For an effective word of mouth marketing story, accuracy helps

By Ted Wright November 8, 2018


By Ted Wright

For a story to be shared widely by brand advocates (aka “real Influencers”) the experience that the advocate has with the brand has to match the story.

The following is an example of when that doesn’t happen:

Story: Adidas is taking plastic waste, hand-harvested from ocean trash, melting it down then spinning it into fabric and other components to make shoes.

Less trash in the ocean = good. As a side benefit, Adidas is hella good at making well-designed shoes so these also look good and thus the 7,000 pairs that were made sold out immediately.

Here’s the problem from a storytelling perspective. Adidas is supporting some “influencer” who is peddling a story that

a) “the shoes represented a technological and design mic drop” and

b) “Adidas has pioneered not just new technology, but a new approach to solving environmental problems.”

Start with truth

This is not true. Patagonia has been doing the very same thing since 1993. That’s right, a quarter of a century ago, Patagonia was taking plastic waste (it used to be called their PCR or “Post Consumer Recycling” system) and spinning it into fabric. Just like Adidas is doing.

Now, were they picking up trash from the beach to find their recyclable materials? Nope. They were getting it from many post consumer sources. So if you think that hand-picking up trash in the Maldives is pioneering a new technology or a “technological mic drop” then this post is not for you.

The problem for Adidas is that the most likely purchaser of these shoes are people who care deeply about the environment and recycling. If you care deeply then you are probably paying attention to those companies that do the same. And if you are paying attention then you know Patagonia has been at this game for decades.

So now, Adidas’ paid shill has over-stated their case to their most interested potential consumer group and what started off as a really good and sharable story comes across as just more marketing bullshit. It didn’t have to be this way.

Marketers, for your story to be shared it has to match the experience of your consumers and those advocates within your consumer set that passionately care about your products and the stories behind them. Don’t let hyperbole get in the way of your truth and a good story.

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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