Why Word of Mouth Marketing is like discovering Pluto

By Ted Wright March 13, 2019

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discovering pluto

By Ted Wright

Today is the birthday of Pluto and I thought it would be fun to explain why the foundational principles of word of mouth marketing are exactly like discovering a planet. Not the Disney dog, although he is sort of cool too.

The existence of an unknown ninth planet was first proposed by Percival Lowell, who theorized that wobbles in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune were caused by the gravitational pull of an unknown planetary body.

He didn’t see it, but he knew it had to be there.

Using the clues presented to him by how other planets acted physics, Lowell calculated the approximate location of the hypothesized ninth planet and searched for more than a decade without success.

However, in 1929, using these calculations as a guide, the search for Pluto was resumed at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. And in 1930, Clyde W. Tombaugh discovered the tiny, distant planet and his finding was announced on March 13 — the anniversary of Lowell’s birth.

Yes. WOMM is just like that

So what does this have to do with word of mouth marketing?

One of the reasons I love word of mouth marketing so much is that it is also about pattern detection. We know word spreads about an idea or product and we are able to prove this because we see things change without a whole lot of forces being very obvious.

  • At wedding parties, people drink Fireball shots out of a bottle and then wish the bride and groom good luck into a GoPro camera attached to the side of the bottle.
  • A US Senator knows to stop over at the Minneapolis airport on the way home to Idaho.
  • People start using Google instead of InfoSeek or Lycos.

Word of Mouth has existed for at least 3,500 years. This web of connections, formerly invisible, is the most efficient way that humans have for spreading information

An idea spreads from New York to L.A. We know the idea got there, but how? There must be an underlying cause that we can identify from the clues, just as we knew Pluto had to be there even if we couldn’t see it through a telescope.

We love the wobble

As a math guy, my pursuit of these word of mouth “wobbles” is no less fun and fascinating that Tombaugh’s hunt for Pluto.

We know word of mouth transmission is there because we can see the wobble. We can see the change in consumer activity even when the conversation and its sources are still invisible to us.

At Fizz, we’re in the business of discovering those invisible networks via their “wobbles,” making them visible to us and our clients, understanding how they work, and then figuring out how our client’s product or service can become part of that network’s discussion.

One last thing. Yes, I know Pluto got its planet status yanked and you can call me old school if you want to but, to me, once a planet, always a planet.

Ted Wright

Ted Wright is the founder of Fizz, the world’s leading word of mouth marketing (WOMM) agency. Ted is also an acclaimed WOMM keynote speaker and the author of Fizz: Harness the Power of Word of Mouth Marketing to Drive Brand Growth.

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