’s also sad to think that a lot of old-line companies are going to listen to him.

I usually don’t get involved in public battles and I usually let silly assertions lie, I feel compelled to answer this one because Jack is deservedly well respected and is very influential. His remarks are likely to cause many marketers who are seeking sanctuary in the comfort of the past to rally around his assertions and make some big mistakes. As the person who is often called “The Father of Word-of-Mouth Marketing” and the author of what is widely viewed as the definitive book on WOMM and as a member of the Board of Advisors of WOMMA (not speaking in any official capacity here), I anticipate many inquires about what I think. So I might as well post it right away.

I’ll try to make my reply a reminder of WOM principles, rather than a polemic.

Read his articulate column here.

I’m reminded of the oft-quoted (I wish I knew who originated it) methods for attacking innovations.

Ignore it. Say it’s trivial. Say it’s not new. Say it’s what we’ve believed and practiced all along.

In bare-bones summary, he writes:

Things are out of hand. WOM is nothing new. The only thing new is digital communications with much more noise (he says that’s good news, for some reason). People don’t really want to “chatter” about products. WOM is sometimes negative, destroying the product. Wom can’t be controlled. It’s just another tool in your arsenal. You’re going to have to continue to use advertising because you can’t buy mouths. People stop talking about you once the next big thing comes along.

You can tell things are out of hand when there is an association and highly-attended conferences all over the world.I guess advertising is really out of hand with all of the conferences it has.

We have a new dictionary of terms to learn. From the guy who coined the most overused and misused term in marketing, positioning. (I didn’t say “unimportant,” just overused and misused.) Since when is making several important distinctions and giving them precisely defined terminology a bad thing?

He goes on to say: World-of-mouth isn’t new much less “the next big thing” that WOMMA declares. A third-party endorsement of your product has always been the Holy Grail. It’s more believable. In prior days, we used to try and find the “early adapters” for a product. We figured they had big mouths and loved to tell their friends and neighbors about their new widget.

 

(Actually, it’s early “Adopters,” not “Adapters.”) What he misses is a profound difference in the modern marketplace: you don’t find them (at great expense), they find you. Then you earn their trust and permission to talk with (not at) them. You don’t bring them to your products, you bring products to your customers. Also, “third-party endorsement” as the Holy Grail defeats his point. If it’s the Holy Grail, hasn’t he just made our point? Of course, it’s the Holy Grail. That’s what we’re saying!

He goes on to cite many products that got a lot of buzz: the Segway, King Kong, the Pontiac G6. “Unfortunately, the buzz was negative.” Here, he is supporting several principles of WOMM: It’s the most powerful force in the marketplace by far, no amount of conventional marketing will overcome negative WOM, you better pay attention to negative WOM and fix it, or your product will die. His message should be: Don’t engage in gratuitous hype because in this age of empowered customers, you will be found out fast and you won’t survive the negative WOM.

“Now for the really bad news,” he writes. “There’s no way to control that word-of-mouth. Do I want to give up control and let consumers take over my campaign? No way. They aren’t getting paid based on how many widgets get sold. If I go to all this trouble developing a positioning strategy for my product, I want to see that message delivered. Buzz can get your name mentioned but you can’t depend on much else. Not too many mouths will do a stand-up commercial about your product vs. its competitor. Nor will they check with you in advance on what to say.”

This is so colossally naive and out of touch that it’s difficult to know where to start. Of course there is no way to control WOM. That’s mostly what gives it it’s credibility and power. People know that their friends and trusted advisors aren’t going to lie to them, so they believe both the truth and relevance of that they are saying.

He doesn’t want to give up control and let consumers take over his campaign? Guess what? They already have. (See my Disturbing Memo to Marketers.)

He wants to see his message delivered. In this age of fragmented media, amid the noise he laments. Good luck. Buzz (as if that’s the essence of WOM marketing; it’s not) can get your name mentioned, but you can’t depend on much else. He’s right, if you have a mediocre product for average people.

People won’t do a stand-up commercial for you? Tell that to Apple, Sony, and the countless other products that have made it on WOM, who have evangelists coming out of everywhere. Of course you can count and count on these people.

This all brings me to my word-of-mouth on word-of-mouth marketing. It’s not the next big thing. It’s just another tool in your arsenal. If you have a way to get your strategy or point of difference talked about by your customers and prospects, that’s terrific. It will help, but you’re going to have to surround it with a lot of other effort, including, if you’ll pardon the expression, advertising. You just can’t buy mouths the way you can buy media. And mouths can stop talking about you in a heartbeat once something else comes along to talk about. I certainly would never tell a CEO, “B.J., I just put a big chunk of our budget into word-of-mouth.” If you did, all I would say is “good luck”.

The overall theme here is “Marketing Warfare.” (After all, he wrote the book Marketing Warfare). He wants command and control. His sees marketing through the lens of tools in an “arsenal.” (thanks, that’s one I’d missed. I’ll add it to my old-marketing-as-warfare slides.) He wants to buy mouths like he wants to buy eyeballs, and deploy them in a strategically positioned campaign.

He’s right about several things: WOM is not the next big thing. Neither is WOMM. Not if “thing” means tool in an arsenal. WOMM is a whole different orientation. Its growing, yes overriding, importance is a consequence of the Age of Overload, where people need to cut through the crap that advertisers produce because they don’t have time to listen to self-serving “positioning” statements.

That being said, conventional marketing is not — and never will be — dead. It DOES have to be part of a careful mix. But since WOM is thousands of times more powerful than conventional marketing and spreads for free at explosive speed, everything has to be organized around wom.

No, the next big thing is not WOM. It is Decision Simplification in the Age of Overload: Making it easy for the customer to find a solution to a problem (or desire or need), sort through the BS, try successfully and use your product pleasurably. WOM contributes to Decision Simplification more than anything else. That’s why it will continue to be — as it always has been — the most powerful force in the marketplace.

Jack, I also would say to your hypothetical CEO who is dissuaded by you from committing resources to WOM, “Good Luck.”

George Silverman

Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and Consultant

Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

www.mnav.com

Update: See John Moore’s very cogent comments here. P.S. The last line was very funny, John. You just couldn’t resist.

 

A new word-of-mouth phenomenon that could shake the world

I’ve been following an interesting contest, but realized
that it has wider, Earth-shaking implications.

Here’s the contest, posted by a guy named Colin.
See if you can see its wider consequences:

“My new Apple MacBook is shipping …. I told
my boss that this would replace my IBM desktop and
I could boot Windows XP on it. I am still confident
it can be done. I am giving $100 of my own money
and offering anyone else who would like the instructions
on how to Dual boot these two operating systems the
ability to give some of their money into the pot
as a prize for the person / group that can make dual-booting
Mac OS X and Windows XP happen on an Intel Mac. Good
Luck, Colin” (Rules and other details follow) Boot
Windows XP on an Intel Duo Core Mac and Make Money

This is an example of a ‘solution contest.’ There
have been several very famous ones in the past:

  • The Wright Brothers’ first flight was
    actually part of a worldwide contest for powered
    flight (there were 3 rules: powered, controlled,
    landing the same altitude or higher). Everyone
    knew it was about to happen, and about when it
    was going to happen. It was a worldwide race.
  • During WWII, there was an “inventions needed” list
    of over 300 crucial things that we needed. Most
    of them were invented.
  • There was a Friday meeting at
    the Manhattan Project. People would get up and say
    what they needed. If anyone else knew how to do it,
    or who was likely to be able to do it, they got up
    and volunteered the information. If the solution
    was outside the project, people were flown to find
    the inventor and bring the “volunteer” back
    to Los Alamos under military escort.

Do you see the new implications of the “Windows
on an Intel Mac” contest?

It’s a “Consumer Generated
Contest.”
CGC (You
heard it here first — I’m looking for
a better name). Its implications can be HUGE. A customer
has stepped up and put up $100 into a PayPal account,
inviting others to join in and contribute. Within
a few weeks, it climbed to over $12,000, and got
worldwide coverage in the blogs and technology press.
Also, someone stands to make a lot of money from
marketing the solution itself. As I’ve written
before
, it would cause sales of Macs to multiply.

But the point is: here’s a customer who has
no vested interest other than a desire for the product,
stepping up and starting a fund for something he
wants.

I think it’s only the first and that it will
start a major trend.

This got me wondering: what would you gladly contribute
$100 or more to encourage the invention of? Don’t
be too fast to say things like, “cure for Cancer,
Diabetes, etc., solution to Global Warming, alternative
to Oil, etc.” These BIG PROBLEMS would require
almost impossible-to-define rules, the incentives
are already up and running, a PayPal pot is unlikely
to increase the motivation of people already motivated
by a variety of incentives, throwing more money of
any kind is not likely to increase the probability
of a solution. Anyone solving these problems would
get the Nobel Prize, plus plenty of others.

CGCs are for a certain type of problem:

  • Middle-level
  • Clearly definable
  • Clearly “in the sights.” Something
    we know is inevitable, imminent. We can taste it.
    Our mouths are watering. We would pre-order it
    right now on Amazon (a metaphor).
  • Something where the additional incentive pot is likely to motivate people to invest their resources in developing a solution
  • Something for which adding to the incentive
    IN ADVANCE would be attractive to a large number
    of people

They may be hacks to existing products. I would
have paid in advance for a way to defeat Verizon’s
removal of Bluetooth Dial Up Networking to my Treo
(already developed), how to defeat the inability
to program the Prius’ navigation system while
the car is moving (already posted), and many
others.

They may be accessories, new products, utilities,
etc.

Are there a lot of these? Is it worth building
a web site to encourage them?

Think about it:

What would you eagerly contribute $100
in advance to a PayPal pot to see developed?

Just to make it real, make it something that you
would actually put up the money for, right now, if
I set up the contest.

George Silverman
Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and
Consultant
Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth
Marketing

www.mnav.com””’ wordofmouth.typepad.com

Technorati Tags:
Word-of-mouth marketing, , , WOMM

How to reach the world, in six easy steps

March 1, 2006 |  by  |  General  |  , ,  |  No Comments

Word of Mouth is Nuclear Marketing, not Viral Marketing.

Word of mouth can spread at explosive rates,
not the usual “viral” rates that most
people think in terms of.

Yes, sometimes, the word spreads slowly at a very
small “infection” rate, spread by many
contacts, until it reaches a “tipping point” (see
the explanation in the endnotes of The Tipping
Point
). This is the viral model, and it can
infect an entire population pretty fast. If every
person only infects one person, there is no growth.
But if one person infects an average of 1.01 persons,
the whole world will get infected pretty fast, as
long as there is a lot of contact.

That’s the model that most word-of-mouth marketers
are stuck on.

But it’s the wrong model most of the time.
When an idea spreads initially so slowly, it’s
usually because it’s not exciting, extraordinary,
unusual, remarkable — WOMworthy. People don’t
talk about such things very much. You don’t
get spread. The idea fizzles out.

The real model is not the geometric progression
that Gladwell talks about, but the explosive model
of the nuclear “chain reaction.”

You can’t begin to understand the explosive spread
of word of mouth until you get it. This may help.
As you follow along, first remember
the Power of WOM:

  • You are exposed to thousands of
    commercial messages a week and only act on one
    or two.
  • You are likely to act on about one in 3 recommendations
    from friends, colleagues and trusted advisors.
  • Therefore,
    WOM is hundreds to thousands of
    times as powerful as conventional messages from
    advertising and salespeople.

WOM spreads at a rate that is almost unimaginable,
but let’s try:

Let’s say that 25 people tell 25 other
people about a new product.

1. That’s ONE cycle of 625 people — that’s
the Neighborhood. Now,
everyone in the neighborhood tells 25 more people.

2: 15,625 — that’s
he average Town. My town
of Nanuet, NY is about that size. So now, the whole town knows.
They each email or call 25 other new people.

3. That’s 390,625 people,
the size of a medium-sized city like
Minneapolis or Oakland. Now the whole city knows.
(Also, that’s half of all the doctors in
the country. So, it only takes three cycles to
reach all of
the doctors who write substantial amounts of prescriptions!)
Now, the whole city emails their 25 friends in
other cities.

4: Now we have 9,765,625, the
size of a Megalopolis like
New York. Now, everyone emails 25 more people.

5: That reaches 244,140,625 people, roughly the
adult population of the United States.

6: That’s 6,103,515,625, the
population of the entire WORLD

So, to market to all doctors, or to an entire city,
you only need three cycles
of 25 people telling 25 people! In the pharmaceutical
industry, all you would need is 25 clinical investigators
telling 25 super-specialists, telling 25 specialists
or generalists, and you’ve got it covered,
with multiple hits from trusted colleagues instead
of distrusted salespeople. That’s why I wrote
the letter to Pharmaceutical CEOs that’s getting sent
around and why that letter will make a major impact.

To reach everyone in the US, all you need is five
cycles. Actually, 3 or 4 cycles are all you really
need to reach everyone who is worth reaching, multiple
times. Realize that these aren’t the usual “hits” from
advertising. These are meaningful conversations among
trusted friends, who have no reason to lie to each
other.

Now, I realize that in real life there are many
duplicates, creating the impression that “everyone
is talking about it,” — which they are —’ making
action even more likely.

So, rather than a mathematical table, think in terms
of the Silverman Six Easy Steps to Reach
the World
:

25 X 25…

Neighborhood’ > Town > City > Megalopolis > Country > World.

For the mathematically inclined:

  1. 25 2 = 625 ——————– Neighborhood
  2. 253 = 15,625——————Small
    town — Pearl River, NY
  3. 25 4 = 390,625—————Medium
    City — Minneapolis
  4. 255 = 9,765,625————-Megalopolis
    — NYC
  5. 256 = 244,140,625———-US Population
  6. 257 = 6,103,515,625——- World
    Population

This is pretty astounding, and worth passing on: So, can I get 25 of you to pass this on to 25 people? 😉

George Silverman
Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and
Consultant
Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth
Marketing

www.mnav.com””’ wordofmouth.typepad.com

Technorati Tags:
Word-of-mouth marketing, , WOMM

An amazing Word-of-Mouth disconnect

January 23, 2006 |  by  |  General  |  , , ,  |  No Comments

Just got back from the WOMMA WOMBAT (Word of Mouth Basic Training) conference. 450 people! It was great. More about it later. But I just had to post this:

I gave a presentation to a standing-room-only crowd. Very flattering. But I digress.

In the course of the presentation, I said, apropos of a recent post that if WOMwere everything, we’d all be using Macs. Think about it: the best word of mouth in the
whole universe, and about a 4% market share. I asked how many people
had Macs. About half of the people raised their hands. Then
I asked, “Of the Windows people, how many would like to switch
if it weren’t for the expense and trouble of switching?”
Virtually ALL said yes! Wow. What’s wrong with this
picture?

Apple has done a magnificent job of creating the reasons to switch, but failed to provide a simple, easy way to switch. It’s like England trying to get everyone to drive on the right side of the street, gradually. Can’t be done.

Some things can’t be done gradually, but MUST be done gradually or they are perceived as too painful. The switch from Windows to Mac is one of these for the average computer owner. Virtual PC is too slow and doesn’t work for many programs, such as my favorite, Dragon Dictate Naturally Speaking 8. So, even though I’ve switched, I have to maintain a Windows machine to write my books and articles.

Until now. If Apple will encourage developers to develop a simple operating system switcher (they exist now on the Windows platform) that will allow people to switch between Windows and OS X, people will be able to buy a Mac, install Windows and have a Windows machine just as if they bought a Dell. Then they could switch gradually, starting with the browser and mail client, which would get the Windows side of the machine off the internet. Now, they have a Windows machine that is unsusceptible to viruses, spyware, malware, etc. They can switch the other programs gradually and see much easier each application is on a Mac.

Apple probably won’t do this. But their customers will. And in the new, new marketing, the customer is in control. As long as Apple doesn’t sabotage the ability of its new Intel machines to operate Windows, we will see all of this pent up desire to switch cause a major shift.

Of course, there are a whole lot of other things that Apple needs to do (none of them that hard compared to what they have already done), in order to get a wholesale switch from Windows to Mac.

The lesson: Even when there is a major pent-up demand created by word of mouth, the mechanisms have to exist to switch to it easily.

George Silverman

Word-of-Mouth Marketing Consultant

Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

www.mnav.com wordofmouth.typepad.com

Technorati Tags:
Word-of-mouth marketing, , WOMMA,

Word of Mouth isn’t everything in marketing

January 10, 2006 |  by  |  General  |  ,  |  No Comments

Some word-of-mouth marketers are acting as if word of mouth is the be-all and end-all. It is not. If it was, Apple would be the dominant computer; we’d all be using Tivos and Betamaxs, Leica cameras and many other revered products. Also if stunt marketing were really word-of-mouth marketing and Word-of-Mouth Marketing was totally effective , we’d all be eating KFC [as if subservient chicken was marketing at all] and Jib-Jab and Moveon.org would have gotten Bush defeated.

Stunt marketing is not word of mouth, and it isn’t even viral marketing. It’s just the old PR stunts. But now, we have the Internet to transmit it. Buzz is still just noise. Tongues wagging is just motion without traction.

So what, if anything, is the be-all and end-all?

Content rules. You still have to have a big idea, differentiate it in a meaningful and beneficial way and have a product that is extraordinary in a way that people will talk about. Then you analyze the decision process, find the blocks and encourage people to talk about the things that are holding people back.

People who don’t keep this in mind are going to get the wrong ideas about word of mouth from the upcoming WOMMA WOMBAT conference. They are going to get over-whelmed by techniques and lose the substance. I’m about to post some ideas for how to sort it all out. Stay tuned.

George Silverman

Word-of-Mouth Marketing Consultant

Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

www.mnav.com wordofmouth.typepad.com

Technorati Tags:
Word-of-mouth marketing,

Standards of advertising vs. word-of-mouth marketing

September 17, 2005 |  by  |  General  |  , ,  |  No Comments

What are the standards for judging advertising? I say that advertising has one overriding standard: how much it increases the likelihood that someone will buy the product. In other words, advertising is first and foremost a selling medium, not an entertainment medium. Obviously, entertaining advertising tends to be watched and talked about. That’s why entertainment tends to creep in as a standard of advertising. Most of the time, professionals and amateurs judge advertising for its entertainment value. No. As an old ad said many years ago for an advertising agency, “it ain’t creative unless it sells.”

How does advertising sell? Advertising primarily sells by dramatizing the product’s most important, differentiating benefit. That’s what advertising does best, and better than any other medium. Think about it. All the great ads bring to life in a memorable, exciting, strikingly impressive, often larger-than-life way, the central benefit of the product — the thing the product will do for you that no other product will do as well. So, the advertisement or commercial leaves you with the impression of the product as being better in a way that will make you better in some way. Often, this dramatization is extremely creative and entertaining, but that is not the primary purpose. It is a fatal mistake to confuse creative dramatization of benefit with entertainment. Proper dramatization is almost always entertaining. But presenting the product in an entertaining way is not always beneficial to the sales of the product.

Almost all advertising awards and polls of popular commercials fall victim to this confusion, particularly around Super Bowl time.

I attended the U.S. Open tennis championship recently in Flushing Meadows, and have been also following it on television. There are some instructive marketing and advertising lessons and reminders.

First, let’s talk about the “product” itself, then turn to the advertising.

First, it’s not about the “product.” It’s all about the customer experience. It was a delight from beginning to end. I have been reading that there was a conscious effort to turn this into “Disneyland with nets.” Meaning, I suppose, turning it into an amazingly surprising customer experience. They succeeded. Clearly marked signs, ultra friendly policemen, friendly parking attendants. And that’s before we even got in. Then, hosts/hostesses in straw hats, comfortable seating, fun stuff on the Jumbotron, blue courts for visibility, allowing spectators to keep balls accidentally hit into stands, each winner hitting three autographed balls into the stands, specialty foods, etc. It seems that every single area, from the broadest picture of the stadium design and setting itself to the smallest detail has been looked at and rethought with customer delight and word of mouth in mind. So, it’s an excellent example of one of the secrets of word of mouth marketing: design your product for the “Wow!” that will get talked about.

Word of mouth marketing has even reached the sports stadium in the form of consciously creating a customer experience that will get people to talk. I keep meeting people who have just been to Flushing Meadow and can’t stop raving.

Let me ask you, What are you doing at the micro and macro level to create customer delight. Are you making them say “Cool,” “awesome,” “ holy s—t!”

Television coverage has also been wonderful. The camera people and announcers are just amazing. McEnroe in particular. He has a noticeable absence of many of his past unendearing attitudes. He and Tracy Austin seemed to be bending over backwards to emphasize the positive aspects of everything they are reporting upon.

The advertising, particularly the TV commercials, on the other hand, are terrible. They are so repetitive I could scream. I had to switch over to TiVo to take advantage of the lag time. The Andy’s Mojo press conference commercial for American Express is one of the worst I’ve ever seen, although it has been widely hailed by the advertising community as a big winner. Why is it so terrible? Read on.

They have nothing to do with the product, much less the benefits of the product, much less the dramatization of the most important benefit of the product. They are clearly designed to create buzz without creating word of mouth. Word of mouth is the recommendation of the product from customer to potential customer. Buzz is just getting people to talk. Why would anybody apply for an American Express card or use their existing card more as a result of this commercial? The commercial contributes nothing to the perceived benefits of the American Express card or American Express is a company, except perhaps to show the American Express is hip and with it.

The American Express Gold card “first date” commercial, on the other hand is excellent. It’s a telephone call from a man buying tickets for a first date from, apparently, an American Express ticket agent. The person makes several suggestions for events that the person could take his date to. It not only demonstrates an unusual degree of customer orientation and friendliness, but emphasizes the primary benefits of the Gold card, even listing them in text: great seats for great events, early on sale tickets, seats exclusively for you. In other words, if you get to Gold card, you have access to tickets that you would not otherwise have access to. In other words, if you get the American Express Gold card you will have advice and access to tickets you would not be able to get otherwise. The commercial could be improved by making it clear who the person is talking to and by making the benefits less jargonny and clearer. But the benefits are there. The contrast between the two American Express commercials could not be greater. The Roddick Mojo commercials are a pathetic attempt at alternative advertising without any understanding of how customers make decisions. The Gold card commercials are old-fashioned slice of life benefits commercials that do the job.

There will be a big run on US Open tickets next year. I suggest that you get an American Express Gold card so that you can get better tickets early! Now, why didn’t they have a commercial about that in the middle of the Open?

The lessons here are that the creation of buzz for its own sake is fruitless. Word-of-mouth without product benefits, as is the case with most viral and buzz marketing today, is fruitless. Advertising that does not emphasize product benefits and give people a reason to buy is fruitless. Getting clients to spend their money on fruitless “cool” stuff borders on the criminal.

George Silverman

Word-of-Mouth Marketing Consultant

Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

www.mnav.com wordofmouth.typepad.com


Technorati Tags:
Word-of-mouth marketing, ,

Advertising Can Kill Word of Mouth!

Consider this:

1. You are exposed to thousands of ads and commercials a month and only act on a very small handful.
2. You are likely to act on about one in 3-5 recommendations from friends.
3. Therefore, WOM is hundreds to thousands of times as powerful as advertising.

OK, that’s the power. Now, how about the spread?

If 25 people tell 25 people 6 times, it’s the entire population of the world!
Once 25 x 25 = 625
Twice x 25 = 15.625
3x x 25 = 390,635
4x x 25 = 9,765,625
5x x 25 = 244,140,625 (order of magnitude of pop. of US!)
6x x 25 = 6,103,515,625 (population of the WORLD!)

Obviously, this assumes that no one tells someone who has already heard. In real life, there are many duplicates, creating the impression that “everyone is talking about it,” — which they are — making action even more likely.

So, while WOM can spread at viral rates of 1.1 times, successful WOM campaigns are explosive. Gladwell and everyone else got the math wrong. It’s not viral marketing, it’s nuclear marketing. Advertising (at least print) has miniscule pass-along rates. Broadcast commercials have none. Successful WOM is not only explosive, but thousands of times more powerful.

So, why would you ever want to kill WOM? Yet, that’s precisely what saturation advertising and sales campaigns do. Past a certain point of creating initial awareness, if advertising and other traditional marketing efforts are perceived as saturation campaigns — as they are with virtually all new drugs, for instance — they kill WOM. Why, especially when we always thought that good advertising stimulates and complements WOM?

Because people tell other people about things they think they don’t know about. If you tell someone about something that they already know about, you look stupid. So, for instance, a doctor is not going to tell another doctor about a drug that he/she already knows about. In other words, people stop talking about things that are no longer news. Certainly something that is getting saturation exposure is not going to get talked about.

I’ve been designing WOM campaigns for more than 35 years, yet only understood this in the last few years. It’s always been very hard to get WOM going when my client is sending salespeople around, sampling heavily, giving out coupons and taking double page spreads in every magazine in sight. My smaller clients have always done much better, and I never knew why.

So, advertising is not only increasingly ineffective, it is destructive to sales, even if it is increasing sales, and everyone is thrilled. It may be the case that if less advertising were done, more and better WOM campaigns could do much better.

Saturation advertising has other negative consequences. These days, it causes people to wonder, “If their product is so good, why do they have to keep reminding me?” and “Why are they wasting so much money on advertising? Why can’t they put the money into improving their product?”

Jeff Bezos of Amazon has the right idea. He has always found (he’s actually tested) that money put into surprising people with free shipping and other service improvements has a much better return than advertising (which also has a return, but much less).

The ad people will say, “Oh yeah, prove it.” I can’t, yet. The data I have can’t be released. So, at the moment, my case has to rest on common sense and experience.

If the WOM community can develop and release data, it would be devastating. So far, we are making the case that WOM is more powerful, spreads faster, and is a lot cheaper. But if clients saw that they were potentially killing the Golden Goose, instead of hedging their bets by running parallel traditional campaigns, the whole world of marketing would open up. In fact, I think that today’s savvy consumer would realize that ads are for me-too, unremarkable products, and that no product that was worth talking about would be wasting their time and money on saturation ads.

Am I saying, “Avoid all advertising and other traditional promotion.”? No. Advertising should compliment WOM (WOM being the primary medium). Ads shoud give testimonials, stories and other WOMworthy content. Ads should stimulate customers to talk to other customers, reminding them how happy their friends will be after they get the kind of demo, for instance, that only a friend can give. So, the right kind of advertising can support the WOM and be subservient to it. No ad should ever be considered that doesn’t contribute to WOM.

Now, I’ve done it. I won’t even be able to walk down Madison Avenue.

George Silverman,
President, Market Navigation, Inc.
Author, “The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing.”
wordofmouth.typepad.com
www.mnav.com

Technorati Tags:
Word-of-mouth marketing, ,