Posts Tagged ‘Word of Mouth’

An interesting word-of-mouth technique shows the darker side of word of mouth

First, I have to make a disclaimer. I am not advocating the following, I am reporting on it because it is interesting and illustrates several important properties of word of mouth.

Let’s call it hoax marketing:

Here’s the way it works:

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How not to write an email

Don’t you just love all the emails you get that say…

Please do not reply to this email. This e-mail has been sent to you automatically and is not capable of handling responses.

… without giving you a selection of addresses to reply to? Or, without actively asking for feedback, questions, any other way we can be of help?

It’s another example of Knowledge Blindness, plus the lack of a customer mindset.

What’s the big deal? After all, the one that sparked this was only an email confirming the sign-up of my iPad and my iPhone on Optimum Online’s wonderful WiFi hotspot network, an amazing partnership with TimeWarner and others to bring free WiFi hotspots to their customers.

I’ll bet you are doing the equivalent, in many other ways, in other media — missing opportunities to serve the customer, falling into unfriendly, perfunctory formality. I’m sure I am. I just haven’t found them all — yet. But I keep looking. Are you? Take a look. If you can’t find one a day for the next two weeks, you’re either not looking, have a really bad case of Knowledge Blindness or I should be taking lessons from YOU.

  • Where are you missing opportunities to:  
    • Ask for specific suggestions
    • Tell people how to reach you (without looking it up or even clicking)
    • Ask for feedback
    • Give them a tip
  • Did you send out any communications without surprising the recipient with something unexpectedly, remarkably beneficial to THEM?
  • Did you send out any mundane communications that contributed to their boredom?
  • Did you think for a moment that you’re contacting a friend, and while you’re at it, it would be nice to…

Whoops, I almost missed an opportunity:

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions that you want to communicate privately, my private email is: grs at mnav dot com. Any other comments, let’s hear them below.

Windows applications on Macs without Windows

Update: So far, the following prediction was wrong. [See the update at the end] I still think that it will be true, when Apple finally gets around to making their Leopard announcements. It was a big disappointment to not hear anything about Mac at MacWorld Expo. Maybe instead of renaming Apple Computer to Apple (which was one of their “big” announcements at MacWorld), they should rename MacWorld Expo to iWorld or iPod Expo. Did they forget about the Mac?

I have long been writing and speaking about the Mac as the product that has the worst word of mouth to sales ratio, probably in the history of marketing. In other words, it probably has the best word of mouth of any present product. Yet, as of this writing, it only has 7% of the computer market. I often use it as an example of the fact that we have to curb our enthusiasm when we start talking about word of mouth overriding all other marketing considerations. In this case, what is holding back Mac is the perceived anticipation of a great deal of pain in switching, together with the fact that Windows programs will not work directly on a Mac without a great deal of inconvenience, such as rebooting or using other programs such as Parallels or Crossover to switch back and forth.

Here are my predictions: Next week, on Tuesday, January 9th at MacWorld, Steve Jobs will announce that the new Mac operating system called Leopard, OS X 10.5, will directly run Windows applications without needing Windows. That’s right, you will be able to install and run any Windows program directly into the Mac without having a copy of Windows on the machine! [Update: they made NO Leopard announcements!]

This will be the biggest announcement in the computer industry in the last decade or two.

I further predict that, if and when it occurs, this will produce the biggest word-of-mouth blowout in history. Combine the pent up positive word of mouth of the Mac with the negative word of mouth toward Microsoft, Windows, XP, Vista, the Windows PC makers like Dell, viruses, adware, spyware, malware, etc. and you have an explosive combination. This will be the most interesting test in years of the unleashing of word of mouth. It will demonstrate to the entire marketing community what happens when you follow my marketing approach of Blockbusting: find the  decision blocks, bust ’em up, and you will see exponential growth.

I have been following Technorati and Google searches for months now to see if anyone appreciates what is about to happen. While I’m not the first to predict Windows apps running natively on the Mac, there are very, very few of us making that extreme prediction. Most are predicting some kind of hybrid, virtualization solution.

To my knowledge, I’m the only one predicting the landslide success of Mac in the next year. It probably won’t be immediate, but as the snowball gains momentum, it will grow exponentially. First, people will need the word of mouth of infomediaries  like David Pogue and Walter Mossberg, plus their own friends nad colleagues — particularly the non-technical — to see that it actually works, even with legacy programs. Assuming that it does work for the non-technical, it will throw the Mac into production problems, especially when the Vista virus and other problems start spreading.

By the way, I was among the first to predict that a way would be found to get Windows to work on the then-new Intel Mac. It caused a lot of WOM among the tech savvy and a lot of sales, but not among the corporate people who would have to use it seamlessly at work. Now they can. Now we’ll find out that a lot of corporate IT people have Macs at home.

Advanced congratulations to Steve Jobs and the entire Apple team. You’ve finally completed the chain. (You now need my consulting to figure out how to handle the tornado.) [Update: There was an immediate crescendo of boos after the non-announcements of anything Leopard, Mac, iLife, iWork, etc., or even anything computer, except to take out “Computer” from their name]


Well, I was wrong about the announcement, but I stand by the fact that this is the biggest WOM disparity in the history of marketing, just waiting for an explosion.

[The only other time I was wrong was in 1972, when I had thought I had made a mistake! 😉 Brings to mind the quote from George Bernard Shaw, “The longer I live, the more I see that I am never wrong about anything, and that all the pains I have so humbly taken to verify my notions have only wasted my time.”]

I also think it would be the smartest thing that Apple could ever do. In fact, the best other thing that they could do is make OS X work on PCs. Sure, they’d lose a few Mac sales, but make it up on software sales. If they announced one or the other this month, they could get a lot of the Vista sales, and a lot of the sales of new boxes with Vista on it.

Now, I’ll just have to buy an Intel Mac MacBook and try Crossover, which purports to do just what I predicted, but with an additional program, still without windows. Failing that, I’ll use Parallels, but will have to run Windows. [In case you’re wondering, I want to run Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 (which I maintain a separate Windows machine just to use) and Delorme’s Street Atlas. There are no comparable Mac programs. For everything else I’ve found, the Mac equivalents are far better.]

Update July, 2005: Got an Intel Mac (MacBook Pro) in May, tried Crossover and Parallels, which didn’t work properly with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. However, VMWare Fusion works like a charm with Windows XP and Dragon.  Parallels had all sorts of quirks with the USB headset and froze up constantly. Crossover wouldn’t work at all. With VMWare Fusion, it can now see my Plantronics Audio 500 headset perfectly, and the accuracy is well over 99% and getting better all the time.

It even works perfectly with my Olympus D-30 recorder, even in noisy environments like a car. I’m about to try it in an airplane. I can dictate on my daily walk, into a tiny recorder and have a new section of my new book, a blog post, article or whatever a few minutes after I get back.

The only problem is that I still have to use Windows. Now that I’ve been away from it for almost 2 years, I’m shocked by how amateurish it is. Also using Word 2007 to dictate into and I’m amazed at how bad the interface is. While there are a few minor improvements, they have further buried many of the most-used functions and won’t let them go on the custom bar. 5 clicks to change a template when it’s 2 clicks on the Mac version of 2004? What is with Microsoft? Their word of mouth gets worse and worse. Vista is almost totally rejected by sophisticated users. Their sales are on new machines. If Apple could come up with a way to seamlessly allow people to upgrade to OS X in their present machines, they would take over the market.

But it has to be seamless because fear trumps word of mouth, unless the word of mouth is addressing itself to the fear. But people can’t say yet that the conversion is easy for an ordinary, non-computer-savvy person to do. I don’t care how easy VMWare Fusion is, people need a simple way to switch, with Fusion built in and automatic conversion.

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
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
, 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

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

They may be accessories, new products, utilities,

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
Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth

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