Word of mouth marketing, buzz marketing – are they word of mouth?

WOM 1Many besides network marketers are trying to benefit from word of mouth – that special, honest and transparent talk between people, women especially, about products, TV shows, music, movies, and all manner of things they like and don’t like.

The key to the effectiveness of word of mouth, according to Wikepedia, is:

“People are more inclined to believe word of mouth promotion than more formal forms of promotion because the communicator is unlikely to have an ulterior motive (ie.: they are not out to sell you something)…”

To get that kind of chatter, remarkable companies try to create products that are so different, so unique, like TIVO and iPods say, that people WANT to talk about them to each other. Some companies do wild publicity stunts or really neat ads (like Apple’s Superbowl ad in the 80’s) that get people talking about the product.

That kind of talk is called “buzz.” And marketers everywhere crave it for their products above all else, because it’s done among people who trust each other (unlike marketers, whom we don’t trust).

Now think about most companies that are looking to increase sales. Many think their #1 challenge is coming up with more creative marketing techniques, rather than more remarkable products. So, when some very clever marketing folks figured out how to take advantage of the talk between people who trust and know each other, these people jumped at it. And now we have word of mouth marketing.

“Word of mouth marketing is a term used in the marketing industry to descibe activities that companies undertake to generate favorable word of mouth publicity about products and services.” Wikpedia

One form of this is buzz marketing where people with some influence on the Internet will promote stuff to their IM buddy lists or blog readers, for example, in exchange for products or currency.

Bottom line: a company can buy word of mouth. Including those that haven’t created products that are remarkable enough for people to talk up on their own.

The paid word of mouthers get free products, memberships, commissions, whatever.

So, do you think this is word of mouth as normal people understand and use it?

Taking advantage of many people’s need for income or free product, some companies promote this kind of behavior among friends regardless of the effect on the relationships they’re exploiting.

“We know that the most powerful form of marketing is an advocacy message from a trusted friend,” says Steve Knox, Vocalpoint’s CEO.

Indeed. Those precious trusted friends are not his to lose. They’re yours, and they’re the trusted friends of all the hundreds of thousands of people who are being recruited to act in this new predatory manner.

Would you want to know it’s happening to you when your friends are talking? (See Should the P&G moms disclose they’re “on the take”?)

If yes, then, IF you are doing that kind of promotion, as a network marketer or a paid word of mouth promoter, TELL YOUR PALS UP FRONT. If you love the thing you’re talking about, it shouldn’t be a problem that you promoting it extra.

Is it really worth risking your relationships for a few bars of soap or a few shekels?

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Kim Klaver

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