Word-of-Mouth Marketing (WOMM) has become a global phenomenon. Entrepreneurs worldwide are making use of this creative, inexpensive and measurable marketing tool, to target new clientele and establish unique dialogue platforms for their brands. It’s a concept that’s taken the world by storm and is proving invaluable to business – both locally and internationally.
One cannot ignore the staggering statistics that prove the tremendous growth in the field of WOMM. PQ Media state that between 2009 and 2011 alone, WOMM had increased by 14.4%, to US$1.54 billion. A Harvard Business Review study indicates, two years later, that 91% of individuals believe in word of mouth (i.e. trusting advice from a friend), compared to only 14% of people believing in advertising.
Deborah Holland, executive vice president at Publishers Clearing House, says that the consumer attention span has dropped from 20 minutes to a mere nine seconds. With the introduction of PVR in television broadcast, which allows viewers to fast forward through advertisements, statistics reveal a drastic decrease in viewers’ attention with respect to advertising.
It’s easy to see why WOMM has expanded versus traditional advertising. Word-of-mouth sparks debate, interaction and two-way communication, which ignites consumer interest and interactive discussions.
I anticipate the following potential trends in WOMM for 2012:
WOMM driving social media growth more and more
Be it Facebook, MySpace or Twitter, social media has become a way of life for most individuals and a useful tool for many companies. According to socialbakers.com, there are 4 840 360 Facebook users in South Africa alone. Social media platforms provide a forum where people discuss products and service. What do people do when unhappy? They either visit social media sites and go online with their complaint or go directly to the company’s Facebook page to express their frustration.
Supporting a brand or voicing concerns about it no longer entails writing a letter. Consumers now air their views in real time on social network sites. WOMM has tapped into exactly this experience. It assists marketers by giving them an opportunity to have constructive dialogue with their consumers and tweak negative perceptions, thereby increasing consumer confidence in the brand.
Social media cannot ignore the impact that WOMM has had on its industry. It’s vital that when using social networking platforms, marketers post stimulating conversation and exciting topics for discussion in order to gain long term success. Conversely, consumers actually embrace brands that discuss their consumer-perceived flaws, as they are seen to be empathetic and human.
With social media being the most important form of mass media communication, word-of-mouth marketers enjoy a wider consumer reach. A combination of publicity and viral marketing ensures that marketers can access thought leaders in their respective industries. Social media can be used to create buzz, promote the product, and elicit the desired response.
WOMM breaking down geographical borders
Globalisation has allowed WOMM to dissolve international business borders and barriers. As a WOMM user or marketing professional, one needs to be open to global business and demonstrate that South African practitioners have plenty to offer our international counterparts.
Regardless of where you find yourself in the world, all consumers want the same thing. With this in mind, the Word-of-Mouth Association (WOMMA) has created platforms such as the WOMMA Summit, creating talk around brands, titled the Next and Best Practices. It’s through these types of conversations that collaborations can begin.
Zuberance, an award winning American WOM agency, has finalised a deal with South Africa’s WOM agency HaveYouHeard. Such budding international relationships prove that we can compete with larger and long-standing players.
WOMM becoming effective in tapping lower LSMs
It’s hard to ignore the growing increase in purchasing power within South Africa, taking the black middle-to-upper class for example, known as the ‘Black Diamonds’.
‘Black Diamonds’ characteristically receive an average monthly salary of R7 106. These well-educated individuals exhibit strong aspirations and confidence in the future and simultaneously remain creditworthy.
The UCT Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing stated that the this market segment has grown rapidly and now comprises 40% of total consumer spending – estimated at R120 billion in 2008.
The most influential individuals within the ‘Black Diamond’ market are women, with influence in both the business and home environments. They make decisions that count beyond the purchase of everyday household goods, including those associated with household appliances, investments and even cars.
Marketers should creatively craft their various campaigns making the most of cultural differences while developing a solid and thorough understanding of the market. The power of WOMM can be used advantageously to influence social interactions within a niche market, thereby altering, and consequently switching habitual brand loyalties.
WOMM embracing broadcast social media
YouTube has a personal and immediate impact on people that’s carried out in a very similar way with word-of-mouth marketing, where the messages behind the products and services get shared visually though social media. People post videos on websites and blogs, creating valuable free brand exposure that’s practically effortless.
YouTube and the rise of the WOMM industry have cross-fertilised and grown together. YouTube Comments allow marketers to tap into pertinent feedback and engage in direct consumer discussion. When Vodacom commissioned HaveYouHeard to undertake a campaign for their Vodacom Colour SuperPeers campaign, the increased attention stimulated a greater ‘buzz’ around the brand, generating heightened awareness and snowballing publicity.
It’s not hard to see why this exciting marketing channel is growing daily on a global scale, grabbing and flooding consumer attention. It’s entertaining. It’s interactive. It’s authentic and transparent. Communicating with consumers this way is very ‘now’. Ask controversial restaurant chain Nando’s. So remember: update, engage and entice your audience to leverage the power of social media by embracing all aspects of WOMM… and your consumers will do the rest for you!