Wednesday, October 04, 2006

WOM Marketing Activity For Your Next Class, Presentation, or Training Session

I recently received an e-mail inquiry about exercises or activities that can be used when presenting about WOM marketing with PR and marketing professionals.

One activity I’ve found really useful when talking with groups is about the different approaches to WOM marketing. The goals of the activity are:

1. for people to see the broad range of strategies and techniques that fall under the umbrella of WOM marketing,
2. to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each, and
3. to understand when to use each technique.
The activity is based on my own observations and interviews with industry practitioners, as well as on the work of authors and consultants Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba at Church of the Customer, and consultant John Moore from Brand Autopsy.

First, I explain that the range of WOM marketing initiatives can be broken down along three continua (there are more but three is a good start):
1. Degree of control over messages: consumer control versus company control
2. Outlook for future: longer-term versus shorter-term
3. End-goal: generating advocacy by developing a better brand, product, or service experience versus generating awareness though an attention-grabbing WOM activity
Second, I present case studies of actual WOM marketing initiatives and ask the participants to place the case along each of the continua above. In selecting cases I make sure that the case serves as a good representation of certain WOM marketing techniques. You can find a list of these techniques at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s website. Placing each case along these continua often generates some very good discussion.

For example, I have presented the case of the Chevy Tahoe Campaign where Chevy hosted a contest on their site to determine who could create the best consumer-generated ad. Chevy provided folks with the tools they needed: images, audio tracks, an easy editing interface to create the ad, and then a way to easily spread the message to other consumers. Many of the user-generated submissions were posted on their own site while others found their way to YouTube. Additionally, many of the ads were not very flattering from Chevy’s perspective, often serving as political statements about the negative effects of SUVs on the environment.

So after I explain the program I ask the audience to place it along the first continuum: consumer-company control. Some audience members think it should go all the way on the consumer end arguing that consumers could create their own ad without any input from the company. Further, Chevy didn’t filter or exclude submissions they didn’t agree with. Others argued that it shouldn’t be all the way on the consumer-control end because Chevy still did provide the raw materials and hosted many of the videos on their own site. Plus the ads on their site were taken down after the campaign, thus suggesting more company control over the process).

The next continuum is whether or not the initiative represented a longer-term strategy or a shorter-term campaign. Most of the audience says this is a shorter-term campaign (but maybe some initial stages of a longer-term strategy of figuring out consumer-generated media).

In terms of the third continuum, the end-goal, most audience members feel like the focus was to capture attention and generate awareness of Chevy Tahoe through an innovative activity designed to spread WOM (of course, Chevy wasn’t the first to do this; other examples include Converse, MasterCard, etc.). To support this classification, I usually chime in here to show that the WOM activity wasn’t really designed to elicit consumer feedback about how the Chevy Tahoe could be built better or how it wasn't designed to build more loyalty to Chevy and ultimately WOM advoacy.

The contrasts among the different types of programs become clearer when you discuss a few different examples. Here are some examples of other ones I’ve used:
1. Monitoring & Engaging in Online Conversations (Kryptonite U-locks)
2. Creating Consumer Communities & Cultivating Advocacy (Discovery Educator Network’s program for their unitedstreaming product; Church of the Customer)
3. Providing Tools for Viral Spread of Messages (Family Guy DVD program; M80)
4. Engaging Influencers (Wine Council of Ontario’s VQA program; Matchstick)
5. Stimulating WOM via Agent-Based Networks (Hershey’s Take 5 candy bar program; BzzAgent and Arnold Worldwide)
Finally, after going over the continua and presenting each case and discussing where each falls, I then facilitate a discussion about the relative advantages and disadvantages of each type of program and when a company might want to use each one. In the facilitation I think it’s important to emphasize that each technique can be useful depending on the specific company goals, and may in fact be complementary (here’s a link to one of my students’ post about combining the goals of generating both awareness and advocacy).

Feel free to contribute other activities, exercises, or discussion points you might use, or want to see, in a presentation on WOM marketing.

For more information on this post:

Watch John Moore's presentation on WOM Creationists versus Evolutionists.

Read Ben & Jackie's post on the buzz versus WOM divide

Read posts on the Chevy Tahoe campaign from Church of the Customer and Pete Blackshaw's CGM blog and ClizkZ column on consumer control and what counts as (in)authentic consumer-generated media:

Why Chevy Tahoe campaign was doomed before it launched

Chevy Tahoe campaign: Not CGM

GM Steps into the Chevy Tahoe Debate

Can Marketers Control CGM? Should They?