A Three-Letter Word Called WOM

During my discussion with the media agency, I was exposed to a new word ‘WOM’. Being familiar with a few three-letter acronyms, this one took me by surprise. On digging deeper, the real meaning of WOM became clearer. According to the agency, WOM or ‘word of mouth’ was a growing tool to influence consumers about brands. Having been a diehard fan of Amazon reviews for the last 10 years, the concept of WOM resonated with me on a personal level; however, I was unsure of its use as a marketing tool.

The agency went on to share that an average consumer is exposed to between 1,000 to 3,000 brand messages in a day. Therefore, consumers tend to have less trust in advertising from  faceless organisations vs. recommendations from real people. This finding is corroborated in the 2009 Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries, where acquaintances or opinions posted by consumers online (like Amazon.com) are the most trusted forms of advertising.

Encouraged by this potential of WOM marketing, we decided to set up a test and learn from a brand that we had recently launched. Our target audience were women between the age of 28 and 35 who were looking to enhance their beauty via contact lenses. To run this project, we decided to partner with BeautyHeaven.com.au, an Australian website that provides a platform for women to share information about beauty and health products. The website has over 40,000 members and a database with over 70,000 consumer reviews.

The key objective of the test and learn two fold. First, we wanted to seed concept of the brand and monitor the conversations around it. Second, we wanted to encourage members to try the brand and share their experience with the community via a competition. Fortunately, the editor of the website was a user of our brand and was happy to kick off the discussion forum on the website and announce the competition. The winning review was decided by the votes of the website members.

The WOM test and learn generated around 15 reviews and 50 entries to the competition. More importantly, this activity generated the following learning to help define the role of WOM in our long-term marketing strategy:

1. Create emotional conversations: Emotions are at the heart of a WOM campaign. Emotional conversations are a lot more valuable vs. neutral feedback since it gives you an opportunity to understand what consumers are really saying about your brand to their friends and family.

3. Go beyond the reviews: The reviews generated through the WOM activity are very useful for your future marketing campaigns. With 70 percent of the consumer trusting content on the brand websites, having consumer reviews on the brand site is a great way to answer questions and provide reassurance. Agencies like Bazaarvoice can help integrate and channelise these conversations with your brand website.

4. Avoid using traditional metrics to measure success: It’s best to treat the test and learn to generate findings to fuel your long-term strategy rather than looking at it with traditional metrics as sales, ROI, awareness. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has created measurement and research framework, which is the first step in formalising metrics for WOM marketing.

The need to share information is ingrained in us. It’s not surprising that storytelling has been a quintessential mode of word-of-mouth communication. As marketers, the more interesting and emotional we can make our brand stories, the more likely our consumers are to tell them!

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