Word of Mouth: When Less Can Become More
The great paradox of modern marketing is that the more avenues and channels are available to us, the harder it is to reach our customers.
Bombarded from all fronts, customers increasingly switch off or turn a blind eye to our efforts to engage with them.
But there’s one way that is pretty much guaranteed to make an impact, the communication tool that has always topped effectiveness lists: word of mouth.
Regardless of the customers’ demographic profile, if a friend or trusted source tells them something is good – or bad – they will probably believe them.
Word of mouth is effective because it is based upon trust. According to Nielsen*, 84 per cent of customers say they either completely, or somewhat, trust recommendations from family and friends. And the same proportion, 84 per cent, always or sometimes take action based upon personal recommendations.
The word of mouth ‘effect’ applies online as much as offline. In fact, Nielson data also shows that 68 per cent of customers trust online opinions from other customers. Elsewhere, research from BrightLocal** has shown 72 per cent of customers say reading a positive review from other customers increases their trust in a business or brand.
What makes word-of-mouth even more effective is that a brand doesn’t need a particularly big or expensive ‘talking point’ of a product upon which to base a campaign. Customers love to talk about anything and everything that affects their daily lives.
One of our recent word-of-mouth campaigns involved helping Batiste Dry Shampoo, known to be a saviour at festivals, create a buzz around its less established everyday-style product range.
The challenge was to change perception and using brand and category insights, and the best way to do this was through usage; put the product into consumers’ hands to try and test, and the word of mouth will flow.
This strategy involved giving full size products away, so people could experiment, from quick on the go to leisurely styling at home. This proved to be a success. The campaign reached more than 1 million customers and generated a whopping 10,800 conversations and pieces of content. This led to a sales uplift of 29 per cent in featured products, and a sales to cost ratio of £3.77 for every £1 spent.
That’s a campaign any luxury brand would be proud of – for a product that costs £2.99.
This wasn’t a one-off either. The most expensive item we have used in a word of mouth campaign cost £99, and this is rare. In fact, the majority of products we work with are priced from under £1, to £10, and most are at the lower end of the scale.
It is entirely possible to get customers talking – and buzzing - about a low-priced, entirely functional products, from frozen jacket potatoes to stain removers.
Brands don’t need a hugely expensive, intricate product to generate good word of mouth, their everyday run-of-the-mill products can be used very effectively to create great stories.
When it comes to word of mouth, less really can become more.
According to consumer conversation expert, Keller Fay, on average we talk about brands/products twelve times a day. Heritage, philanthropy and ethnical credentials are all great foundations to build stories from.
However it’s not until you hear a customer talk about a product experience that actually the best stories come from the products themselves. Sometimes these come from pre-planted seeds or having a clear unique selling proposition (USP).
It might be an ingredient you have never tried before, inspired by a magazine article, or a new cleaning product that will wash away all your stain woes. These are the things that power these conversations.
So, how can brands activate these stories around functional products?
· Play up to your USP. How can you generate great word of mouth to capture this in all conversations?
· Sow the seeds of a great story – working closely with PR to land brand-led recipes in key titles is one way to do this.
· Turning wrongs into rights – if you are reformulating a product to rectify something customers don’t like, then talk about it. Show you listened and made changes
· Get creative and fun – activities that involve parents and children or that customers can do with friends extend the brand story and take it in unknown directions. It’s also a great way to introduce other media like photo and videos.