By now, we all know that we live in a world in which word-of-mouth rules.  The recommendation of a friend or family member outweighs anything a brand may have to say for itself.  

As a result, marketers from around the world are racing to measure the degree in which their customers, and the market at large, is likely to recommend them.  And, more importantly, what they should do to be more liked in the social media space that is called my kitchen.

For this, various measures are used, of which my favourite is the Net Promoter® Score.  It not only measures the propensity of customers to recommend, but also links these insights to economic behaviour, competitive position and opportunities for operational improvement.  But ever since I discovered it in 2006, I’ve had this feeling that there was even more mileage to be gotten out of that famous question “How likely are you to recommend this brand … ?”.

A few weeks ago, Futurelab’s Shanghai associate Jan Van den Bergh proved that there was.  Together with two partners he has set up Holaba, China’s first brand recommendation platform. 

In line with Net Promoter® thinking, Holaba surveys an ever increasing group of Chinese netizens on the likelihood in which they are willing to recommend 5,000 different brands (50,000 products), as well as their reasons for doing so.  Combining this NPS®-data, with additional customer experience, shopping and popularity measures, allows them to create an ongoing picture of every brand’s recommendation power.

But more importantly, by offering brands to connect out to individual consumers which declare themselves to be promoters (or in China recommenders) Jan’s team has effectively created the first human media network in China.

How this will effectively be used by brands, the future will tell.  But the following two slides are already a nice illustration of the information this can generate.  It’s all still experimental, yet the direction is quite promising (for the full Holaba presentation scroll to the bottom of this post):

  • The first slide gives an overview of the recommendation scores achieved by the top 18 social networking services in China, using the Net Promoter® methodology  (n = 1500 to 7500 per brand)

  • The second one cross-correlates the propensity to recommend a given social media brand (Tencent) with the loyalty to other brands.  This opens up a world of opportunities for cross-promotions, multi-brand community development, etc.


Have you heard of other human media initiatives that operate at this scale?  If so, I’d be quite interested to hear about them.

Full disclosure: As is apparent from the article, Jan Van den Bergh is a Futurelab associate, which is a cause for bias.  Still, even if a complete stranger would have walked in with the same proposition, I dare say I would have reacted the same.

Trademark notice:  Net Promoter, NPS, and Net Promoter Score are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, and Fred Reichheld.

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