The Great WOM Debate

There is a heatead and quite intelligent discussion going on at the Adrants forum on Soflow about word-of-mouth and buzz marketing. Check it out here.

As I posted last month, I don’t think that there is such a thing as word-of-mouth marketing, but I do think that if more marketers appropriate tactics and strategies in their planning that they hope will spark word-of-mouth, then we got something going on, baby.

Of course, the ability to transfer commercial messages from person to person is a key component of marketing, but it is not a marketing practice in itself. It is a product of marketing. It is the aim of marketing. But it is not marketing per se. Wordofmouth

Why? Because all good WOM is authentically organic. It cannot be controlled. What can be controlled in marketing are two big things: the product and the message. If the product (service) is good, people will talk about it. If the message is good, they will talk about it too. Think Jeep, Apple, Ritz-Carleton, Puma, Axe and Burger King.

Marketing has devolved into a top-down, control-and-command modus operandi. Brand managers hold on to their briefs like a drowning man clutches a piece of driftwood. Internal documents at major corporations devote hundreds of pages to font sizes, pantones and other arcana to make sure that all company communication — from the logo to the name tag — is contained, controlled and conformed to.

This must change, and the rise in interest for WOM may be a catalyst for it. With all the ink devoted to its popularity, and marketers’ obsession with harnessing it and riding the wave, WOM and buzz may prove to be the thing that lets us let go.

When that happens — when marketers embrace the new networked world and learn to trust their customers again — that will be the dawn of a new way for marketing to thrive again.

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