Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Is this a Kansas Classroom? The Debate between WOM Creationists and Evolutionists

Our class took about half an hour yesterday to debate the merits of a few freshly-learned terms regarding word-of-mouth marketing--specifically, WOM creationists and WOM evolutionists. At the onset of the debate, I felt confident that my side (the evolutionsists) would earn an easy victory with what I considered to be overtly superior arguements. After all, it seems like common sense grants us the assumption that long-term WOM activity created organically and fueled by a superior product or service is the way to go. My undeserved confidence aside, however, the in-class debate proved more nuanced than I had anticipated. Despite his best efforts, our fair professor could not keep the two sides of the class from agreeing that the creationist and evolutionsist approaches seem best suited for integration; that is to say, we decided that any WOM campaign should probably display qualities of both. No one wants to repeatedly formulate short-term campaigns riddled with gimmicks to create buzz about an unexciting product or service. At the same time, long-term organic WOM is not necessarily an option for most companies (how does one generate organic WOM about a less-than-amazing product like our beloved hamburgers?). In thinking about our debate, a recent star product (the iPod) came to mind.

Even those who have made their residences in subterranean caves or underneath large boulders for the last few years know that the iPod has been an incredible success for Apple. Our debate made me realize that the iPod's amazing rise to stardom was fueled by components of both the creationist and evolutionist approaches. From the creationist perspective, the idea is to foster WOM activity by creating advertising or a WOM activity that is remarkable in and of itself. We all remember the iPod ad campaign--hailed for its genius in that it was catchy and completely devoid of any kind of socio-economic leaning (we, the students of Boston, cannot escape remembering, since it appears on almost every "T" car in the city). The ads themselves garnered Apple accolades and generated buzz. On the other hand, the product is and was revolutionary. Indeed, I'm sure we all know a few music-loving individuals who go into panic mode when their iPod is lost or malfunctioning. Its size, portability, ease of use, and incredible capacity for songs and other digital material have made it one of the hottest products in the last few decades. This invited the question: what if one of these compnents were missing from the iPod campaign? Would the product be as successful if the ads annoyed people? By the same token, would iPod be a hit if those cool silhouette ads were its best feature? The answer to both questions seems to be a resounding "no". In the end, my point here is that we can take our in-class discussion and look into the world around us to see that indeed, integrating creationsist and evolutionist ideas into a product campaign seems to be the best route to go. An outstanding product with no buzz will sit in the shelves, but a mediocre one shilled by Paris Hilton will probably do the same. My apolgies to professor Carl, (who tried to encourage some more debate) but it would seem that these two approaches are best suited for side-by-side use. Now, if only the Kansas Board of Education could get this Creatist v. Evolutionist thing down so easily. -->
Tags: marketing communicatio


JStephens said...

I agree the two are best used side by side, or at least, creationist may lead to evolutionist. I think the WOM campaigns we researched justified that. I know with mine, what originally started as a creationist movement (Family Guy team page), eventually turned more evolutionary (with the long term and current success of the show). Other groups seemed to have similar concepts (Rage Against the Haze). In hindsite it seems as if evolutionists would win out hands down, but after hearing some campaign presentations and taking part in the debate, I can see that's not always the case.

couture said...

I absolutely agree with you that combining creationist and evolutionist approaches seems to be the best strategy. I myself was on the Evolutionist team and we had some giggles over how easy it was going to be to win the debate. Much to our dismay the Creationist side made some excellent points about the strengths of short term campaigns.
Your mention of the iPod is an excellent example. Although iPod was not the first devise of its kind it was by far the most talked about and most appealing because of its design and advertising (Much thanks to CEO Steven Jobs!). iPod is also a great example of how traditional marketing can create WOM - the silhouette ads definately got people talking! I know I can't survive a day at work without my iPod. Great post!