The (sponsored) word on the street

BBC News site has a nice post regarding Word of Mouth advertising

Word of Mouth advertising lends itself quite nicely to blogs. Thus, are the millions of personal blogs out there just untapped sources of advertising for big companies??

Word-of-mouth marketing, the latest advertising boom in the US, is coming to Britain. Would you be prepared to slip a casual product endorsement into a cosy chat with friends?
The average Briton is bombarded with more than 3,000 adverts a day. From Coronation Street to the school sports day, almost every aspects of our lives seems to be sponsored these days. Ads are squeezed in, on and around everything we see, do and use.

It’s relentless and we are starting to turn off and tune out. Only 14% of regular campaigns now have any effect, according to Marketing Week. To put it simply, we’ve grown tired and cynical of traditional advertising tactics. Positive word-of-mouth has always been the advertisers’ Holy Grail. On a credibility scale it comes top and traditional commercials come bottom, says advertising author Tom Himpe.

Now, word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing, already established in the US and Canada, is coming to the UK, the Magazine can reveal. And it means the banter you enjoy with their mates down the pub on a Friday night could soon shift into sales patter.

WOM is when unpaid volunteers are sent new products and, as they go about their everyday lives, are encouraged to tell their family and friends – even strangers – what they think of them. The products can be anything from mobile phones to sausages.

‘Honest’ message

WOM marketing companies are at pains to insist it isn’t viral or buzz marketing because the volunteers – known as agents, advocates, ambassadors or transmitters – must state they are part of a marketing campaign. It is about harnessing “honest word of mouth”, say companies.

Agents are not scripted, or commanded to spread only a positive message. And they are not paid. Instead, they get free samples, and what the industry calls “social currency” – the thrill of being among the first to try a new product.

It’s flourishing in the US, with 43% of Fortune 500 companies adopting it in 2007, according to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). Some industry experts believe it’s set to become one of the most powerful forms of advertising.

“The beauty of WOM is that it’s open, raw, real and direct,” says Mr Himpe. “Negative or positive, at least the message is genuine. It’s not just the brand talking.”

But companies that think they’ve found the Holy Grail perhaps shouldn’t get complacent. Research shows that positive word of mouth goes out to five people but negative word of mouth goes out to 10… and with much more passion.

Author: Jas

Jas Dhaliwal is a highly experienced International Social Media Strategist. Currently working as AVG Technologies, Director of Communities and Online Engagement, he specialises in building and engaging with social communities across the web. Born and bred in London, he is passionate about technology and social anthropology. Prior to AVG, Jas launched the social media program for Microsoft’s MVP Award program. Jas holds a BSc (Hons) in Information Systems and has an MBA from Brunel University in London, England. You can follow Jas as @Jas on Twitter or on Google+