Category Archives: Word of Mouth

What Drives Word of Mouth? Interesting Content

Compelling content will drive word of mouth for your brand, even if that content is irreverant and in the form of *gasp* a 30-second spot on broadcast TV. Exhibit A: McDonald’s talking fish. 

YouTube views of most popular posting of the spot: 246,757 <warning: this tune will stick in your head like spackling paste>

Google blog search results for “McDonald’s talking fish”: 29,921

Members of McDonald’s Filet O Fish Commercial fan club on Facebook: 289 

The spot’s been running for two weeks.

Marketers Sick of Web 2.0? Not So Fast

Survey results released this week from the Marketing Executives Networking Group and Anderson Analytics are getting a lot of play in the blogosphere, particularly this nugget from the press release:

Twice as many marketers are “sick” of hearing about Web 2.0 and related buzzwords such as “blogs” and “social networking” compared to last year’s survey; however, marketers still admit they don’t know enough about it.  This was evident in the results of a social media study MENG released on November 6, 2008 showing 67% of executive marketers consider themselves beginners when it comes to using social media for marketing purposes.

A couple of points here. First, only 19.4% of the 643 respondents said they were tired of hearing the term “Web 2.0” (up from 9.1% a year ago), 12.2 % said the same about “social networking”, and 11.3% cited “social media” as a term they had tired of. Not exactly overwhelming condemnation of the concepts. And it’s no surprise that the year-over-year numbers would go up, considering those terms generate an endless drumbeat of media coverage. Hell, I’m sick of hearing about/reading about/saying them myself.

What the press release and subsequent coverage of the survey overlook is that when the respondents were asked what they considered to be the most important marketing concepts, the percentages citing “word of mouth,” “social network sites,” “viral marketing,” “Web 2.0,” and “consumer generated media” all rose year-to-year. Granted, these categories did not crack the respondents’ top 10 priorities (word of mouth was #11), but it’s clear that these concepts are rising in importance, even as the buzzwords themselves are becoming cliche.

The greater concern should be whether marketers will be able to sustain any progress they’ve made with their social media marketing programs. With more than half the respondents noting that their ’09 budgets have been reduced, the tendency will be to fall back on more traditional investments like sales promotions, which are viewed as safer bets than the experimentation that goes into identifying social media strategies that really work. The sales folks will be happy, but innovation will take a hit. So even though 79% of the execs in the MENG survey said that customer satisfaction was their top priority, customers can expect to be subjected to the same hard-sell tactics that have become so annoying (and so easy to ignore). Talk about tired.

Politics and Marketing

Watching the tail lights of the campaign buses finally pulling out of New Hampshire following today’s sort-of-first-in-the-nation primary got me thinking about the candidates’ marketing machines. Politics and marketing have been joined at the hip ever since the first pre-Geico caveman lobbied to become head of the tribe, no doubt promising something he had no plans to deliver.

As a New Hampshire resident and registered independent, I’ve been receiving a months-long stream of propaganda from the candidates on both sides of the divide. Talk about multichannel marketing: The local citizenry has been overrun with TV ads, outdoor signs, telemarketing, direct mail, email, live events, and even door-to-door campaigners. Much of it was poorly executed, especially the prerecorded voice mails, the overproduced brochures, and the Christmas card from the Clintons. None of it, with the exception of a truly passionate Obama supporter who rang my doorbell on Saturday and actually asked if I had any questions, contained a whiff of authenticity or made any attempt to understand my concerns, as a parent, as a small business owner, as someone with a $10,000 medical deductible and a knee that needs surgery (they assume they know, but rarely ask).  Though I will say that the candidates’ websites have come a long way in engaging supporters (beyond just asking for money) through various Web 2.0 tools.

Despite the new channels, the PR machine hasn’t really changed much over the past 150 years or so. There’s a great if little-known show on HBO called “Assume the Position 201” in which Robert Wuhl puts a comedic spin on American history in a classroom setting. The latest episode includes a riff on all the bad presidents this country has endured, perhaps none worse than Franklin Pierce (from New Hampshire, ironically). Wuhl contends that the main reason Pierce was elected in 1852 was the biography that he convinced his buddy, Nathanial Hawthorne, to pen for him. The lift Pierce received from his association with the noted writer carried him to victory. Unfortunately for Pierce (and the rest of the country), his divisive policies and poor decision-making laid the groundwork for the Civil War and made him the only sitting president (before or since) to not be nominated for re-election by his own party.

Edward Bernays, dubbed the “father of public relations,” also played a role in presidential politics. In what is considered the first presidential photo op, Bernays organized a White House breakfast in 1929 for Calvin Coolidge with a group of vaudeville actors in an effort to improve the taciturn president’s image. One headline the next day read, “President Nearly Laughs.”

On to Michigan!

‘Simpsonize Me’ Site – D’oh!

Burger King and its agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky figured out the whole Internet viral marketing thing a long time ago, first with the Subservient Chicken and since with a steady stream of innovative programs for engaging online surfers and gamers. Their latest brainchild is the Simpsonize Me site, part of BK’s extensive tie-in with The Simpsons Movie, which debuts tomorrow. BK has had loads of traffic and plenty of positive buzz since last week’s launch of the Simpsonize Me site, which is supposed to enable visitors to upload a photo and some personal info to have themselves rendered as a Simpsons character. From the Miami Herald:

In the first three days of’s launch, the site received more than 16 million hits, and more than 700,000 photos were ”Simpsonized,” according to Burger King spokeswoman Robin Chung. Visitors were uploading an average of three photos each and spending about 12 minutes on the site.

”We provide a forum where they can be entertained and have fun, and that’s the most effective way to get people engaged with our brand,” said Tiana Lang, media and interactive manager for Burger King.

The site is so popular, in fact, that it’s now disabled. D’oh! I thought we were past the days of overloaded web servers caused by an unexpected traffic surge. But how could this have been unexpected? No excuse for a marketer launching a promotion without coordinating with the techies to anticipate and plan for heavy traffic. Being told to come back later is probably not the type of engagement Lang was referring to.


Obligatory Cross-Link: The New Rules of Marketing and PR

David Meerman Scott has just published his latest book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, and was kind enough to include me on his list of acknowledgements. In Blogistan, that means I am required to link back to his post and also publish the list of all the other bloggers to whom he gives a virtual shout out:

As I told David, I look forward to reading the book and will post my thoughts about it here once I’m done.  

Anti-Buzz Marketing

Not a new story, but I read this morning that the organizers of this year’s Pan American Games, the Olympics-like competition among countries in the Western Hemisphere, are prohibiting athletes from blogging from the July event in Brazil. These forward-thinking leaders are also strictly limiting the use on the Internet of photographs and video from the games. Given that the Pan Am Games command virtually zero interest in the United States, I can see why these visionaries would take every step to guard against overexposure. To borrow from a true visionary, the Fake Steve Jobs, what a bunch of frigtards.

Another Fake Blog Takes a Consumer-Generated Beating

Sony is getting killed for the flog it launched to promote its PSP, called All I Want for Xmas is a PSP. [Sony shut down the site over the weekend.] From one of the site’s “authors”:

Consider us your own personal psp hype machine, here to help you wage a holiday assault on ur parents, girl, granny, boss – whoever – so they know what you really want.

Lame! The gamers figured it out quickly and have posted more than 500 flames on the site over the past couple of days. A sample:

This is retarded. As a gamer who is part of Sony’s target audience I’m insulted not just by the integrity of this website, but that this reflects how intelligent Sony’s marketing department thinks I am. Good job turning consumers off your pr0duct.  

Hey Sony – I own a PS1 and PS2. You have cemented me never owning another of your gaming products. Good job!

You guys are so lame! Don’t you see that this guy is trying to pull a LonelyGirl15 with this blog!! It’s obviously some sony suit guy who wants teens to buy a dead console good for nothing, hello, can you say corporate bullsh*t!!!

and my favorite:







The gamers have also figured out that all references to advertising or marketing are being blocked, so they are adding spacers and symbols (and vertical text) to get their outrage across. Sony and its agency in this campaign, a “consumer activation” firm called Zipatoni, should know better – especially in light of the recent Edelman-WalMart fiasco. Amazingly stupid marketer tricks.  

WOMMA’s Ethical Blogger Contact Guidelines, or Tips for Dumb Marketers

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association posted a discussion draft today of 10 rules that marketers should follow when interacting with bloggers:

  1. I  will always be truthful and will never knowingly relay false information. I will never ask someone else to deceive bloggers for me.
  2. I will fully disclose who I am and who I work for (my identity and affiliations) from the very first encounter when communicating with bloggers or commenting on blogs.
  3. I will never take action contrary to the boundaries set by bloggers. I will respect all community guidelines regarding posting messages and comments.
  4. I will never ask bloggers to lie for me.
  5. I will use extreme care when communicating with minors or blogs intended to be read by minors.
  6. I will not manipulate advertising or affiliate programs to impact blogger income.
  7. I will not use automated systems for posting comments or distributing information.
  8. I understand that compensating bloggers may give the appearance of a conflict of interest, and I will therefore fully disclose any and all compensation or incentives.
  9. I understand that if I send bloggers products for review, they are not obligated to comment on them. Bloggers can return products at their own discretion.
  10. If bloggers write about products I send them, I will proactively ask them to disclose the products’ source.

Let’s simplify things and boil the list down to three: 1) Don’t lie, 2) Don’t cheat, 3) Don’t deceive. There, that was easy.

Red Auerbach and Word-of-Mouth Marketing

One interesting anecdote among the many tributes to the Boston Celtics’ legendary Red Auerbach, who passed away on Saturday: In the early days of the NBA, when attendance was sparse and media coverage was nonexistent, Auerbach and his players would barnstorm across the U.S. with a basket on the back of a truck and do free clinics and demonstrations. “That’s how fans got the message that these were extraordinary athletes,” he said in one interview. Another tactic was getting professional players from baseball and football – two far more popular sports at the time – to talk about what great athletes basketball players were. “That sold the game more than anything,” Auerbach said. A good lesson on the value of word-of-mouth marketing from a basketball pioneer.