Mothers have all the answers. Consumer products giant, Procter & Gamble (P&G), which spends millions on consumer research, has now identified word-of-mouth (WoM) as a powerful sales channel and is roping mothers with large social networks to generate higher pull for their brands.
The company is also creating a structure around the practice to harness and direct the way WoM endorsement spreads. Globally, P&G has set up a programme called Tremor, which claims to have cracked the code on word-of-mouth methodology and helped P&G cut through the ad clutter and sharply increase sales.
WoM or buzz marketing is defined as a strategy of gathering volunteers to try products and send them out to talk up their experiences with the people they meet in their daily lives.
The idea is that the more people see a product being used in public or the more they hear about it from people they know and trust, the more likely they will be to buy it for themselves. However, not every product can do well with WoM; highly innovative or personal experience products are said to usually deliver the promised value. The company would have a lot of learnings on the way, say analysts.
P&G is using personal endorsements by developing product messages mothers will want to share, alongwith giving them samples, coupons, and a chance to share their own opinions with P&G. Globally, it has recruited hundreds of thousands of teenagers to create a buzz about its cosmetics brand, Cover Girl and Pantene shampoo.
In India, it has opted to begin WoM with Whisper Choice through mothers, who are considered most influential consumers. "The success of the mother-focused programme in June '04 led to it being applied nationally and we scaled it up when the brand went national in June '05.
Thus, the campaign which began as a PR WoM programme, is now a national holistic marketing y-o-y growing successful initiative that also won a Bronze Lion at Cannes '06," said a P&G spokesperson.
Globally, P&G's Tremor has a network of 250,000 carefully screened American teens who volunteer to be the first among peers to gaze at new products and ideas, with an unspoken expectation that they will share the news with their circle of friends. The success of its teen-based efforts has led Tremor to begin exploring another target audience, moms.
With four years of strong growth behind it, P&G is clearly going through a purple patch, but the group still has aggressive growth targets and is it seems unlikely that this year will see much of a slowdown in its growth.