Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Maze of WOM

In class, we’ve discussed the importance of generating positive WOM and avoiding negative WOM. The idea seems to be pretty self-explanatory: you want everyone to hear all the great things about your product and you would prefer to keep thoughts of your product’s worthlessness from ever seeing the light of day. This concept, however, overlooks the very important factor of taste.

It is extremely hard, if not impossible, to quantify positive and negative WOM when the matter of taste comes into play. Certainly, it is often easy to discern whether the speaker is displaying a positive reaction towards a product, but I don’t see any way to determine whether or not that means the influence that particular thought has is necessarily in agreement with the thought itself.

This idea was brought to my attention through the otherwise innocuous events of my weekend. On Saturday, my girlfriend and I went to see the movie, Pan’s Labyrinth after receiving a positive WOM recommendation from a friend of mine. Or, I should say, a recommendation that my friend considered a positive one. He described Pan as a riveting foreign movie that mixes fantasy with a period/war film with beautiful special effects. This would certainly fall under the characterization of positive WOM, right? But, what if I hated movies that have sub-titles? What if I hate fantasy, or war films? What if I want my movies to be entirely driven by the actors, not by surreal computer effects? Sure, my friend liked the movie and his recommendation would be documented as a positive WOM exchange, but when dealing with the matter of taste, we consider it a black and white issue. There is room for interpretation by each individual member of the audience as to whether this WOM fits into their own personal taste.

As for the film itself, I enjoyed it. My girlfriend, on the other hand, was turned off by the graphic, gratuitous violence, saying she couldn’t even watch half the scenes without feeling nauseous. After hearing her dour review, my roommate exclaimed, “Awesome! I’m definitely going to see that one!”



Andrea said...

This post is interesting because of its relevance to the Negative Word of Mouth Recorded for the Dunkin' Donuts Latte Lite campaign. Val mentioned that most of the NWOM dealt directly with that fact people who did not like Splenda or artificial sweeteners in general. This NWOM was based on a value judgment and is completely subjective in nature.

Since word of mouth is subjective in nature, is it truly possible to capture a representative depiction of satisfaction? This also speaks to the issue we discussed in class about the U Shaped curve, in which the most satisfied and dissatisfied people are most likely to spread word of mouth. If neutral word of mouth is rarely recorded, then we are left with subjective extremes. Therefore, the opinions of people who do spread word of mouth might be unique and not representative of the general population.

Anne said...

I think Psomas brings up a great point about word-of-mouth. I have never once gone into a hair salon and got a haircut without someone I know giving the place a great review. The worst part is I usually hate the haircut I get and have trouble telling me friend it was a horrible recommendation. I think the same goes for restaurants. One person can go and have a great experience with the server, the food, and the atmosphere, another’s experience can be quite the opposite given different circumstances.

I think word-of-mouth marketers should find a way to beat the system. Like Andrea mentioned, BzzAgent reported that much of the negative word-of-mouth given about the Dunkin Donuts Latte Lite was related to taste differences. Had specific “latte” drinkers been identified to participate in this campaign, the negative word-of-mouth may have been more informative and related to the packaging, price, etc.

kitch24 said...

I think that a great positive recommendation would have less effect on me then hearing a terrible review of a place. Additionally, I seem to find myself as a critic when it comes to products and services and the experience I have with them. I hardly ever hesitate to spread the word of a terrible experience, especially when I was told that it could be great. I'm one to attempt to stop "misinformed" reviews.

Megan said...

I think this also relates to our informal knowledge and reading in Citizen Marketers of Snakes on a Plane. The positive WOM surrounding both Pan's Labyrinth as an Oscar nominated film and SoaP as an internet phenomenon arguably got more viewers to see the films than if they were lacking that WOM (According to boxofficemojo.com, they both did around $35m domestically but Pan's Labyrinth did about $20m more in foreign box office), but SoaP didn't live up to everyone's blockbuster expectations. I never saw either film but everything I heard about SoaP seemed to suggest that it didn't live up to the hype, indicating that all the WOM in the world can't save a poor product. As it says in Citizen Marketers, SoaP was a first in many ways and became an easy target for criticism, so I know we'll be seeing more of this in the future and be able to generate some clear theories as to why it was so ultimately so underwhelming.

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