Sunday, June 25, 2006

He May Be Able To Talk, But He Doesn't Get Everything..

My last post talked about comapnies that at least somewhat understand the benefits and power or WOM practices, but I became inspired shortly thereafter to blog about the comapnies that unbelievably just don't get it at all.

I was watching television recently and a Geico commercial came on. I was happy about this as their television ads are quite funny and have become a pop-culture success for the company between their Australian talking gecko and their never-went-extinct angry cavemen. This was a talking gecko ad wherein he was being asked why Geico needed him. He responded that it was because the public trusted "advertising icons." He proceeded to say that if a "some bloke" were to tell a person that they could save money by using Geico insurance, why would anyone believe him? They would believe, however, the trusted gecko. At this point, my ears perked up and stopped what I was doing, incredulous at what I was hearing! Isn't this the entire reason we are taking this class? Because people have a mistrust of organizations and an increasing trust in their peers? Because word of mouth has always been around? Because it is increasingly more effective than traditional advertising as the later becomes more pervasive? I think so! And yet the all wise and trustworthy gecko doesn't.

I'm surprised by this yet at the same time not so much: Geico's advertisers must be pretty savvy as they've managed to launch themselves smack into the middle of popular culture. Thus, I was surprised that they would have had the gecko saying something to discredit the power of word of mouth. But at the same time, I am not taken back by this at all because as we've studied, it seems hard for companies who've relyed so heavily on traditional tv and print advertising to throw it all to the wind and trust Joe Schmo on the street to spread the word.

I went to the Geico website to see if i could find the specific tv ad to link to in this blog and found some interesting things. On their site, Geico's tv commercials are displayed for viewing. I was poking around and found another ad that would have made me scoff with disbelief. This commercial featured the gecko talking to a lizard about how exactly he wanted him to talk to people when telling them about Geico (aka scripting!). This hits right at the heart of a WOM ethical issue surrounding stealth marketing. What I thought of first was BzzAgent and their philosphy of making transparency key, keeping buzz as natural as possible, and never telling agents what to say or even how to say it; a sound ethical stance to me. The Geico commercial was more evidence to me that the company has missed the boat on WOM marketing. (There are also other commercials you can check out on that page that make you wonder about Geico's knowledge of WOM principles.)

And then I watched one of the commercials that talked about exclusivity, a very powerful WOM principle. This commercial talks about making people feel special, as if they're "better than everyone else" for using the Geico website; the advertisers obviously see the value in leveraging this principle. On the other hand, however, neither is the practice of using exclusivity to sell your product. So does Geico understand WOM and choose not to use it? Or do they really just not get it?



ericrocksmyworld said...

I don't know that I agree with you on this one. I think that Geico gets WOM; their commericals are some of the most talked about. I think if anythig, the Gecko is satirical. I kind of thought it was Geico's way of saying, "Of course we get how important other consumer's opinions are in terms of purchasing. What do you think we actually think that a Gecko is an expert on car insurance?" I think it was them playing around with some critics view that Gecko's should not be selling car insurance.

Bek said...

Believe me, I thought about that too when writing this post. And I probably should have included that in my post. I get the satirical bit; they definitely could be poking fun at the whole thing. But I was just a little bit surprised when I found the other commercials that supported my inital reaction to the ad I saw on TV. Thus, I went ahead with my post. But I can definitely see your point.

kenw said...

I agree with Eric--the Gecko is definately satirical--albiet very annoying. I don't know who at Geico's ad agency thought that having the Gecko played by a "cool, smooth" British dude isn't overtly gimmicky and predicatble. Every time I see these commercials, I admittedly want to throw myself out a window. Advertising agencies seemingly haven't grasped that fact that unless you have a really good concept, the American public is no longer willing to put with stupid gimmicks like this one.

couture said...

I didn't consider the satirical nature of Geico's commercials when I watched the links. I believe that Geico makes great use of WOM in many ways. In my opinion they completely understand WOMM Principles and make them really creative. I posted a blog about how I understood the commercials when I watched them. My post is not meant to discredit your post but I had a differnt take on the commercials and decided to play devils advocate. Great topic!