Word of mouth: empower or cower


iMedia Connection


Since you can’t stop online chatter about your brand, provide consumers with a controlled platform to spread the word. It will benefit you both.

This year, a third of marketers at large companies expect marketing budgets to increase by up to 5 percent, while over half (53 percent) of marketers believe their greatest challenge is to measure marketing ROI, according to the recent CMO Council survey in January. A notable 41 percent switched agencies, 38 percent found different web design firms, and 26 percent went to new PR agencies, citing “lack of innovation” and “no value-added thinking” as the most common reasons for change. Isn’t it a question of not seeing measurable results?

The traditional marketing funnel to drive brand loyalty through media buying across channels breaks down in the age of social media and user-generated content. As clickthrough rates approach zero on banner ads, and pre-roll videos test viewers’ patience, brands and agencies must find adaptive strategies to creatively engage online consumers and influence purchase intent in quantifiable ways.

Don’t fight a losing battle
Consumers have become increasingly stubborn when it comes to brand engagement as they have been given more tools to research purchase decisions and feel that they are more informed now than ever on products and services. They also feel that it’s necessary to very publicly share their opinions and personal experiences on the latest products — from iPods to iPhones — to books, celebrities, songs, shows… you name it, someone’s got a blog, Facebook comment or online video on it.

This online chatter intimidates many brands, but why fight a losing battle to suppress it? Giving consumers a controlled platform to spread the word benefits the consumer and brand alike. A brand’s message will mean more when it comes from a trusted source. One should look for a controlled platform that:

  • Gives tighter control over the message as it spreads
  • Has a robust report feature to measure ROI
  • Enables audience segmentation and targeting/retargeting
  • Easily integrates into existing platforms and is scalable
  • Moves brand messages to a permanent place in consumers’ lives

The influence of content on permanent media like home pages, calendars, mobile devices and social networks grows over time with repeated exposure and increasing importance. Empower consumers to move brand messages from the temporary media where they are engaged — such as landing pages, SMS messages and electronic invites — to permanent places in their lives by giving access to media they already use to share and access content. There are a variety of tools that easily integrate into existing online platforms that maximize engagement and encourage brand advocacy:

  • Desktop widgets
  • Social networking apps (MySpace, Facebook)
  • Personal portals (iGoogle, pageflakes, Netvibes)
  • RSS readers
  • Add to calendar and meeting invites
  • Mobile/java applications

By giving consumers choices on how and where to move and share information, the likelihood increases of consumers acting upon their interest in creative content and participating in viral aspects of a brand’s campaign.

Tracking the brand, interaction and interest
We talk about providing a controlled platform to consumers so that they can spread viral messages, but we haven’t talked about what the benefits to marketers and the brand will be (and these are the same criteria needed to evaluate relative to the needs of each campaign):

  • Tracking the brand: After all, it won’t do us any good to give a cool new “toy” to folks without getting some useful information out of it. With social media, forwards and the like, you want the brand to stay intact, and you also want to have the ability to see where it’s being forwarded, posted to and used.
  • Capture valuable data such as level of interest, contact opt-ins and consumers’ locations based on IP address, and feed back this data into brands’ customer relationship management (CRM) and content management system (CMS) to enable retargeted messaging.
  • Avoid the pitfalls of email, online forums and user-generated video content where you can lose control of your brand and its messages. Why not preserve both as content spreads virally — from people sending messages and invitations to friends and family to how an activity or event is spreading online through social networks.

Use of a controlled platform is not an “all or nothing’ choice — widgets can be skinned and seamlessly dropped into websites or social networks with one line of HTML code. Deeper integration into existing online platforms can be done with open API calls, which enable developers to easily white-label viral tool sets and place them into a website with low engineering costs. This flexibility lets brands test the effectiveness of new technologies and develop strategic integration plans based on performance, with quick deployment options to launch interactive campaigns within a matter of days and weeks.

So, what else is left?
Controlled platforms provide tested and reliable solutions to empower brands and engage consumers. Most have proven track records that can demonstrate ROI on marketing campaigns. The industry is calling for greater innovation, value-add thinking and accountability — it’s time to consider what solutions can truly deliver all three. Yes, there is always the “wow” factor in any brand’s campaign, but if you’re missing the rest, you have a lot of sizzle and very little steak, particularly when it comes time to quantifying the bottom line.

One Response to “Word of mouth: empower or cower”

  1. Buy Tool sets Says:

    I found lots of intresting things here. Thanks!

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