How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right. View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.
The Word-of-Mouth Factor
I have found that Word-of-Mouth works fastest when integrated into standard brand building communication.
Sumit Roy, Founder Director, Univbrands
Does Word-of-Mouth work? Can it be measured? Try this test.
1. When was the last time you checked out a new restaurant? How did you get to know about it?
2. Heard of a brand called Body Shop? If you are a woman, it’s almost sure you know the name. How did you get to hear about their products?
3. Read a book called ‘The Da Vinci Code’? Why?
4. Have you heard of something called Google? Really? How did you get to know about it?
5. Taken a ‘test drive’ lately? How did you decide which brands you would try out?
I bet you answered, for most of those questions, ‘Someone told me about it’, or ‘recommended it’. Another satisfied user/consumer, someone you trust. In the world of Relationship Marketing we call them ‘brand champions’.
It’s small wonder that when people fill out after-sales questionnaires and answer that mandatory question “How did you get to know about us?” the box with ‘Friends and Relatives’ gets a very high score, often the highest.
Yet, in India, you will rarely find Word-of-Mouth as part of the media-mix that a brand manager plans to use.
For Univbrands, Word-of-Mouth marketing is one of the more popular “learn-by-earning” coaching courses amongst online clients from around the world, but not so in India. Since 1998, when I started the online brand coaching that allowed me to move back to Kolkata, I have picked up a fair amount of experience on how Word-of-Mouth works. (My online American clients call it “Word-of-Mouse”, but that’s another story.) I find, in India, there are a lot of myths about Word-of-Mouth. Let’s dispel them, one by one.
Myth 1: Word-of-Mouth can’t be measured
At a recent conference, I heard that M G Paramasweran of FCB-Ulka asserted that Word-of-Mouth cannot be measured. I have the greatest respect for Ambi Parameswaran, a truly amazing professional and a good friend. But Ambi, on this count, I think you are wrong. Here’s how it can be measured.
The technique is derived from a once popular way of measuring advertising effectiveness: Day After Recall. Just that, for Word-of-Mouth, you need to use “Week After Recall”.
Step One: Choose a microcosm of your target universe. Say a college, if you are targeting students; or a residential area, if you are targeting housewives. The microcosm should ideally have at least 1,000 people from your target audience who are in social interaction with each other. Measure awareness of your category, brand and branding concepts among 100 of these people. Remember to include at least two other categories so that the respondents do not know what you are really testing. Now you have a benchmark of where your brand currently stands.
Step Two: Present a set of “word-of-mouthable branding ideas” to a group of five prosumers. Prosumers are people in the community who are considered “authorities” or thought leaders in “what you are really selling”. Thus, Titan should approach fashion leaders. Prosumers need not be your target consumers, but they should be part of the community in which you are conducting the test. Remember to test more than one “branding idea”.
If you are using Word-of-Mouth marketing (a branding idea integrated into all elements of the marketing mix) then a product demo or sales pitch works well. (I advocate this to my “learn-by-earning” clients so that they earn as they do this test. They usually walk out from the seeding exercise with a sale or two. Good for high ticket items.)
Or just expose the advertising you wish to test with a “word-of-mouthable” idea built in to the ad.
Step Three: Go back a week later and randomly interview another set of 100 respondents from the microcosm. Make sure it’s not the same set as for Step One. (The “right hand rule”, popular with market researchers, is a good way to avoid approaching the same people.)
Test awareness of the brand and the branding ideas you seeded in Step Two. If it’s “word-of-mouthable”, the prosumers would have spread the idea and you will find a higher number of people aware of your brand or branding idea than in the first sample. If 5 per cent more consumers are aware of your branding idea, then you are said to have a word-of-mouthable idea with a factor of five. (Yes, you have to make sure your microcosm is not exposed to any other form of communication on your brand, or craft your research to be able to eliminate those influences.)
This is usually enough to know how strong a “word-of-mouthable” brand idea you have.
If you have the time and the resources, proceed to the next step.
Step Four: One week later, go to another 100 of your target group to check whether the “branding idea” is still spreading. If your branding idea is spreading in geometric proportion, you will find that now 25 per cent are aware of the branding idea, without your having had to “advertise”. Now you can be sure about the Word-of-Mouth factor of your branding idea. (Naturally, there’s more subtlety possible with better investment in market research processes. With further weeks, you could even find out when the spread of the idea will start declining, but you may never need to get to that level of subtlety.) Once you know the Word-of-Mouth factor of your branding idea you could actually predict the “GRPs” you would be getting. You see, advertising without a “word-of-mouthable” idea builds GRPs in arithmetical progression. A campaign with a “word-of-mouthable” idea builds GRPs in geometric progression, and that’s always useful to someone who wants to get better return on investment for their media budget.
Myth 2: Word-of-Mouth is free
While there may be a few accidental exceptions like the “Ajit jokes” that made the Bollywood villain a bigger brand than his screen persona, I have found that Word-of-Mouth works fastest when integrated into standard brand building communication. I use the term “brand building communication” rather than just advertising, as Word-of-Mouth can be seeded in a variety of ways – events, PR, promotions, direct marketing, out-of-home experiences, etc. However, the fastest way is still advertising. The point is none of these is free.
A “word-of-mouthable” idea enhances the “reach” of each of these marketing communication tools. And yes, because you can afford to target prosumers and brand champions to spread the word for you, you have fewer people to reach when you seed the idea. But by no means is this seeding operation free.
I also strongly advocate investing well in arriving at a consumer insight and then the subsequent creative development for a truly great branding idea. That’s if you want your returns in geometric progression, rather than leaving the consumer wanting to “skip the ad”. Get them involved in passing on the brand message. It costs less money, but it still costs.
Myth 3: If you have a good product or service, you will automatically get good Word-of-Mouth
Consider this. While Blackberry is a runaway hit in the US, the same product has not made much of a dent in India. Sonodyne speakers are one of the best to be made in India. Yet a majority of Indians who could afford the brand still don’t know about it, though the brand has been around for decades. There is something called the Tipping Point that serious brand planners would do well to recognise. This Tipping Point will vary, depending on the Word-of-Mouth factor of your branding idea and the Share-of-Mind that you have to compete with.
Media planners will be pleased to know that the Tipping Point model can be used successfully when low budgets make it difficult to compete with the Share-of-Voice of competitors. By adding Word-of-Mouth to the media mix it is possible to dramatically increase the impact of a multi-media campaign.
Even if you have a superb product or service you still have to work at a “branding idea” that the consumers will want to spread, especially, if you want to make your product a brand.
Myth Four: Brand taglines make for good Word-of-Mouth
When you recommend a brand to a friend, do you ever remember using a tagline, except in jest?
What’s far more important is to have an idea that your brand stands for and to allow the advocate of the brand to use his or her own words to express that idea.
In fact, if your brand champion does not look good in the process of passing on the branding idea, he or she probably won’t.
Myth Five: Word-of-Mouth spreads only through well-crafted sound bites
Sight, sound, taste and smell can also be used to trigger Word-of-Mouth. In Bangladesh, the aroma associated with Haji’r Biryani triggers positive vibes. Lookalikes still keep the Elvis Presley legend alive. A Harley Davidson has a unique roar that is designed to disturb the neighbourhood. Bade Miya’s Kebabs have a unique taste that get people salivating at the mere mention of the name.
So, the next time you plan a multi-media campaign, are you being fair to your brand if you haven’t worked in Word-of-Mouth as part of your strategy?
Here’s a quick way to find out whether you have a “word-of-mouthable” branding idea.
Do this check:
1. Is the branding idea easily remembered? Can you tell me what it is without having to look at a document? (Remember, it’s not necessarily the tagline. Nor is it the ‘positioning statement’.)
2. Will the branding idea make the messenger look good? Do people in your own organisation want to tell others about the idea? 3. Does the idea travel well? Try the Chinese Whisper test with a chain of at least 10 people. It does not matter if the exact same words are used at the end. Did the idea survive as it passed through several generations of messengers? (The Cinderella story always has a glass slipper being lost at midnight, whatever may be the variation in the tale. Hanuman always flies across with the whole mountain, instead of just the plant. Such are the stuff of brand-building word-of-mouth campaigns.) Branding ideas that pass this three-way test have a high ‘Word-of-Mouth’ factor, which simply multiplies the effectiveness of your marketing investment. Don’t launch your next campaign without it. You’ll be missing out on the world’s strongest medium. (Sumit Roy runs the world’s smallest learn-by-earning university, www.univbrands.com. It’s so small it fits into his Nokia Communicator. He learnt how to grow brands in the 14 years he spent with O&M. Then he learnt how to grow people who grow brands in the four years he spent with Lintas (now Lowe). Founded in 1991, Roy’s “learn-by-earning” university have benefited well-known brands including BBC World, Castrol, Coca-Cola, Eveready, Goodyear, HSBC, Hutch Telecom, IndianOil, Intel, Ion Exchange, Kellogg’s, Kotak Mahindra, Mahindra & Mahindra, Mastek, Microsoft, McKinsey & Co, Pfizer, Philips, and the Unilever Group, among others.
Internet has enabled Roy to operate from Kolkata. Roy currently also masterminds the Brand Communication Management specialisation at MICA and has designed their course, The Consumer as a Medium.)