Mary's Library

Monday, January 23, 2006

Word-of-Mouth Advertising

Foreign Affairs sent me a coffee mug the other day. I’m not sure what their motivation was, but maybe they figured I’d take it into the office and others, seeing that someone as clever and knowledgeable as I subscribes, would decide that they should, too. There are a couple of serious errors in that reasoning, starting with my degree of savvy. And the only ones who will see me drinking from it are Wilhelm, Miss Darcy, and Miss Woodhouse. Foreign Affairs isn’t going to get any new subscribers in that bunch. But Foreign Affairs it would seem has jumped on the word-of-mouth advertising bandwagon.

One of the first things I noticed about Spokane when we moved here last summer was the extreme importance of word-of-mouth in the business community here. We needed to have some electrical work done on the old house we had just bought as it still had some “knob and tube” wiring (whatever that is.) So we asked around.

Our incomparable realtor, Vickie Munch, of Windermere Spokane (whom we found by word of mouth), recommended The Brothers Electric, who do not advertise, who are not in the phone book, and who did an excellent job.

It turns out The Brothers Electric are at the cutting edge of marketing. Today’s NY Times has a story by Julie Bosman called “Advertising is Obsolete. Everyone Says So.” It’s a report on an advertising association conference called “Word-of-Mouth Basic Training.” Apparently viral and buzz advertising are now the way to go.

The thing to do if you want to spread the word about your product or service is to find “influencers” and “promoters,” an idea that comes from Malcom Gladwell’s best-seller, THE TIPPING POINT: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. You need “people who have large social networks and are good communicators.” Like realtors. Or bloggers.

I have heard that the “decision cycle” on which new movies depend for their success or failure is now about 5 minutes. When a new movie opens, teenaged early adopters go to the first showing. About five minutes into the movie they have decided whether they like it or not. Within 10 minutes they have phoned 10 of their friends to tell them it’s awesome. Or, to the horror of the movie makers who put $40,000,000 million into their film, to tell them to fugedaboudit. The power of word-of-mouth. Scary, isn’t it.

Want to take advantage of some word-of-mouth marketing of books about word-of-mouth marketing? Go to The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing: How to Trigger Exponential Sales Through Runaway Word of Mouth (2001) by George Silverman at and click on one of the titles under “Customers who viewed this book also viewed . . ..” Or click on one of the lists of books Amazon’s customers have compiled.

Here are a few books about word-of-mouth advertising. (Why do business books have such long subtitles?):
BUZZMARKETING: Getting People to Talk About Your Stuff (2005), by Mark Hughes
VIRAL MARKETING: Getting Your Customer To Do Your Marketing For You (2002), by Russell Goldsmith
GRAPEVINE: The New Art of Word-of-Mouth Marketing (2005), by David Balter and John Butman
UNLEASHING THE IDEAVIRUS: Stop Marketing at People! Turn Your Ideas into Epidemics by Helping Your Customers Do the Marketing for You (2001), by Seth Godin
THE ANATOMY OF BUZZ: How To Create Word-of-Mouth Advertising (2002) by Emanuel Rosen


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