Word-of-Mouth Marketing is fascinating, as it is intriguing, and Namita debuts on this blog with a piece on trends that we are witnessing. Consumers beget consumers, she says! Interesting, I think – what do you say? Do join the conversation.
Are the days of celebrity endorsers counted? In the age of reference, it is a peer’s word that seems to matter – the individual and his opinion seem to count for more. There is probably no greater endorsement for Nike than the feet that wear it? and in that respect the consumer has also become the marketer.
The Internet too has done its job in connecting people. Platforms such as blogs, wikis, social communities and forums have provided the Individual opportunities to amplify his voice and reach a large audience.
On the other hand, the marketer continues to face multiple challenges – there is the question of finding the customer in a scattered environment; having found him, retain his attention and critically… stay relevant. If the marketer is able to establish the same level of trust that the user enjoys with his peer group, then that’s a battle won.
Engaging the audience, build presence in forums and communities, act upon feedback are perhaps acts that will add long term value to brands. In essence, nurturing relevant relationships may hold the key to crafting a niche for the brand in this networked era.
Values of transparency, participation and collaboration will improve the overall brand experience. Consumers will naturally be inclined to evangelise the brand – sharing experiences, feedback, posting comments and reviews etc.
Early adopters of this trend have made smooth advances, while many others are just beginning to shake the dust off the shelves.
For example Bzz Agent, specialises in word-of-mouth marketing programs. Based on the premise that consumers with to be heard and can be the most important links for product promotion, the firm has built a substantial database of consumers, tagged as ‘BzzAgents’.
Within this, WOM campaigns for clients are deployed. No financial incentives are attached to the program. Only, agents are the first to sample and review products. The decision to further evangelise, share feedback and reviews with friends/communities is left to consumer discretion. All this makes the process extremely transparent and is open to public scrutiny – marketers are beginning to find merit in engaging consumers in open conversations.
In India, the scenario is still quite different and case studies of successful strategic implementation of WOM campaigns exist few and far between. Indian marketers are wary of opening the gates, overwhelmed by the possibility of what can happen if customer feedback is negative. Tactical initiatives do surface from time-to-time but the focus hasn’t been on unbundling the marketing mix. Though not really a typical consumer ‘brand’, let’s take the example the recently launched Income Tax Department blog. The blog is a noteworthy in that; at least a beginning has been made towards engaging consumers. The catch – it states that they shall not entertain consumer woes. Wonder how they plan to execute such a control on a blogging platform. Even if they do, does it not defeat the purpose somewhere?
It would be interesting to see though how the newly introduced Tax Return Preparers, who are supposed to charge upto Rs. 250/- as service fee, adopt social media and leverage this blog! Could there be a time when tax payers become advocates for the income tax departments on a WOM programme? :)
Already established though is that the most powerful outcome of adopting social media, no matter what the area of work, is that social media makes brands more ethical & transparent and that only brands that have an openness towards feedback and consequent change can hope to adopt and successfully enhance their reputation with WOM.
Disclaimer: Views of authors are personal and do not represent the views of Blogworks, or any of its clients.