Friday, October 28, 2005

Faked Out By BK?

Seth Stevenson writes a nice piece where he wonders if he's been faked out by an e-mail he received for the Burger King "King" Mask.

Well worth a read, but I'd make a similar comment as I did in an earlier post about use of terminology. Here's a quote from Seth's article:

But let's assume for a moment that Crispin [the agency responsible for the BK "King" account] used "buzz marketing" to fake me out and get my attention (as I'm convinced they did). Is there anything wrong with that?

Should Seth have written "undercover marketing" to imply the practice might be deceptive rather than "buzz marketing"?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Campus Ambassador Programs, Buzz Marketing, and Disclosure

I was recently interviewed for an article that appeared in the Boston Globe yesterday about the use of campus ambassador programs on university campuses. The author, Sarah Schweitzer, writes about how major companies like Microsoft, JetBlue Airways, The Cartoon Network, and Victoria's Secret are attemtpting to reach the "elusive" college market through such word-of-mouth and peer-to-peer programs.

With such programs, Schweitzer writes, niche firms recruit students from a particular university so that they can market products and services on behalf of the company (and sometimes companies may directly recuit and train students themselves). An example she mentions in the article concerns Microsoft's OneNote software program.

The issue of disclosure of affiliation came up again (see my two prior posts, Part 1 and Part 2). The students Schweitzer mentioned said they didn't disclose their identities, but they were wearing "logo-bearing t-shirts," in the case of Microsoft. She also writes that...

"Campus ambassadors generally are not required to state their corporate affiliation, but most companies instruct them not to try to obscure it."

The article went on to say...
"Students they approached said, in interviews after listening to the pitch, they did not understand the students' relationship with Microsoft, but that it mattered little."

In my own class discussions I find that a lot of students view this type of P2P and WOM marketing as acceptable and just "the way things are done now." Some argue the way things "have to be done now." A much smaller number criticize the practice or see it as invasive.

It's an interesting article that's worth checking out. One critique I have is that Schweitzer writes that buzz marketing is when "people talk up a product to friends and family without necessarily revealing corporate affiliation." Should people who write and talk about buzz marketing be encouraged to use the term "undercover marketing" instead when the corporate affiliation isn't disclosed? Or "shill" marketing when they received monetary compensation for their activities?


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Monday, October 24, 2005

On Affiliation with a Buzz Marketing Agency, Disclosure, and Shopping in a Supermarket -- Part 2

This post picks up with the second part of Matt Galloway's comment to my earlier post regarding what policies buzz marketing agencies should have regarding the issue of disclosure:

What we can (and should) expect is for Tremors NOT to discourage disclosure - either directly or indirectly. Since everyone working in the area of WOMM says you can't control the message, I think it is an unrealistic for us to expect agecies to be able to when it comes to disclosure.

So, "You never tell a panelist what to say." is not a cop out AS LONG AS "You ALSO never tell a panelist what NOT to say."

Well said, and I wonder if we're also focusing too much on the actions of the panelist in our discussion.

That is, what if the guiding principle was less on what the panelist does or does not do, and more on the sense-making of the "conversational partner"? The key criterion would be to make sure that the people with whom the panelist is talking do not feel misled, deceived, or manipulated, at the moment of the WOM episode or afterwards. I add the last part "at the moment of the WOM episode or afterwards" because conversational partners might not feel misled if they don't know about the institutional affiliation, but may feel "tricked" after learning about it (see the 60 Minutes episode on "Undercover Marketing" for examples of some people feeling deceived after being "shilled").

Of course, the conversational participant would have to be aware that the person is participating in a buzz marketing campaign; explicit, verbal disclosure is just one way of doing this.

But one might counter: "If you can't control what a panelist will or won't say, how can an agency control what a conversational partner will think or feel?" Yep, that's right, but since you can't control either one (you can seek to influence both), you might as well aim for which is the most important, and I would argue it's how the conversational partner walks away from the WOM episode. The agency's responsibility in all this might be, for example, to host discussions among its panelists/agents/etc. and allow them to come up with ways to ensure that the conversational participants walk away from the episode engaged but without being misled. I think any principled buzz marketing agency would want to adopt the same criterion.


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On Affiliation with a Buzz Marketing Agency, Disclosure, and Shopping in a Supermarket -- Part 1

John Cass and Matt Galloway made two very interesting comments to my blog post about the issue of buzz marketing and disclosure, especially in light of the Commercial Alert letter to the FTC seeking disclosure requirements for WOM marketing firms like P&G's Tremor. John made the following comment:

I was thinking the P & G example is a little bit like going to a supermarket where someone asks you to test a product, say a dip or a new type of microwave sandwich. If I ate the product, liked it, bought it and went home and told all my friends. Commercial alert is suggesting the company would ask me to inform everyone I spoke with about the new product that I received a free product at the supermarket. Somehow I don't think that type of product testing and promotion is against the FTC rules. What do you think?

Thanks for the comment John! I agree with you that I don't think the the supermarket situation would violate FTC rules about deceptive advertising. Why? The identities and affiliations of all the parties are clear and transparent, and thus the potential for being misled about the affiliation is low. The customer in the store knows that the person giving you the sample is employed by the store (or, in some cases, is from the company making the product) and the purpose of the interaction is to provide the customer with a product sample.

But what you're writing about is whether the person who tries the product at the supermarket through a free sample marketing campaign needs to tell the other person how they learned about it. This is different. In the supermarket example the person talking about the product DOESN'T HAVE an institutional affiliation with the store or with the company making the product. With buzz marketing, the person telling others about the product DOES HAVE an institutional affiliation.

And not only is there an institutional affiliation in buzz marketing, but this affiliation is not marked by the context cues (meaning no one is in uniform, one may not be in a "commercial" setting, etc.). In fact, the context cues often suggest an "everyday" conversation (the scare quotes are used to mark the fact that I'm using the term "everyday" as a contrast term to "institutional" talk where either the product/service/brand being discussed is part of an organized WOM marketing campaign, and/or the person doing the talking is affiliated with a buzz marketing agency). The/an explicit purpose of a buzz marketing campaign is to stimulate discussion about the brand/product/service and the person talking about the product has made a conscious alignment and affiliation with that process. The context cues of everyday interactions would not usually suggest participation in such a process. So with buzz marketing campaigns there is greater opportunity for people to feel like they are being misled (even though there may be no intention to mislead).

Thus, I don't think the free-sample-in-the-supermarket example matches the situation for buzz marketing and disclosure of identity.

Now to the first part of Matt's posting (thank you for your comment as well!). Matt writes:

I've been thinking a lot about disclosure in the BzzAgent/Tremors WOMM model. I'm currently reading Grapevine and I've heard Dave Balter speak on this and I've read some of you stuff from previous WOMMA events. Dave says (usuallu citing some study conducted by you) that the effectiveness of a BzzAgent isn't effect by the disclosure of their association with a WOMM program . This makes sense to me as I think it is more about the trust of the listener and the tone, context, sincerety, etc. of the WOM Unit.

So the question from this first part of Matt's comment is "does it matter?" The "it" meaning how a person learned of a product or service. The free-sample-at-the-supermarket analogy is a useful starting point here: For example, if someone tells me about a great new food item it doesn't matter to me whether that person bought it on their own, tried it, and told me, or if that person got the sample in a supermarket, tried it, and told me. I imagine many people would agree that it doesn't matter in the supermarket scenario.

If we apply this to buzz marketing, does it matter if people learned about something from a participant in a buzz marketing campaign? Would that person's recommendation count just as much? This was a question asked by GfK/NOP World. According to their study, 76% of the people surveyed said it didn't matter to them if a product was recommended as part of a buzz marketing campaign as long as the person, who they knew and trusted, thought the product was good. 19% of the people surveyed said they wouldn't trust the recommendation because they got the product for free. The take-away here is that some people seem to think that receiving the free sample affects the credibility of the recommendation (I wonder if this would also apply to the supermarket situation; this wasn't asked in their survey), while most others either don't worry about the fact the recommendation results from a buzz marketing campaign or feel that any bias is outweighed by the existing level of familiarity and trust they have in the person.

So, based on this survey, participation in a buzz marketing campaign doesn't seem to matter to the credibility of a recommendation. In the near future I'll be reporting data from a study that looks at the effects of institutional affiliation and participation in a buzz marketing campaign in much more detail.

Matt had some additional comments -- about what a buzz marketing agency's policy should be about the issue of disclosure -- which I'll take up in a subsequent post...


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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Is Tremor’s Justification – “You Never Tell A Panelist What To Say” – a Cop Out?

USA Today published a story entitled “P&G ‘Buzz Marketing’ Unit Hit With Complaint” (written by Bruce Horowitz). Apparently, a consumer advocacy group – Commercial Alert – recently filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that charges Tremor targets teens with deceptive advertising.

According to the article, the executive director of Commercial Alert, Gary Ruskin, suggests states that buzz marketing agencies are at fault for “perpetuating large-scale deception upon consumers” when people recruited to promote products via WOM don’t disclose their affiliation with the marketing agency.

Steve Knox, Tremor’s CEO, defended his company’s practices stating that their “panelists” are not paid cash but instead receive free samples or other kinds of materials. He is also quoted as saying “If we’ve done our work correctly, they talk to their friends about it” but Tremor does not tell their members to say they are part of Tremor “because you never tell a (panelist) what to say.”


Of course you shouldn’t tell a panelist what to say or how to say it. People should be sharing their honest opinions (one of those lessons we learned in kindergarten). However, if this quotation is a fair representation of Tremor’s position, it seems like it’s a lame justification for not having panelists be open about their affiliation. Further, their position opens up the perception that Tremor engages in stealth or undercover marketing (see WOMMA’s stance on stealth marketing, recently released in light of news stories about the legality and ethics of WOM and buzz marketing, but consistent with the association’s position from the beginning).

Buzz marketing and firm-facilitated WOM doesn’t need to be undercover to be effective. I am developing a theory of institutional WOM that contends that WOM encouraged by an organization (aka, “amplified” WOM) can be just as effective as “organic” WOM when two conditions are present: 1) sincerity, and 2) relevancy. That is, conversational participants need to trust that the other person is sincere and has their best interests at heart, and also that the information provided is relevant to their daily life and the conversational context (meaning that the WOM is talked about at relevant point in the conversation and in the history of their relationship). I am currently collecting data that will provide evidence for or against this theory. Stay tuned for results!

Two final comments:

1) Be sure to visit Commercial Alert’s website to read the comments posted regarding their complaint filed against P&G. This provides some fascinating insight into arguments for and against buzz marketing in a highly commercialized society.

2) The USA Today article mentions that “several smaller buzz marketing specialists” were also named in the complaint. I invite someone to follow-up with this to see what other companies were named. Please post anything you find in a comment or track back :-)

Content Added (10/20/2005, 7 pm EST):

Commercial Alert's Letter to the FTC The "several smaller buzz marketing specialists" are named in this PDF version of the letter. I think the spirit of the Commercial Alert complaint -- that people who voluntarily affiliate with buzz marketing agencies, or are paid by companies or agencies, should not mislead the people with whom they talk -- is sound and consistent with the WOMMA ethics policy. However their complaint unfairly lumps together companies that abide by the WOMMA ethics code with those that do not.

WOMMA's "WOM 101" Page distinguishing different kinds of word-of-mouth marketing (the Commercial Alert letter conflates "buzz marketing" with "guerrilla" and "stealth" marketing and fails to distinguish it from "shill" marketing).


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Friday, October 14, 2005

Public-Private Intersections in New Media: Is WOM A New Medium?

I attended an interesting panel on Wednesday at Northeastern University. The panel was entitled “Public-Private Intersections in New Media” and hosted some leading academic thinkers talking about the implications of “new media” on our lives.

Craig Robertson pointed out that the media that get defined as “new media” are constantly shifting (the printing press, the telephone, the computer were all “new media” at one point). But he noted how the discourse of new media is actually quite old and can be situated socially, culturally, and historically. The question Craig wants to ask is how the discourse about “new media” is being used? Whose interests are being served? What’s up for grabs? Read Craig’s short essay on a history of new media.

Dan Kennedy argued that new media is not just about the internet, podcasting, and blogs (though it is), but also about how existing media are being used in new ways, such as under-the-radar direct mail targeting, targeted satellite TV (like, and DVDs.

This led me to think if we should include word-of-mouth on a “new media” panel? Interpersonal, face-to-face communication is one of the oldest media forms around but the awareness of WOM as a medium for companies, governments, and celebrity brands to pursue their ends has grown considerably in the past few years, spawning its own industry and associations (see for example, Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association and Viral and Buzz Marketing Association).

A telling point was made at the first International WOM Marketing Conference recently in Hamburg (read my blog posts about the event). The slide was entitled “People Are Media” which suggests how interpersonal conversations and connections (whether transacted offline or online) are being seen as a new media form in the same way we think of more “traditional” mass-media forms. The slide was part of a presentation by Fergus Hampton of the market research firm, Millward Brown Precis.

Fergus’ point about “people are media” also suggests that everyone is, or can now be, a journalist, advertiser, editor and publisher. This relates to a point made by one of the New Media panelists, Axel Bruns, about how we need a new language to characterize these developments. For example, he discussed the term “produsage” to discuss how people are both producing and using content. Axel contends that this term breaks down the tradition consumer/producer dichotomy. It also provides a nice parallel to a widely-used industry phrase – “consumer-generated media” (coined and popularized by Intelliseek).

In short, it’s a great panel and worth checking out. The panel was chaired by David Marshall and also included a student panelist, Meagan Redman (unfortunately Meagan did not get her own web space on the panel website but she made some excellent points – including the point that we need to consider that what is “new” for many is not new for all, especially in those less affluent societies where many of the technologies discussed on the panel don’t yet exist – and held her own quite well on a panel of PhDs).

Friday, October 07, 2005

And That's A Wrap from Hamburg!

That's it! Nils Andres has just wrapped up the conference. Everyone is engaging in their leave-taking behaviors (as we communication people like to say).

Stay tuned for another post in the next couple days about the effectiveness of viral marketing campaigns like the subservient chicken campaign. I've had some great conversations with Steven Erich from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the company that developed the campaign.

I hope readers found these postings helpful. This is my first time blogging at a conference like this. I'd love to hear your feedback and constructive criticism (or even nasty, harsh complaints!).

Why Does Negative WOM on the Internet Hurt? A Case of Consumer Product Reviews

Shahana Sen from Fairleigh Dickinson University is talking about "Why does negative WOM on the internet hurt?: A case of consumer product reviews."

Shahana cites research that shows price is not the key determinant for why people shop online. Instead it's the site experience (which includes whether or not you have register in order to purchase, if it was difficult/easy to compare items, etc.).

Shahana asks: "Since eWOM is from stangers, unlike traditional WOM, do consumers believe and rely on these reviews?" [NOTE: Sometimes WOM can take place between strangers, esp. in point-of-sale situations].

Also, is there a negativity effect? "Are negative product reviews found more credible and more useful than positive reviews?"

For utilitarian products (computer monitors, printers, manuals, PDAs, etc.), people rate negative reviews as more useful more than not useful (61% v. 39%).

For hedonic products (pleasure-providing products: movies, music, etc.), negative reivews are rated useful less often than not useful (28% v. 72%).

She then looked at two different kinds of books -- a computer manual v. a vacation book -- with a controlled experimental design. She found the same results as above.

Readers were more likely to trust the motives of negative reviewers for utilitarian products, but for hedonic prodcuces, readers trusted more positive reviewers.

So, what explains this difference?

Hyptheses: 1) Heterogeneity of tastes (everyone has different tastes for things like movies, restaurants, etc.), and 2) motivated reasoning bias (when looking forward to consuming a hedonic product you are already in an interested state; thus you're pre-disposed towards liking it and thus when you read a negative review you might be more likely to disregard it because you want to support the state that you're already in when seeking the consumption experience).

What's the take-away for marketers?

Websites typically attract more positive than negative reviews. But when you do have negative reviews on your site, don't worry about it, at least for hedonic products. Why? Because readers are likely to discount these negative reviews for hedonic products. Plus, negative reviews on the web site give the site an overall credibility. Of course, you don't want only negative reviews!

Interesting question during Q&A: Are people more likely to seek out reviews for hedonistic v. utilitarian products?

Nice presentation Shahana :-)

Podcasting, Part 2

Bill Flitter from Pheedo is doing his "Part 2" presentation about podcasting.

One of the benefits of podcasting is the time-shifting of information (meaning it's "on demand" and content you can take with you when you go and where you go).

Pheedo does integrated marketing campaigns across RSS, blogs, and podcasts (so podcasts are just one piece of a larger pie).

One case study Bill mentioned is putting product placement in a podcast. The key point that it made the promotion so effective was that is very relevant to the podcaster's audience. The podcaster invited his listeners to become viewers into his show which was ideal because the company wanting advertising has a very visual product that meshed well with what the podcaster was doing for that show: GoToMeeting

Content-added (later Friday night): It seems that this "monetization" of podcasting is similar in themes to traditional media but just with the new medium of podcasting. One difference may be that the audiences, at least for the time being, are smaller and more personalized than traditional "mass media" and so there's more of a sense of personal endorsement and recommendation from the podcast creator. I wonder how long this perception will last...

How To Catch A Murderer, and Learn A Lot About Naturally-Occurring WOM Communities In the Process

Suresh Sood from the University of Technology, Sydney explains how to identify the natural WOM communities in moblie (3G) networks. Specifically, how do you identify the key people in these communities? (For example, if there's a crisis and a message needs to be sent out to key people right away, how would you identify who those well-connected people are?).

They looked at a visualization of A-B video calling data (A = dialing numbers; B = called numbers). Looking at nodes (in this case, callers and called) and links (the calls between A & B) and they call it "train of thought analysis". This method is often used in intelligence and criminal investigations (it was used to catch a murderer in Australia and is now being used for commercial purposes). It is also called "solving the backward problem". Solving the forward problem is creating a hypothesis and testing it. But to solve the backward problem you have the data already and then are working backwards to determine what the networks are.

Suresh explains how it's "resource intensive" meaning that it's expensive but it can also save a company a lot of money. There are also privacy concerns when using database information to identify the nodes.

Suresh seems to be talking about using the tools of social network analysis for commercial marketing purposes.

Online Strikes Back!

So far, presenters have gone back and forth about the importance of studying online VERSUS offline conversations, as well as studying both online AND offline conversations. The last three presentations have been about how to track and understand online conversations. We heard from firms that track online conversations for companies. Right now we're hearing from Kristine de Valck from HEC School of Management, Paris.

She asked what do people online in virtual communities talk about and how do they try to influence each other? Examples of VCs include eBay, iVillage,,, or corporate-sponsored ones like Heineken).

VCs were defined as "Affiliative groups whose online interactions are based upon a shared enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, a specific consumption activity" [missed citation for quote].

She provided some background about "Netspionage" -- monitoring the internet conversations for information.

Kristine does a nice job of discussing the pros and cons of online monitoring of conversations. The pros include it's naturally-occuring interaction, it's unobtrusive, publicly available, archived, inexpensive, etc. The drawbacks are that there is so much information so how does one begin. Durther, some claim that only about 10% of the interaction is truly informative for marketers. And researchers still have to deal with issues of reliability, validity, and generalizability.

She has a nice slide on different Methods of analysis: Web Mining, Signal Detection, Web Page Analysis,
Discourse Analysis, and Netnography (what she'll discuss; online ethnography). The foundational article for netnography is Netnography -- Robert V. Kozinets (2002) in Journal of Marketing Research, 39 (February), 61-72.

Great slide on the ethics of monitoring issues.

She conducted a case study of a Dutch virtual community about culinary matters.

One of the ways they attempt to influence one another is to call on authority. They also provide stories about deviating behavior. Other activities she describes include contextualizing as a way to explain their behavior and confessing secret passions (ironic given the how this information is publicly available!).

Her closing thought is that netnography is immersive, interesting, insightful, incomparable, and indispensable.

Counter-Intuitive Findings About Positive & Negative WOM

Robert East of Kingston University (England) wanted to challenge two traditional assumptions about WOM:

1) Negative WOM (NWOM) is more frequent than positive WOM (PWOM). FALSE
2) NWOM has more impact than PWOM. FALSE

Why is PWOM more frequent than NWOM? Robert claims PWOM episodes are more frequent (3x more than NWOM) because there are 3x as many opportunities to give it (people are more likely to have satisfactory rather than dissatisfying experiences). Also, many people lack negative examples that they could provide (for example, how many people could recommend against a particular dentist when it's more likely you could recommend FOR a dentist).

Does NWOM have more impact than PWOM? Robert says we might think this because NWOM is rarer than PWOM and so we might think rare info is more surprising and informative. But based on survey results, PWOM was reported as having A LITTLE MORE IMPACT than NWOM (but the difference is not statistically significant; 64% reported PWOM impacted their decision on different categories versus 55% claiming the same effect of NWOM).

The most interesting finding, according to Robert, is that PWOM follows market share. For example, Nokia has 40% MS for mobile phones and 40% PWOM. But they also have 24% NWOM. Sony-Ericsson has 24% MS with 21% PWOM and 22% NWOM. NWOM for mobiles relates to market share but is flattened. Check out his presentation for more details.

Some Other Notables from Day 1 in Hamburg

There were some other notable presentations, beyond the ones I've already mentioned, from Day 1 of the Hamburg conference.

Fergus Hampton from Millward Brown had a very interesting talk. Here are some highlights:

- The most successful example of WOM is religion, in its various forms.
- People are media. Everyone is (or can be) a journalist, advertiser, editor and publisher.
- He is interested in why so many people trust customer opinions or reviews on websites (one study cited 61% of people trust these sources as honest and fair.
- One helpful distinction between offline and online WOM is that offline is more powerful (in the sense of higher trust and higher impact to the conversation) while online is more versatile (there will be an expert on something somewhere online). [Online also has more potential reach, esp. in a shorter amount of time. Some would argue that influencers for certain brands and categories are likely to be online and thus their WOM can be more easily tracked].
- Some key take-away points about what engaging WOM means: 1) relinquishing control, 2) recognizing consumers as brand participants, 3) transparent and honest behavior, and 4) abandoning marketing speak (or what Lois Kelly called the "doglish" problem).

Strawberry Frog was very interesting. Their tagline is that they bring "the discipline of brand marketing and the populist power of grassroots movements". The most interesting thing I took away is their sequence for planning communications: 1) start with a powerful idea that can define a culture and is on the rise; 2) create a set of actions or events or communities to draw people in to this idea; 3) use mass communications to amplify the message for broader reach; 4) active WOM with PR and placement of content; 5) create media that people can own in both online and offline formats so people can keep talking; 6) Use direct marketing and promotions for those who are ready to buy. Thus, the point is do the grassroots work first, then go mainstream.

Two other agencies -- Fallon and Crispin Porter + Bogusky -- also spoke. They showed some impressive and entertaining advertisements they used to generate WOM. Both spoke about the need to create content that engages audiences. A high point of Fallon's talk was an ad for a Sony TV set. Crispin Porter + Bogusky showed a lot of their work with the Burger King campaign and how they sequence it (subservient chicken and "The King"). In both instances I thought how cool and innovative the ad agency was to come up with the ad but less about the products or companies the ads were about.

Be sure to check out Scott Foe (Games Group of Nokia) and Alexander Macris' (CEO of Themis Group) presentation on how to achieve WOM in the gaming industry. They have a proven approach that starts with a great product, then targets key influencers in the gaming industry (what they called "Superconductors"), creating ways for them to engage with one another, as well as creating ways for their fan bases to be involved as well. Their idea is to get the hard-core fans involved through the influencers, and then use traditional media to get mainstream audiences interested in the games (esp. print and web-based trade publications that then move to more mainstream magazines). I wondered how they could also use WOM strategies to move the games from the hard-core to the mainstream as well.

Learned a bit more about podcasting from Bill Flitter from Pheedo, Inc. Looking forward to his Part Two later today.

Why Aren't There Many German Companies at the First International WOM Marketing Conference in Hamburg?

There are just a handful of German companies, or companies who have offices in Germany, here at this first event in their own backyard (there are a couple from the beverage industry and shipping services). I've asked around about this and here is what I learned...

Apparently some companies experimented with viral and buzz marketing during the internet boom, got burned, and then soured to the idea. These firms also seem to equate stimulating buzz as the only form of WOM (as distinct from a philosophy of consumer generation, engagement, and involvement with an associated set of strategies and tools to manage and measure WOM).

Rather than being interested in WOM it seems that some German companies may have been more interested in brand extension and management (for example, when a brand has a new model and wanting to make sure consumers see it as an innovation rather than just a copy of the old model).

I don't have much more detail about what the bad experiences were in earlier years, or what German companies were invited and didn't come. And of course there could be a bunch of other reasons, but in the end, it seems like a missed opportunity.

Addendum (14:30 Hamburg time): Others reasons might include that the companies are just used to what they're doing (for example, buying media for a 30-second TV spot) and the situation isn't perceived as bad enough to think in new, innovative ways.

Positive v. Negative WOM: An Exploratory Study

Jill Sweeney from University of Western Australia conducted a study to learn about similarities and differences between positive and negative WOM. They had six focus groups with 54 different participants providing positive and negative experiences with WOM (critical incident technique).

Here's some of her findings:

- Positive WOM was more associated with cognitions, whereas negative WOM was more associated with emotions.

- Positive WOM is driven by service quality (whethere people had a good experience with the quality of the service received).

- Dissatisfaction stimulates negative WOM, but there was a feeling of satisfaction after making the comment.

Negative WOM spread more quickly initially, but also dissipates more quickly than positive WOM. Negative WOM was also seen to be more powerful in shaping other people's views.

This is the first phase of three studies, with a small sample size, but there are two key points to take-away that support findings of earlier research: Have a good product or service to generate positive WOM, and when there's a negative experience, give people outlets to vent their dissatisfaction early on.

Nokia: Lifeblog" and the Moblogging Phenomenon

Ni Jian from Nokia is talking about the moblogging (mobile blogging) phenomenon and their Lifeblog.

He quoted some feedback from another blogger who asked her mom why she doesn't blog or actively maintain a blog:

1) Feels like she has nothing to say.
2) Doesn't want the world to see what she writes.
3) She doesn't have time to keep up with blogs.

Ni Jian argues that Lifeblog helps people to create content because it is like a multimedia diary. Pictures can also be taken very easy, with or without comments, and then posted very quickly and easily.

He feels that mobile blogging is an important channel for WOM marketing.

Sandy Pentland from the MIT Media Lab comments on how mobile blogging can be used also to monitor health issues (for example, in the context of caring for older parents or patients). But other technology that the MIT Media Lab is working on allows a picture to be taken as well as an audio-recording to be made as soon as two people shake hands.

The Gaping Void in Hamburg

Hugh Macleod, creator of the blog and website, The Gaping Void, is now speaking about blogs. His site gets about 15,000 readers a day. He contends that he has a much richer relationship with his readership than when a newspaper audience.

How does Hugh make a living blogging? He described a tailor friend of his who makes suits for the rich and famous. His friend wanted more business in America so they set him up with a blog "English Cut". Based on readers' interest in the deep insights into the intricacies of suits and tailoring that Hugh's friend was able to provide on the blog, his friend was able to triple his business in the States (be sure to check out the September 17th posting about "how to recognise anderson & sheppard: check the pockets" (you'll have to scroll down to see it).

Hugh thinks blogs are important because they have the potential to create a smarter, more engaging, conversation with your audience.

Hugh challenges the statement that the "best advertising is word-of-mouth". Instead he says that best advertising is the kind that "disrupts markets". As an example he contrasts McDonald's and Starbucks. McDonald's makes their seats orange and uncomfortable so that people will eat quick and leave. Starbucks disrupted this pervasive market practice and created a comfortable space for people to sit around, where real conversations can happen.

In his work with a wine shop they gave free bottles of wine to bloggers. This was done by posting a message saying if you're a blogger you can have a bottle of wine. They told the bloggers they don't have to comment on it, they can just enjoy it. A lot of the bloggers voluntarily generated their own peronalized WOM on their blogs. The point is that this was real, authentic contribution (this was contrasted with campaigns where people get "spraypainted in blue" to promote a product; the point is the WOM generated there has nothing to do with the conversations about the product).

One critique Hugh heard about the wine blogging was this: are you trying to turn bloggers into "wine pimps"? Hugh says no, that they're trying to connect with interesting people in authentic ways. (Presumably though there was a hope that people would talk about the wine and that it would lead to more sales of the wine). They also want to host dinners for bloggers. The idea is that it's just a cool thing to do. One effect of this is that this work is getting the internal employees excited about their brand, Stormhoek, which in turns get them excited when they talk about their products with those external to the company.

Hugh's advice for companies who are interested ian blogging is to read Robert Scoble's blog (Microsoft) for a year.

The take-away for me was this point: engaging the market in a more intelligent, meaningful way is a moral decision. Recognizing that there's no way to control consumer conversations, the best way to influence the conversation is to elevate the conversation.

Intel and the Study of Urban Atmospheres

Eric Paulos (and colleagues) of Intel Research is researching how people use and live in urban spaces. Not only do they look at how space is used from a functional, productive approach (for example, we get on public transportation to go from one place to the next) but more so from a social perspective. Specifically they're interested in the social aspects of "urban computing".

One project they are working on is "Jabberwocky" and the idea of "familiar strangers". These are people who are familiar to us but are strangers in the sense that we don't really interact with them. They color our lives where the relationship is an understood agreement to ignore each other, but not with any hostile intent. The idea is that there's so many people in urban environments we can't maintain more active relationship with them. The goal of this project is to find out how technology can facilitate this type of relationship. To study this phenomena they work with artists, urban planners, architects, and anthropologists. They also take advantage of bluetooth-enabled phones, just like the MIT Media Lab.

Intel Research also did some interesting work on public interaction with trashcans as well as the lost postcard technique (where postcards with a friendly message and URL were left around a city to see what people's curiousity would be). A number of the postcards were never heard from. Some people checked out the URL on the postcard but never mailed it back. Some looked at the URL and mailed it back. And some even mailed it back with their own personalized response.

A lot of this research is exploratory, conducted in order to understand the subtle, social dynamics of daily urban life. The take-away point is that technology needs to be designed to take into account such subtle social dynamics. Also, by studying the ways people engage with public spaces organizations can design programs that better engage their stakeholders.

Alex Pentland -- MIT Media Lab

Alex "Sandy" Pentland, from the MIT Media Lab, is now talking about how portable wearable devices can be used to understand social networks and interactions. They use Nokia "smart phones" to track patterns of social interactions.

You can learn more from the Human Dynamics Group at MIT.

The Buzz in Hamburg: Azoomma Marketing Lab

The presentation that seemed to have most everyone talking was presented by Inus Hwang, President of Azoomma Marketing Lab. The root of the Korean word "Azoomma" means housewife and this is the focus of their innovative company co-founded by two sisters, Inus and Sang Yun. Dr. Nils Andres, the organizer of the conference, introduced Azoomma as the "BzzAgent of Asia." They're story is worth sharing.

In 2000 they created an online community for married Korean women. This site created a wonderful opportunity to create interactions with one another. In 2003, they took this 600,000 member community into the WOM marketing arena. One sample campaign was for Hamsville Bacon. Korean culture was not accustomed to bacon and how to prepare it in meals so Azooma created a campaign whose goal was to show how bacon can be integrated into the womens' daily lives.

The campaign worked along these lines: Azoomma recruited 200 women from their online community, called "seeders" and then sent them "experience kits" about the product that included 100 cards to distribute to other people. Through Azoomma, the company provided resources for women to hold "rice and bacon" parties in their homes during a one-month period. The women invited their friends over to the house for these parties (much like a Tupperware party). There were 780 parties that involved a total of 5,955 participants (P1s). The women who participate in the parties are given "Buzz Tracking Cards" which have a number of survey questions, most notably how many other people (P2s) they told about the experience and the product and their purchasing behavior. These postcards, which have a tracking number tied to the woman who hosted the party (the "seeder"), are mailed back to Azoomma to track the WOM that was spread.

In this campaign they were able to have a total reach of just over 60,000 women that resulted in 58% of those women purchasing the product. According to their research, one seeder had an ultimate multiplying effect of 326x (this is based on an estimate of P2 interactions; I'm not clear yet on the formula used to calculate this number but hope to learn more soon).

According to another calculation, they were able to determine that the cost of reaching the number of people they did was 1/13 the cost of a TV ad. This brand now has the top position in terms of market share in Korea.

There are also other aspects of community involvement after the campaign. For example, the women take pictures of the events and post them online.

One challenge they are facing now, which I've also been dealing with in my own research, is how to track the P2 data (that is, the people who were told about the party and product after the party).

There are a number of principles that seem to make their model successful: 1) creating a grassroots community that provides members with a space to interact as well as a sense of connection and belonging; 2) leveraging the power of relational networks and the credibility derived from these relationships; 3) providing a meaningful experience for people to talk about; 4) a concrete method for tracking and measuring the WOM; and 5) creating opportunities for people to make the WOM marketing experience relevant and meaningful to their everyday lives (including the possibility of further consumer-generated-media through the online sharing of photos and discussion).

Right now Azoomma is a small company with a handful of clients, but they are tapping into some sound principles of WOM. Inus had a strong stage presence in her talk and many people found her presentation compelling. Conclusion: they're the buzz from Day 1 in Hamburg.

Live from Hamburg at the 1. International Word-of-Mouth Marketing Conference

Today is Day 2 of the 1. International Word-of-Mouth Marketing conference in Hamburg, Germany. The conference is being held at the swanky Dorint Sofitel Hotel.

My goal is to provide live updates throughout the day and also a review of Day 1 highlights.

The conference is being sponsored by the Brand Sciences Institute as well as WOMMA and Contagious.

The agenda for Day 1 included an introduction to WOM, measurement, WOM and advertising and "mass" media, podcasting, and blogs.

I spoke on Day 1 in the first slot after a presentation by Forrester research on integrating WOM marketing in the mdia mix. The highlight of their presentation was how WOM needs to be integrated through the consumer buying cycle.

The Forrester presentation was followed by Lois Kelly from Foghound, a strategic marketing consultancy firm. Lois expanded the notion of WOM beyond products and services arguing that we live in a "talk world" where companies need to learn how to make their brand conversations real and relevant, where people will say "That's interesting, tell me more..." She provided some helpful strategies to help companies build these "conversation themes".

My presentation built off of my research on the "conversational geography of WOM". My three take-away points were how companies need to understand the conversational and relational contexts of WOM (and I provided some tools on how to do this), how to incorporate WOM into the marketing mix in order to leverage its credibility effect, and how companies can become participants in consumer-to-consumer conversations rather than unwelcome guests. I shared findings from my latest research with BzzAgent and discussed the Volkswagen Alpha Drivers campaign as a case study.

In my next post I'll talk about the presentation from Day 1 that stole the show and had everyone talking...