WOMMA's Word of Mouth vs. Advertising: A logic game

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by: David Polinchock

Got involved in the discussion on the new WOMMA’s Word of Mouth vs. Advertising blog and thought that I would carry it over here as well. It was posted by Ian McKee and here’s what he had to say:

play a logic game, by putting the clock into fast forward, and on the
way getting a little contentious for the fun of it…

Starting with the simplest definition I could come up with of the difference.

Traditional advertising is when the brand tells you how great they are, Word of Mouth is when a friend tells you.

Word of mouth is more cost effective and more powerful, so if you
accept the above definition then, the natural, logical conclusion will

Brands that need to use traditional advertising are not getting (enough) personal recommendation to succeed.

From which there will be only one logical assumption (which will become more and more true with time)

Brands that have to rely on traditional advertising are not as good as ones that succeed through word of mouth.

When we get to this stage it will then become clear that

Advertising will positively damage a brand’s reputation

Now wont that be a great place and time?

(Ok, I’,m standing ready for the brickbats .. let’s ‘ave em!)

It’s been really an excellent conversation on their board but this
was a posting that I just had to respond to. And one thing that I
didn’t say it my original response was this. It is interesting how many
companies that produce WOM campaigns talk about how what they do isn’t
advertising. Here’s the definition of advertising according to
Wikipedia —

Generally speaking, advertising is the paid promotion of goods, services, companies and ideas by an identified sponsor.

So, if you get paid to produce WOM programs for clients, then
wouldn’t that be advertising? At any rate, here’s my response to Ian
which I understand will posted to the WOMMA site as well. Their
upcoming conference should prove to be a very lively discussion, so
join in here or there and make sure to attand the program during
upcoming Advertising Week 2005.


Couldn’t disagree more with your proposition here. First of all, WOM
is not a marketing strategy; it’s the outcome of a great product
telling a great story. Secondly, many WOM programs start with the brand
telling something to someone. WOM doesn’t occur in a vacuum where the
product just mysteriously appears and people start talking about it.
The Sony campaign — where they had people pretend to be honeymooners
so people could take their picture with the new camera phone — is
generally regarded as one of the first WOM campaigns and that started
with Sony paying people to hit the streets.

Third, there are far too many examples of great WOM campaigns that
did nothing for the brand at all. They generated great buzz without
impacting the business of the brand at all. We look at a tactic and
attach a strategy to it. Look at what happened with Carl’s Jr., and the
infamous Paris Hilton ads. While it generated almost no lift, according
to the June 22nd of Madison + Vine, “CKE Restaurants is capitalizing on
the attention generated from the racy Paris Hilton ad to turn the Web
sites for its Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains into popular entertainment
destinations for young males.” Clearly, they are drinking the WOM
Kool-Aid and turning a tactic into a strategy. It’s doubtful that this
will have any different impact on the sales.

Lastly, what people don’t like about advertising is not its format,
but its intrusiveness in our lives. It’s not the 30-second spot that’s
a problem; it’s the fact that there are so many of them. It’s the fact
that we play them in-store, in-theatre and every other in-something we
can think of. WOM can be just as intrusive and will face all of the
same challenges that we feel traditional advertising faces as it
becomes more and more intrusive, which it will do. Lots of us “older”
folks had a friend who sold Amway that we hated to be around. I mean,
we knew at some point they would start talking about Amway and how some
product of theirs would make our life better. And then they would start
telling us why we should sell Amway.

My final comment is this. This artificial debate about who’s better
isn’t helping us at all with our clients — the brands that buy our
services. Frankly, the amount of time that we spend arguing about which
tactic is better is why we’re not being invited to the strategic
thinking table. ALL forms of advertising have value — based on what
story you’re trying to tell. It’s not a battle between traditional
media and new media. We should be focusing our collective efforts on
how we can help our clients captivate their audience, rather then on
tactical ways we can help them capture their audience.

Link: WOMMA’s Word of Mouth vs. Advertising: A logic game.

Original Post: http://blog.brandexperiencelab.org/experience_manifesto/2005/09/wommas_word_of__2.html