WOM (Word of Mom) Is Researched, Credible
“Your methodologies are antiquated and weak. Your procedures of approval ensure that only the least radical ideas are rewarded.” – Alex, “Charlie’s Angels,” Columbia Pictures, 2000
A few weeks ago, I prepared for a long, impeccable discussion with my wife as to why I needed to upgrade my upsized smartphone. I was way ahead in points. Then she came home from shopping, entered into the conversation and I finally decided I was good for another six months with my current device. It turns out, one of her professional associates had been considering upgrading hers so they discussed the issue, talked about them with friends who had purchased one and had even done some online research. I didn’t stand a chance because all I had going for me was emotional rationalization. She had personal recommendations/ideas from people she knew and trusted as well as online input from third-party reviewers.
There had been a lot of emotional buzz flying around the Web about the newest devices – unbridled anticipation, fanboys/girls talking up how theirs was going to kill the other guys – and I was that close to upgrading. In the end, WOM (word-of-mom) trumped my WOM (word-of-mouth)! Since today’s technology has become such an integral part of our lives, it’s interesting that marketing and communications folks tend to focus on their “gee whiz” functions, features and capabilities. That’s because it’s difficult to develop/nurture the soft differences, the emotional appeal that ties the products and companies more closely to the customer. When the consumer has that emotional bond, people begin talking about it, recommending it and fanning the desire/demand.
Emotional Value – It takes a lot of creative work to develop an emotional attachment to a company, its customer approach, and its products. But when people say, “I’d never buy product anywhere else,” they have developed that connection and will tell others as often as they can. The better the emotional tie, the more likely folks are to tell others. The worst WOM is “fine” – an answer that drives my wife up the wall because it means I probably don’t really care. Few marketing/communications folks like to count too much on WOM because they can’t control it. The consumer owns the image that is projected.
When WOM works correctly, it’s the real strength of a product/brand. Of course if WOM is negative, guess who gets blamed? Not the folks who designed/developed/produced the product. It’s the guys/gals who couldn’t control/manage the message that spread across the Internet. Remember the “United crushed my guitar” incident? Baggage gorillas may have been talked to but it was the communications folks who caught hell for handling/quieting the noise. That’s the exception, rather than the rule. WOM is usually eight times more positive than negative. Even when it’s negative, prompt corrective action can produce more positive WOM than a “well it’s about time” neutral/negative response.
The thoroughly covered Dell Hell incident also showed customers are in control. Which is why Dylan simply said, “Hold that thought.” However, if you listen and take positive action, the customer will not only forgive you but will also commend the company for its response/action.
Action WOM – Positive word-of-mouth is not only credible, it moves consumers to action, to buy. Negative WOM is spread much less – unless it’s really bad – and the worst thing happens … you’re ignored. Actually, management only hears about the gaffs because frankly, doing the right thing consistently doesn’t warrant coverage above the fold (it’s an old newspaper phrase).
Positive WOM is far more prevalent than negative WOM. And has a greater impact. In addition, those recommendations will have far more influence in a buying decision than any other form of marketing/communications.
Best, Hardest – The best and most effective marketing tool for a company/brand is recommendations from others. It is also the hardest to develop and the most difficult to measure/manage. But it consistently leads consumers to action, while the other tools only fan interest and get people checking with friends, family and respected authorities. And it’s more credible by a good margin.
There are other important facts we uncovered by considering the value/importance of WOM:
- In-person recommendations carry more credibility than the online recommendations – including YouTube reviews/recommendations and Facebook “likes.”
- Women are more likely to share the information than men.
- Women’s recommendations carry more weight than men’s.
According to Nielsen and Keller Fay, offline recommendations have a much stronger influence over consumers than online recommendations, which is probably to be expected. I don’t think you stop someone on the street and ask them which phone, tablet, computer, car, and perfume/cologne you should consider. Online is good for broad research as well as to double-check the information obtained from face-to-face discussions … just in case.
Online, Offline – Women rate personal word-of-mouth (WOM) highest when they consider a product or service purchase – even over coupons and special offers. They also tend to do the most thorough research before making their decision. You tend to ask people you trust – friends/family. You can rely on these people to give you information you can rely on except when you ask those impossible questions:
- Do you think this dress makes me look fat?
- Do you think I’m getting bald?
No, when people ask for assistance and advice, the respondent will give the best recommendation possible based on knowing the person’s level of knowledge/expertise, their usage and their general price range as well as their expected long-term satisfaction. But it just so happens that not all WOM is the same. Women not only spread the word face-to-face more freely, they are also more active online.
Shared Experience – You can count your Likes on Facebook but the number means far less than favorable comments on other sites, including those that invite/encourage reader/visitor product, service, and company feedback. In fact, Nielsen noted that most Likes are posted because the individual wants coupons, special deals or exclusive offers. You can almost feel the love. Whether it’s groceries, clothes, travel or technology; women more readily search out and share information and insights online. Their social media activities cover the complete range – Twitter, Facebook, Viggle, GetGlue, Tumblr, Foursquare, Pinterest, Instagram, and dozens of other sites. Their online communications also include texting, IMing and email. As Alex said, “Isn’t it amazing how much you can learn off of the internet?”
That’s probably why Nielsen found that women have more product category/brand conversations per week than men.
It’s true that coupons and special offers are the key motivator for moms to recommend products (61 percent) but more than half do it because it is fun and half do it because of the sense of pride. The strength of the female’s WOM can’t be sold short either. For example, if you’re a guy, you might have wondered why your significant other was “encouraging” you to use Old Spice.
Influential Target – The online ads Gillette used to advertise their Old Spice body wash may have gone viral, but they certainly didn’t target guys. Instead, they focused on the female who “influenced” the man’s purchases. “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” online campaign went viral and guys were just bystanders. They were determined to influence wives, girlfriends, mothers – you know, the influencers, the decision-makers. I had a lot of pressure, but I didn’t give in. Nope. I used the stuff they provided in the showers at the club then put on a lot of cologne (not Old Spice). We may not want to admit it, but women’s WOM is more influential than men’s.
It’s Better – I’ve always been surprised that even men who regard women’s ideas, advice and recommendations higher than those of other men have difficulty putting women in charge of a business team. Well at least men listen. Back in the pre-GPS days, the wife was the one reading the map and giving the turn-by-turn directions. Today, the car’s direction-giving GPS still has a female voice and … periodically, I ignore it. The Keller Faye study found that 58 percent of the time men gave women’s advice higher marks in credibility. Like it or not, most guys will agree that women also just plain give better advice than men but it sure takes all the fun, adventure outta, getting lost. Of course, you quickly realize when you’re wrong–especially when they respond with Vivian’s comment, “Never send a man to do a woman’s job.”