As a specialist who lives, breathes and sleeps "'word of mouth", I'm contantly scanning the universe for data-based evidence that supports my staunchly held belief in word of mouth's heightened status as the "next big thing" in marketing.
So I've tumbled through all my crib notes and fave bookmarks and have come up with my top 11 marquis tidbits about the rise of word of mouth as marketer's biggest untapped channel. Use these zingers - with wild and frequent abandon in your future powerpoint decks, email memos, speaker notes and all other forums that you can wedge these in.
1) 67% of all consumer decisions are primarily influenced by word of mouth (McKinsey) - That's right - word of mouth governs 2/3rds of our economy and yet the Wall Street Journal doesn't have a page dedicated to it, I've never met a VP of Word of Mouth and I've not yet seen a marketing budget code that was labelled "word of mouth or buzz". Egads.
2) 1 out of every 7 social conversations are word of mouth based (Northeastern University) - Think for a moment from a media perspective - how valuable is a two way, in-depth, interactive medium from a trusted source which answers all your questions and validates the way you think about a product and is something we tap into 14% of the time we talk. Ching $! Ching $!
3) Only 3.4% of face to face WOM conversations are stimulated by a marketing organization's promotional efforts (Journal of Services Marketing) - It's not that it can't be done by a marketer, it's just that we refuse to heed the cardinal rules of word of mouth. Involve your consumer, don't carpet bomb everybody and their cousin, identify the right early evangelists, create a hard edge that stand out in your product, be honest...and a number of other word of mouth road signs we tend to drive past blindly as marketers.
4) 90% of customers identify word of mouth as the best, most reliable and trustworthy source about ideas and information on products and services (NOP World) - It just makes sense, we tend to believe things when we receive information from a trusted source - be that friend, family or colleague. People lay their reputations on the line when they recommend something to somebody else. The currency word of mouth is thus enhanced by its most valuable characteristic - "honesty" - which makes it the purest marketing form we have.
5) 44% of consumers claim to avoid buying products that overwhelm them with advertising/56% of people have stopped doing business with a company that doesn't respect them (Mood and Mindset Study Canada) - The consumer in 2006 has three extreme scarcities that are creating diminishing returns from mass marketing and leading to a consumer exodus - no time, no attention and no trust. Think of advertising and word of mouth as two of your best friends - who do you want to hang with - the friend who is flashy but brags to the point of lying, doesn't listen, doesn't even let you speak, interrupts what you like doing and makes you pay a lot to be with them or the friend who you trust, has the same interests, listens to your concerns, is there when you need him, introduces you to stuff that isn't widely known or available and gives just as much as she takes. Cheers to my best drinking buddy - word of mouth!
6) Where does word of mouth happen? Answer: Everywhere. (Agent Wildfire Canadian Research) With whom, do you participate in word of mouth?
|In your family||88.9%|
|In your social networks||77.1%|
|In a work environment||71.0%|
|In an online community||55.0%|
|In your neighborhood||53.9%|
|In a hobby or interest group||45.7%|
Word of mouth is prolific - you find it everywhere. The more groups you're part of, the more valuable you become as a word of mouther. It doesn't come by appointment, it doesn't force you look at a screen or shout at you from a billboard - where there is oxygen, you'll find spontaneously generating word of mouth. So for the most intrusive, omnipresent form of marketing in a supporting role, please put your hands together for "word of mouth" (clap, clap).
7) On product recommendations, 90% trust their spouse and 65% trust their friends, however only 27% trust manufacturers, 14% trust advertisers and 8% trust celebrities (Yankleovich) - to what levels have we sunk, when our profession is ranked among the least trustworthy professions alongside politicians, stockbrokers and lawyers. Gone are the days when Franklin Roosevelt considered the role of adperson as the noblest profession of them all. In 2006, if you want brand credibility, you don't invest in advertising, promotion or even many forms of PR and editorial, you invest in your friends (and the much overlooked group -employees).
8) 7,500 - the number of committed, talented word of mouthers you would need to seed your message with, so that every single Canadian would hear about it in 12 weeks (providing you had the right product & newsworthy message) (Sean Moffitt & Multiple Sources) For those reading this in the U.S, we have about 24 million adult Canadians, so this is no small feat. The war for consumer adoption is no longer a game of "how many eyeballs" but "how many conversations". It's potency lies in its "Blair Witch"-ian nature. With conventional media, one impression means one consumer. With my word of mouth scenario above, one impression means 3,200 consumers. How 'bout those apples!
9) 44% of Americans put stock in a mass advertised brand, only 17% of Canadians do (Environics). What can I say, Canucks distrust authority, are more skeptical and tend to move in small tribes not as a herd. Not a very positive advertiser profile but true. We see this over and over again with TV shows, ad campaigns and businesses that perform different sides of the border. Look no further then latest TV ratings and you'll see that the biting iconoclastic satire of the Simpsons, the 70s Show and Jon Stewart all perform substantially better in Canada than the U.S.. We'll laugh WITH our friends and family and we laugh AT everybody else (including unfortuantely advertisers).
10) 43% of marketers are either engaged in WOM campaigns or plan to get involved in one over the next 6 months (Emarketer). Organized word of mouth is no longer bleeding edge stuff. With its own flourishing trade association and developing industry norms, successful companies are attracting major investment (including my U.S. partner Bzzagent recently), I have no doubt organized word of mouth efforts will have the same legitimacy five years from now as Radio did in the 50s, TV did in the 80s, Cable TV did in the 90s and Search Engines are in this decade.
11) 77% of word of mouth is face to face, 17% is by phone and 6% is online (Northeasten University) - I love this stat. If anything, it suggests that word of mouth is not "a naked mascot" street campaign or a "make a chicken bark like a dog" online viral campaign, it's about what you do as a company. If this were five pin bowling, the word of mouth pins would be - 1) an ethical company culture committed to a clear direction, values and culture of innovation, 2) a magnetic, conversation worthy brand or product, 3) a rabid audience of volunteer evangelists willing to go to bat for your brand, 4) a smooth message that people want to talk about and get involved in and 5) marketing tools that make it easy to pass the along the message. Now bowl!