Why is Word of Mouth Marketing important right now?

By Ted Wright March 6, 2019

By Scott Jenson

In 2018, I fulfilled a lifelong dream, visiting Egypt. Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by the pyramids and stories of pharaonic times. This being a trip some years in the making I planned it well. Hours spent researching on the internet, finding the right guest houses to stay in, booking tours with Egyptologists and guides, and looking for highly rated restaurants so that I could experience the best of local cuisine.

My favorite moments of the whole trip though? All unplanned. All word of mouth.

Roads less travelled

In one instance, I took the advice of a fellow traveler on a long term stay in Giza and visited a little-known cluster of mastaba (tombs) that are all but unvisited by tourists on the Giza plateau. Here I was completely unbothered by the requisite “tour guides” and government employees looking for backsheesh (literally, “share the wealth” in Arabic) and camel drivers trolling for a fare. The relatively undisturbed mastaba had some of the most beautiful hieroglyphs that I saw on the trip.

On another occasion, and on the recommendation of a friendly local, I visited a restaurant and hookah bar for a traditional Feteer meshaltet. This layered pastry is a staple of farmers in the countryside as it provides enough calories, when mixed with cheeses and honey, to have a productive day in the fields. Although simple, the pastry was made with care in a stone oven, and it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. It should be noted that I was the only tourist on this particular day in the restaurant. Locals only experience unlocked!

Neither of these experiences were on any of the sites that I researched with great care, nor included in any guidebooks along the way. Having these experiences would’ve not been possible for me without listening to Word of Mouth.

So, I’ll say it.

It’s archaic in this day and age that companies are still investing the bulk of their marketing budgets in channels like broadcast and social media advertising, while neglecting the proven opportunity of Word of Mouth (WOM).

Put down the bullhorn

Although the paradigm of using the bullhorn of traditional advertising ruled for much of the last century, and digital and social media paid advertising has created a lot of excitement in agencies and boardrooms, research has continuously proven that WOM is more influential in driving purchasing decisions.

What’s more, I would venture to say that snafus in the way that social media platforms are managed in the past couple of years and the glut of “influencers” hawking products they don’t use or care about have begun to erode consumer confidence in those platforms. This is pure speculation on my part as we are in the middle of a constantly evolving new paradigm, but I’m certain that we will see less value in influencer marketing as new ways of measuring their actual impact come online.

The way that media is consumed in the current era has also closed the window of opportunity to place advertising and have it be impactful. While you may remember your favorite Super Bowl ad, you certainly don’t remember or care for the commercial you anxiously clicked through on YouTube.

A search for real

The fact is, as trust in brands declines, more consumers will seek out genuine recommendations from their friends and family when considering purchases of any size and scope, from what car to drive to where they choose to eat lunch. According to a recent Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey “83% of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friends about products and services” (The Nielsen Company, 2015). When stacked up against traditional broadcast, OOH, print, digital and social media, this makes WOM the most trusted way consumers receive information about brands.

If your company is not actively engaged in WOMM, then the stories people tell their friends and family will most likely be driven by their personal experience with your product as a consumer. While this is not inherently negative (unless your product isn’t that good), you can be much more successful as a marketer if you’re putting the most important stories about your brand into advocates’ repertoire for the times when those conversations happen.

The importance of WOM is in how your stories are heard, understood, and then relayed hundreds of times over. The experiences and conversations that are impactful and translate well are those best had in person, with a trusted friend, and those only come from Word of Mouth.

Scott Jenson is a marketing manager for Fizz who has worked with iconic national and global brands including Coca Cola, Adult Swim, Kauai Coffee and Primo Water. A Marine Corps veteran, survivor of the music industry in the mid-2000’s, and former holder of many titles with the words “Brand,” “Strategy,” and “Marketing,” Scott holds an MBA from the University of Tampa as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from a tiny college that nobody has ever heard of.

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