How Big is Your Ranch?

By Ted Wright June 17, 2019



By Ted Wright

I’m often asked was asked if there were any product categories that don’t really lend themselves to Word of Mouth Marketing. In our 20 years of focus on WOMM, we’ve found three notable ones that are the most difficult — personal finance, death, and erectile dysfunction.

And all of those things share a common element — it’s very difficult to have a face to face conversation with somebody about any one of these topics.

Personal finance

In Texas they have this saying that you never ask a person how big their ranch is. The truth is that not everyone makes the best life decisions or is equally lucky.

Over time, some people just do better than others. This can make for fraught conversations with even between the best of friends. In order for an advocate to have conversations on this topic, they have to KNOW that their audience is very closely aligned to them as far as disposable income, priorities, life choices and goals. Vary even a little bit and the conversation gets awkward quickly.

This does not mean that those conversations don’t happen but conversational land mines equal trepidation so brands in the personal finance space need to make sure that their broadcast is focused against making it as easy as possible for two people to have these kinds of conversations. In this sector, broadcast is the air cover that your ground troops of WOMM need to advance.

You graduate from college with your five best friends. Twenty years later, everybody has made different decisions. They’ve had different life experiences; some have worked out better than others. It’s really kind of hard to talk to your friend who you’re really close with about your wealth and Wealth Management providers.

It’s sort of an unspoken rule. Maybe some friends are taking fancy vacations and others have selected a life of service. And that is all cool but talking about it and comparing success makes you sort of a jerk.


Nobody likes to think about death or death-related businesses. I don’t want to talk about my casket or my plot in the ground.

But those conversations also extend to discussions about wills, end-of-life care, and even retirement savings. Do we have enough life insurance? Will we outlive our retirement money? Living wills – when should the kids pull the plug on me? Uncomfortable!

You’re trying to calculate the time of your death. Few if any of us even want to have those chats.

The key to these conversations is that they be about the living and not about death. Still tough but now right up the alley of your advocate personalities – they want their friends to have the most fulfilling experiences/lives as possible and they will share information more readily if it’s along those lines rather than being death specific. 

Erectile dysfunction

When I give speeches on WOMM, this line always gets a laugh – “You never hear that conversation: ‘Hey man, there is just something wrong with my junk’.”

I do it for effect to help people remember that just because talking about X brand or category is tough does not mean that conversations are not happening about it.

Your point of memory here is that broadcast and WOMM work in tandem and the more difficult the conversation, the more broadcast needs to carry the burden, especially when conversation about that product has been taboo in the past. I’ve never been more proud of someone that I have worked with than when Bob Dole went on TV and did a first person narrative ad for Viagra. Senator Dole, former US Presidential candidate, on the screen looking right at the camera, speaking his truth, making himself vulnerable to laughter and derision but doing so because he wanted to help others.

That campaign opened up an entire world of conversation between people and their doctors, people and their spouses, people and their friends. That campaign made it just a little easier for people with the advocate personality to have important conversations with others that they though they could help.

Bottom line: Just because talking about your particular brand/product/service is hard does not mean you can’t harness the power of WOMM. You’ve just got to be that much better at nailing down your A.I.R – what is Authentic, Interesting and Relevant about your story and who is most likely to want to share that story with their friends.

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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