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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Takeaways from the International Word of Mouth Conference

Last week two conferences about the future of marketing were held -- the giant annual Association of National Advertisers (ANA) conference in Phoenix, and the first International Word of Mouth Conference in Hamburg, Germany, which I attended and spoke at.

While the ANA conference sounded the alarms for new ways to connect with consumers amid an increasingly fragmented world, the WOM conference showed how to do just this.

Here are some highlights from the WOM conference.

WOM is a discipline with proven ways to research, plan, target, test and measure. Fergus Hampton of Millward Brown laid out the most cogent strategic approach to moving brands from “talk at me brands” to “talked about” brands. I especially liked Fergus’ example of religion as word-of-mouth at its most effective.

Content: WOM is about engaging the customer, and this can be done through experiences, ideas, and beliefs. “What starts WOM are ideas,” said Steven Erich from Crispin Porter. “Ideas also need to be killed to make room for new ideas. “ Jaap Favier of Forrester, noted that we remember 10% of what we read, 15% of what we hear, and 80% of what we experience.

Style: WOM must be authentic, truthful, provide value, and use a human voice. One of my presentations talked about the need to make meaning, not buzz, and that meaning making requires context, relevancy and honest emotion. Meaning making, done right, builds trust.

Influencers drive WOM: Alex Macris of The Themis Group, who presented with game producer Scott Foe of Nokia, explained the secrets to marketing to influencers, who he calls “superconductors”: respect their power, build relationships, accelerate their experience, and offer them status. Inus Hwang of Azooma Marketing Lab in South Korea showed how effectively engaging a community 200 women has accelerated the national adoption of new products at a fraction of the cost of TV advertising. (1/13th the cost in one of her cases.)

Internal WOM: Euan Semple of the BBC talked about the value of using blogs internally to more openly share ideas, problems and opinions. “When you get people talking internally you’re less likely to make mistakes and more likely to create better things,” he said. Added Hugh MacLeod, “How you talk internally affects how people talk externally.” Hugh thinks that you need to create an environment where internal people can have more open, frank real conversations before you can have genuine external conversations. He pointed to the example of how Robert Skoble of Microsoft has changed the internal conversations within the company and affected the company’s culture.

New Research: Several academics presented new research on WOM.
Today, just 3.4% of WOM conversations are stimulated by a company’s marketing efforts; and a whopping 77% is through face-to- face conversations. Walter Carl, Assistant Professor of Communications Studies, Northeastern University.

Netnography, with its ethnographic roots, can provide valuable insights in how to communicate with and influence consumers, and glean message themes, according to Kristine De Valck of HEC University in Paris.

Visualization of data can pinpoint influencers in WOM communities, according to Suresh Sood, University of Technology in Sydney. He presented a project where he was able to identify 25 influencers among 65,000 people through visualization of mobile phone calling patterns.

The value of positive and negative online consumer reviews differ based on the product type, said Shahana Sen of Farleigh Dickinson University. Her research shows that 61% people rate negative reviews as useful for utilitarian products. But for hedonic products (books. CD’s, etc.) just 28% rated negative reviews as useful

How do you establish consumer advocacy? A University of Queensland study presented by Sam Friend of Wotif.com showed that customer identification is the most important antecedent to consumer advocacy, more than consumer satisfaction or trust.

My favorite takeaway from the conference were two remarks by Hugh MacLeod:

“The market for something to believe in is infinite.”
“To control the conversation, improve the conversation."

Now there’s something for marketers to talk about as they plan next year's strategy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Market disruption is one technique, but most products and brands don't disrupt - they're simply good.
Anyone who has run a business will tell you that referrals and testimonials lead to sales.
Anyone who has friends will be able to recall at least one product recommendation they've made.
Word of mouth works. The difficulty is in getting more recommendations than if you left people to do it on their own. I'm keeping the recipe to myself.

5:00 PM  

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