Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Class 21 Agenda: Workshop DWOMP Process

Learning Objective(s):
  • To learn from other groups on how they are approaching their designing WOM marketing program assignment
  • To understand persuasive appeals in writing proposals

Readings for This Class:

  • None.

Content & Activities:

  • Instructor Meetings with Groups.
  • Discussion about building a case for action in project proposals

To Do (for next class):

· No class on Friday (canceled due to presidential inauguration).

· E-mail me first draft of DWOMP proposal. for Friday, March 30th.

· Next class is Tuesday, April 3.

o Prepare outline for presentation.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Reflection On Jodi Long's Visit To Class

On Tuesday, our class had Jodi Long as our guest speaker on the topic of "Integrating WOM Into the Media Plan." Jodi is a media professional with over 20 years of experience. A large chunk of that time she was involved with CBS in general management of radio stations as well as a national promotion group. She has also done local and national sales management as well as account management in cross-media planning.

I asked her to speak to our class because of the depth of her industry experience and passion in this space. She gave an extremely informative presentation on what it would take to get WOM into the media plan. What I liked most about her talk, and why it was perfect for this class that blends the study of organizational communication, marketing, and media, was that she talked about the organizational decision-making that goes into the media planning and buying process. She layed out, in extensive and entertaining detail, the relationship between the brand client, the ad agency and media buying firm.

I want to summarize some of the key stages but not get into all the details for each one.

Starting with media planning she discussed how the media budgets, goals, and objectives are set annually (making it extremely difficult for WOM components to get into the plan if you're timing isn't right). The Agency then prepares the media plan and the important thing here is that inertia is the guiding principle. That is, if you want to make a change you have to justify it; thus, the burden of proof is not in justifying that the old plan makes sense for this year, but the burden is on justifying why this year something should be done differently.

The approved plan is then passed to the buyers. Jodi explained the "avail" process, which is like a Request for Proposal (RFP), but in this context is specifically an opportunity to pitch business with specific criteria. The avail is sent to traditional media outlets and then the negotiations begin. A key point here is that WOM marketing companies are not getting the avail since they aren't yet consistently on the radar.

The media playing field right now is dominated by the primary choices of TV, cable, Radio (broadcast and satellite), out of home (like billboards, transit, taxi tops), print (newspaper and magazines), direct mail (free-standing inserts [FSI] and custom campaigns), and interactive (online search, email blasts, etc.; mobile might also be included in here). The key point here is that WOM doesn't have a place at the table, yet. [[MY OWN COMMENTARY HERE: Some people might argue that, depending on how you define WOM, you might be leveraging WOM principles but still using traditional outlets in doing so (for example, you might be designing your traditional ads to generate talk value or using your ads to highlight the specific features built into products and services that are designed to elicit certain types of social activity, like engaging in consumer-to-consumer WOM. Others would argue that, while WOM strategies should figure into the planning process from the beginning, it should not be considered a media channel]].

A very interesting point that Jodi made is that existing media channels all "own" something. For example, TV owns reach. Radio owns frequency. Magazine owns branding. News owns sales (for example, coupons). At this point, I asked what WOM could own. And we agreed that one way to sell WOM is to say that WOM owns "credibility."

Jodi then talked about the role of media sales representatives, and the media buy (lots of details here I won't cover due to space).

Then, Jodi went into specific advice she would offer WOM marketing companies if they want to get into the game. She talked about how agencies are very protective of "their" clients and are not keen on having someone else enter the mix, so a WOM company has to be politically astute.

Also, she provided the top five reasons why new media, in general, but also specific to WOM, are not purchased.

#5: No accepted standard for deliverables and cost (ROI models don't exist and there are limited industry-standard metrics)
#4: It's hard to determine how much to spend to acheive an agenda like penetrating a market
#3: Lots of inertia in business. People feel safe with TV and print.
#2: Funding comes from mass media. It's difficult to compare costs analysis because WOM is not a mass medium.
#1: It's an extremely intricate and complex sales process (there's a high turnover rate of CMOs and market managers), with big workloads and short deadlines.

Jodi also provided the class with suggestions about what WOM companies could do to try and overcome each of these obstacles. I won't post them all here -- if you want to find out you can hire her, or take the class at Northeastern :-)

Thanks Jodi for an outstanding and highly informative class!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Power of Internet Buzz: Always

Just today I was checking my email and received a forward from a friend. Now, let it be known that I am not a fan of forwards and they normally end up in the recycling bin, but this title piqued my interest.

The email was a forward of a letter to Proctor & Gamble, which may or may not be fictitious, written by blogger Wendi Aarons. In this letter she writes to P&G brand manager James Thatcher about the Always Maxi Pads brand and its current campaign slogan, “Have a Happy Period”. Serious or not, the letter is humorous and appeals to many women. Internet technologies allowed this letter to be spread and it was passed along virally through emails, posted on message boards, blogged about and even printed and brought into offices.

According to Technorati, when I searched the term “Wendi Aarons” there were little to no posts found prior to the past 30 days. This suggests she is not a blogger with known authority. Within the last 30 days, this letter was first posted to Mcsweeneys.net where it was viewed by many people. Unfortunately I was unable to locate the original letter post in the archives at this website. As you can see from the graph below generated by blogpulse, conversations involving “Always Maxi Pads” (and presumably the marketing campaign) have increased accordingly. [There are quite a few spikes in the P&G line, though, most recently the increased chatter is about their pet food recall].

Whether or not this letter was actually sent to P&G becomes of second concern. What this open letter has started is a brand conversation about Always Maxi Pads and Proctor and Gamble. And its not positive. It will be interesting to see if this involves into something more, and if P&G (who as guest speaker Ed Keller said last week P&G recognizes we live in a WOM era and understands “the consumer is boss” according to their pronouncement) will shift any of their brand strategies for Always.


Monday, March 19, 2007

CGM + Nick Lachey = Success?

Now that companies are realizing the value and potential success of consumer generated campaigns, it seems that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and offering consumers the ability to create their own ad campaigns. And why not? Not only is it cost efficient, but it also alleiviates the pressure on corporate America to figure out how to relate to their customers (and we all know how well that tends to work). However, now with so many online CGM contests, the bigger question becomes how to make your campaign stand out. The answer: use a multi-faceted approach to gain publicity.
In early September, 2006, Snickers introduced their "Satisfaction Sing-Off" contest, in which fans of the candy bar were asked to create an original song that celebrates the way they feel satisfied with Snickers. The only guidelines were that the contestants must integrate the four Snickers ingredients into the song- peanuts, caramel, nougat, and chocolate. They could post their entries on YouTube, which would then be narrowed down to 10 semifinalists by a panel of judges. Once the 10 were selected, consumers were given the chance to vote for their top 3 favorites who would get a trip to Los Angeles for the finals. At the House of Blues in L.A., they would perform their songs in front of another panel of judges and the winner would receive $25,000.
Sounds like a typical CGM campaign, right? Well, on top of it all, Snickers decided to add celebrity spokesperson Nick Lachey into the mix, giving him final judging rights for the contest and playing off of his celebrity status to increase media interest. Results? The contest was covered on Entertainment Tonight, E!, MTV, Extra, People Magazine, 17 top ten radio station markets and more than 40 entertainment and music websites and blogs. Additionally, more than 80,000 people visited the Snickers Satisfies website while 100 video entries were posted on YouTube. The event posed to be a model for the integration of consumer generated media and the more traditional marketing tactic of celebrity spokesmanship.
Was this the most successful CGM campaign ever? No, not necessarily. However, it does prove that companies are trying to take advantage of the CGM trend, but are aware of the difficulty and risk involved in relying singularly on a consumer generated media campaign to take off and produce the results they are looking for. In this case, it was a mix of drawing attention through celebrity status, giving the consumers the power to relay their messages through video, and finally allowing them to vote for their favorites, that resulted in success.
Why did I choose to analyze this case? Mainly because my friend Mike was the winner, using only his fabulous ukulele skills, a sock mask and a towel cape to impress his peers and, of course, Nick Lachey. Check out the winning video.

Politicians Realize Importance of CGM sites

On March 1st, the Associated Press released an article, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17397560/, that discussed the recent effort YouTube has made in attempts to increase voter education. While Politicians have made their way on to YouTube in the past, whether it be against their will or not, the website is now purposively collaborating with politicians encouraging them to take full advantage of the exposure YouTube creates. Candidates will have their own ‘channels’ where viewers will be able to post comments to which the candidates can respond. Now, instead of having to deal with the embarrassing and negative videos that often get posted on YouTube, candidates can decide what they would like to show people. Regardless of your political standing, I think we can all respect the candidates’ newfound acknowledgement of viewers individual concerns. While participation for some may be out of necessity, ensuring their position amongst their opponents, this does not dismiss the fact that “the viewer” or in this case the voter is finally being acknowledged as that of a voice worth listening. This open dialogue is undoubtedly risky, and gives voters the freedom to say just about anything they please. I think we can all imagine the negative feedback that could develop around politics. According to the article political candidates are even creating their own profiles on MySpace. The significance of this effort is unbelievable, when I came across the article I couldn’t believe candidates would agree to be a part of something where voters can comment without restriction. Although, participating on CGM sites that encourage viewer feedback pose high risks and decrease candidates control, the exposure and respect gained from participating on these sites has proven to outweigh this. I think that this is a great idea and I cannot wait to see the effects. Anything that encourages people to vote and increases people’s awareness of the political world is a positive thing in my eyes. I know too many people my age who don’t take voting seriously, and I think appealing to such popular sites as MySpace and YouTube with atleast serve as a reminder of its importance, if nothing else.Tags:

Reflections on Ed Keller's (The Keller Fay Group) Visit to Class

On Friday we had Ed Keller from the Keller Fay Group come in to talk with us about the services his company provides and how companies are restructuring their operations to leverage WOM principles. Last summer we had his partner, Brad Fay, visit the class.

We felt very fortunate to have him talk as it's clear his knowledge of WOM and the market research industry is expansive. As I was reading his bio to the class I was wondering how he manages to accomplish everything. He is a board member of the Advertising Research Foundation, president of the Market Research Council, and is President and Director of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. And last year we served together, along with Jonathan Carson, as co-chairs of WOMMA's Research and Metrics Council.

Ed began his talk by explaining how Keller Fay wanted to take well-tested research methodologies of diary-based, day after recall that had been used for many years in the advertising industry and apply them to consumer-to-consumer WOM conversations. Starting in April 2006 they launched their TalkTrack™ service which collects reports of people's WOM episodes at the rate of 3,000 reports per month from a demographically representative sample of the U.S. (disclosure: I worked with them early on as a consultant in the design and pilot phases). One of the more interesting findings to date is just the sheer volume of conversation that take place. According to their research, the U.S. population generates approximately 3.5 billion brand-related conversations every day.

They are also tracking the contributions of what they call "Conversation Catalysts™." These are people who are actively engaged in WOM (as evidenced by how they make recommendations across multiple categories of marketing-relevant topics), and have the largest and most diverse social networks (WOMMA members can download a copy of their recent report, which Ed referenced in class).

One other point I'll mention from Ed's talk is how they are tracking Net Advocacy. Net Advocacy is a measure of the volume of positive and negative WOM. The methodology of computing Net Advocacy is similar to the Net Promoter Score™, but instead of using likelihood to recommend, it is computed using volume and polarity/valence (positive, negative, neutral, and mixed). The Net Advocacy formula is as follows:

Net Advocacy = % PWOM - (% NWOM + % Mixed WOM)

Like NPS, the neutral WOM doesn't figure in to the calculation, but unlike NPS, which doesn't have a "mixed" category (both positive and negative WOM), "mixed" is added to the negative category and then that combined amount is subtracted from the percentage of positive WOM.

So, let's say 50% of a firm's WOM is mostly positive, while 10% is neutral, 10% is negative, and 30% is mixed. Their Net Advocacy score would be:
50 - (10 + 30) = 10
And like NPS, a firm's net advocacy score can be negative, positive, or zero.

Ed explained that a firm could monitor their Net Advocacy score over time as an indicator of how well the company is doing in the conversations of consumers. It will be interesting to see if Net Advocacy is tied to key performance metrics and/or correlated with market share.

At the end of Ed's talk I facilitated a discussion about how companies are organizing for WOM. Ed cited the example of Intuit as one company who has been doing a great deal in organizing to leverage WOM principles, especially with the communities that form around their products and services (a point that we also heard Jackie Huba make in her talk). Ed also indicated that when he presents to companies he has far fewer "background" slides (in comparison to a year ago) about why WOM is important to companies. Most companies now already get that point and they want to move quickly about how to learn from consumer conversations and whether or not, and how, to engage consumers.

Thanks Ed for a great class visit! It was a cold and windy day with an impending snow storm so we appreciate your time and trip to Beantown!


Friday, March 16, 2007

Bad Thing But Good Management

Earlier ago before spring break, I came across an article from PromoMagazine on listing ways to handle crisis and showing the timeline of Turner Broadcasting handling the Boston Bomb Scare incident. While the incident has created chaos and might possibly lead to negative WOM, I personally was quite impressed by the way Turner Broadcasting handled the incident. Let alone the nature of the incident and the issue on guerrilla marketing (i.e. whether the types of WOM marketing the campaign used was constructive or destructive or if further regulations guerrilla marketing is needed), in my opinion, their way to handle the incident was effective. The timeline showed in the article that the same day of the incident occurred, Turner Broadcasting put concern on the incident and within 24 hours Turner Broadcasting took full responsibility of the incident. Also, there was an apology from Turner CEO, Phil Kent, the day after. The article showed several ways to handle damage control: implement the crisis communication plan, respond to the crisis quickly, accept the responsibility, and demonstrate empathy. This is similar to one of our guest speaker, Jackie Huba, discussed with the class that the first thing to do when a complaint is made or crisis happened is acknowledgment and be prepared to respond. The reading that we have “Naked Conversation” also mentioned that “responding quickly saves lives” and can “save millions of dollars and preserve a company’s reputation.” Responding to a crisis at a blink speed, in one way or another, might hold down the spread of negative WOM and put a lid on a crisis, in comparison to deny, ignore or hide the communication.

Besides, in my opinion, I found the apology from Turner CEO is an effectively communicated message to the public. I remember from an organizational communication class, I learned that there are five criteria (including timeliness, clarity, accuracy, pertinence, and credibility) need to be met when sending a communicated message effectively to the public, and I found that the apology seems to meet the criteria.

Despite the Boston bomb scare incident itself was bad and created chaos, it always helps if the organization responds quickly and is truthful and honest to admit what they know and what they don’t know. At least this way the organization shows the public that they care about what is going on, regretted what they have done, and take care of the consequences. This is also what we have mentioned in class that a negative WOM might possibly end up turning into a positive WOM if the complaint/ issue is sincerely being taken care of. Or even though a negative WOM might not turn into a positive WOM, the number of negative WOM would probably not add up.

Class 19 Agenda: Integrating WOM Into the Media Plan

Learning Objective(s):

  • To understand how companies engage in media planning efforts
  • To determine ways for companies to integrate WOM into their media planning efforts

Readings for This Class:

  • None.

Content & Activities:

  • Guest Lecture: Jodi Long, Consultant
    • Jodi Long is a media professional with over 20 years of experience including 14 years in general management and sales management. Her background with CBS includes general management of Radio stations and a national Promotion Group. She also has experience in local and national sales management as well as account management in cross-media planning and strategy. She has a BS in Communications and Marketing from Syracuse University.

To Do (for next class):

· No class on Friday (we substituted this class for Jackie Huba’s guest visit).

· Next class is Tuesday, Match 27. The first draft of your DWOMP proposal is due Friday, March 30th.

· Continue work on your DWOMP projects.


Class 18: Organizing WOM: Company Roles, Structure, and Resource Allocation

Learning Objective(s):
  • To understand the importance of understanding existing WOM about your organization, brand, product, or service
  • To articulate the opportunities and limitations of tracking WOM through single-source, survey-based measurement
  • How to apply market research insights from everyday WOM conversations to strategic WOM marketing programs

Readings for This Class:

  • Single-Source WOM Measurement: Bringing Together Senders & Receivers; Inputs & Outputs. Ed Keller & Brad Fay. 2006. Pages 31-41 (Bb). See Class 6 on Blackboard for this reading.

Content & Activities:

  • Guest Lecture: Ed Keller, CEO, The Keller Fay Group [link to bio: http://www.kellerfay.com/management.php]
    • Ed Keller has worked for twenty-five years in marketing and media research, consulting with clients in the corporate, media, agency and not-for-profit sectors. Ed previously served as CEO of renowned market research firm, RoperASW (and its successor companies), and prior to that, served as the company's president and COO.
    • Known as "one of the most recognized names in word of mouth" Ed lectures at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and speaks frequently to business audiences on word of mouth marketing. He is a board member of the Advertising Research Foundation, serves as president of the Market Research Council, and is President and Director of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).
    • The publication of Keller's book, The Influentials, co-authored by Jon Berry, has been called the "seminal moment in the development of word of mouth." Offering a ground-breaking look at the 10% of consumers who, by word of mouth recommendations, profoundly impact how the other 90% vote, make purchases, invest their money and choose their lifestyles, the book has been featured in leading publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Fortune, Fast Company, Smart Money, Ad Age, Adweek and BrandWeek.
To Do (for next class):

· Continue progress on your DWOMP projects.

· Readings:

o None.


Dealing With Negative WOM on the Airwaves

Earlier this week, we discussed the management of negative Word of Mouth. Despite the conversation mostly being about dealing with WOM on the internet, I found myself thinking a lot about the topic while listening to WFAN’s Mike and the Mad Dog radio program later that day. There is very little that generates negative Word of Mouth quite like the talk radio circuit. The show’s theme is New York sports, but the concept could readily be applied to a number of different topics.

As the two hosts, Mike Francesa and Chris Russo, railed on about their latest targets (today it was the MAAC basketball conference and New York Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez), I couldn’t help but think back to an incident on the show from last October. On that day, the Yankees had just been eliminated from the playoffs and were, naturally, the main topic of the show. Francesa and Russo talked for hours about what an embarrassment it was that the team had been eliminated and, more particularly, how infuriated they were with comments by pitcher Cory Lidle that they felt criticized manager Joe Torre. They insulted him for a large portion of the show, questioning his dedication to the team and ridiculing his character. Many of the calls during this segment supported the hosts’ attacks on Lidle. This sort of occurrence is quite commonplace on the web. People in messageboards are constantly slamming companies or celebrities that they have a problem with. Oftentimes, others piggyback on what someone says until the entire forum has a hostile view of the situation. However, talk radio offers a completely different dynamic with different problems and different solutions.

For one, the response is controlled. The producers of the show (and the hosts themselves) are able to control who calls into the show. If they want to paint a topic in a certain light, all they have to do is put callers on air who agree with them and neglect callers who do not (or only granting air-time to the most belligerent and unintelligent segment of these fans). This puts the program in control of what WOM gets out to the public and what doesn’t, swaying the popular opinion on the topic. In this case, the callers who made it on-air for Mike and the Mad Dog were in support of their opinion while those who dissented were not given air-time or were cut off prematurely. By making it appear as though everyone shares the opinion through filtering WOM, the show can sway neutral listeners to their point of view.

Conversely, the radio also gives the subject of the attacks an opportunity to respond that does not carry the same risks as an internet-based response would. On the internet, those responding to attacks have to worry about being perceived at invasive or fake. On the radio, a response isn’t just tolerated, it’s almost expected. Before the show ended, Lidle called up the station to defend himself, saying that he care’s very much about his team, that he respects Joe Torre, and that he is simply trying to have a nice day with his family and enjoy his life. (Lidle would ironically and tragically die in a plane crash two days later.)


Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Case Study on Building Morale

Last night I was reading an article on building employee empowerment in a hospital in Florida. The hospital had some of the lowest rates of employee and patient satisfaction; therefore, the administration decided to implement a new program to build morale, and thus improve satisfaction among employees and patients. This immediately reminded me of our current project with the university. The hospital used various strategies (although they were not labeled as such) like implementing reward and incentive programs, creating rituals and ceremonies, and perhaps most significantly, identifying influencers and leveraging the Hawthorne effect. The hospital administration asked for employee suggestions and feedback and said that nearly 7,000 of these suggestions were implemented (not just submitted) every year. The article provided some good ideas for building morale, and were obviously successful since the hospital is now ranked in the top 1% of patient satisfaction in the U.S. In addition, the health center has also been named one of the 100 best companies to work for by Fortune magazine for three years running.

While reading the article, I found myself scribbling notes about word-of-mouth techniques and principles as if it was an article for this class. It was a pretty interesting case study to look at since it relates closely to our project, so if anyone wants to check it out, let me know!


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Class 17 Agenda: How To Manage Negative WOM

Learning Objective(s):
  • To understand the amplification effect for online WOM
  • To learn ways to track and monitor online WOM
  • To identify methods of effective outreach and relationship building with online influencers
  • To identify proactive and reactive strategies to address negative WOM

Readings for This Class:

· ThisCompanySucks.com: The use of the Internet in negative consumer-to-consumer articulations. Ainsworth Anthony Bailey. 2004. Pages 1-15. (Bb)

· Chapter 13: Blogging in a Crisis. Robert Scoble & Shel Israel. 2006. Pages 197-208. (NC)

· Suggested Reading: Chapter 7: The Weird Value of Negativity. Dave Balter & John Butman. 2005. Pages 141-164. (Bb)

Content & Activities:

· Debrief WOM Istanbul trip and WOMM conference.

· Discuss research for project

· How to Handle Negative WOM

    • Research on negative WOM and how many people are told.
    • But in the age of the internet consumers have more opportunities to have their voices amplified. Bailey discussed the use of corporate complaint websites. According to Harrison-Walker’s content analysis of the United Airlines complaint site, the top complaints were employee rudeness, employee incompetence, receiving misinformation from employees and baggage handling (see Bailey, p. 173).
    • Only 28% had visited a corporate website (sample was 158 undergraduates) but when visiting a site, 70% of the people browsed comments while 47% read them in detail.
    • Criteria to use in determining if and how to respond to NWOM (Jim Nail’s presentation). Three criteria include:
      • How core is the issue to your brand, reputation, and business?
      • Is the post influential? (Jim provided various quantitative and qualitative ways to assess this).
      • Are comments defending you? How well are they making your case?
    • Cases:
      • Kryptonite bike lock
      • Fiskateers intervention
    • Application Activity
      • Provide students with a concrete example of NWOM and have them work through if and how they should respond.

To Do (for next class):

· After next class, there will be no new readings.

· You should email your client on your status.

· Readings

o Single-Source WOM Measurement: Bringing Together Senders & Receivers; Inputs & Outputs. Ed Keller & Brad Fay. 2006. Pages 31-41 (Bb). See Class 6 on Blackboard for this reading.


The Value of Reading... And Ice Cream

We're just returning from spring break today. Before we left, and as a way of encouraging students to show up on the Friday before the long vacation (many students schedule flights too close to class time), I told all students who showed up to class that there would be a special surprise. Of course, this created an information void and students began speculating on what the surprise was.

One student thought there would be some type of treat or food item, like ice cream, (probably banking on the knowledge that the most common way of motivating college students is through free food).

But much to my dismay, another student speculated that it would be something to read. I must be getting a reputation for assigning lots of reading!

Anyhow, on Friday, everyone showed up (sans one whom I later found out had travel plans) hoping for ice cream. I had to acknowledge that I didn't have ice cream for them, but that they were very smart (or I'm very predictable -- probably both!) in guessing I would be giving them something to read.

It turns out a few months ago Andy Sernovitz, past-CEO of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association had a number of pre-press copies of his book (Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking) that had a typo on the cover. He sent an email asking those academics on the WOMMA advisory board if we wanted copies for our students. So, I took him up on his offer.

I suggested students read through it as they are thinking about designing their own WOM marketing programs for their client as part of our current class project. I let them know that I found some of his frameworks very helpful to determine essential elements of successful WOM marketing programs. For example, Andy writes about the Five Ts (all business books seem to have some useful mnemonic device so here's Andy's):

* Talkers: Find people who will talk about you
* Topics: Give people a reason to talk
* Tools: Help the message spread faster and farther
* Taking Part: Join the conversation
* Tracking: Measure and understand what people are saying

In class thus far we have discussed all of these principles and the academic research suggesting their relevance to WOM marketing programs (though, admittedly, what it takes me a long time to say, Andy can say much more succintly!).

Students, or others, who have read Andy's book are welcome to comment to this post.

Thanks Andy!


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Establishing a Human Voice to Maintain Credibility

Governor Deval Patrick utilized podcasts in the beginning of his term to give him a human quality that is rarely associated with people in positions of power. Throughout his campaign, he maintained an open relationship with his supporters through consumer generated media. The grassroots nature of his campaign gave him credibility as a genuine person instead of as an authoritative member of the establishment. According to an article in the Boston Globe from Saturday March 10th entitled “Patrick’s ratings on podcasts dip”, the popularity of his podcasts has declined since he first entered office. In his first podcast, he drew in 3,312 viewers by “offer[ing] a folksy greeting and self-effacing anecdotes about his adjustment to State House life”. Conversely, in his podcast a month later he mechanically restated his speech about his fiscal plan for 2008 and attracted a mere 532 viewers. Between these two podcasts there were criticisms in regards to some of Patrick’s decisions, including the highly publicized phone call to Citigroup.

This example speaks to the fact that credibility and trust must exist if a prominent figure or organization wants to utilize consumer generated media to connect with consumers or supporters. The Cluetrain Manifesto states that organizations must adopt a human voice to communicate with their audience; therefore, the transparency of Patrick’s campaign coupled with his image as a “real person” attracted more people to his podcasts and exposed more people to his message. However, because his image has been tarnished and his podcasts have adopted a more mechanical tone, people are less interested in listening to his message. I would suggest that if Governor Patrick had maintained his image of a charismatic, yet vulnerable change agent, his podcast ratings would not have dropped so significantly, if at all.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Class 16 Agenda: Living in a Branded Society: Societal and Ethical Effects of WOM

Learning Objective(s):
  • Distinguish between ethical and unethical WOM practices;

Readings for This Class:

· Sales Pitch Society II. Kate Kaye. 2006. Pages 1-42. (Bb)

· Suggested Reading: Live Buzz Marketing. Justin Foxton. 2006. Pages 24-46. (CM)

· Suggested Reading: To Tell Or Not To Tell? Assessing the Practical Effects of Disclosure for Word-of-Mouth Marketing Agents and Their Conversational Partners. Walter J. Carl. 2006. Pages 1-34. (Bb)

· Suggested Reading: Stealth Marketing: How To Reach Consumers Surreptitiously. Andrew M. Kaikati and Jack G. Kaikati. 2004. California Management Review, 46(4), pp. 6-22. (Bb)

Content & Activities:

· Debrief Dave Balter’s visit

· Review findings of To Tell Or Not To Tell? report

· Discuss Kate Kaye’s piece on Sales Pitch Society II

· Group meeting time

To Do (for next class):

· EWOMP Paper Revisions Due for Tuesday after spring break

· Should have update on research done thus far for client project

· Readings

o Thiscompanysucks.com! The Use of the Internet in Negative Consumer-to-Consumer Articulations. Ainsworth Anthony Bailey. Journal of Marketing Communications, 10, 169-182. 2004. (Bb)

o Chapter 13 of Naked Conversations: Blogging in a Crisis. Robert Scoble & Shel Israel. 2006. Pages 197-208. (Bb)

o Suggested Reading: Chapter 7: The Weird Value of Negativity. Dave Balter & John Butman. 2005. Pages 141-164. (Bb)


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ethics of WOMM

Dave Balter of BzzAgent had some concrete ideas about the word-of-mouth marketing industry, and I feel somewhat more grounded in the ethics surrounding word-of-mouth and what companies who are interested in word-of-mouth campaigns should be aware of. It seems as if the idea of generating and tracking word-of-mouth is a new business model and therefore the accepted business principles and ethics aren’t clear to many companies like Sony Ericsson and Canon, who both participated in stealth marketing campaigns. Dave brought a difficult ethical question to class today – should consumers who are generating media be paid for their efforts? I tend to agree with his answer. No. We’ve studied some word-of-mouth marketing campaigns where the companies used cash incentives with some of its opinion leaders and others who were given products. So where is the line drawn? It does seem to be a quick and easy solution for creating word-of-mouth, when it really should be the other way around; a company creates a great product and consumers feel compelled to generate media or word-of-mouth about it. At its core, consumer generated media should be just what it claims to be, consumers generating media through their own motivation. Online communities share a level of trust with one another, and developed forums are more known for adding accurate data than opinions, and if that relationship and trust is marginalized, the marketer cannot hope to keep this online space pure. I think the idea that the “only magic pill for WOM is making a great product” is a perfect way to help marketers and companies understand that word-of-mouth will not spread unless you start with a great product. This makes me wonder about the growth of word-of-mouth marketing companies. Can they grow to be as big as the advertising industry that creates commercials and advertisements for any kind of business with any kind of product? Word-of-mouth marketing companies may never get that big, because word-of-mouth is concentrated to products that are perceived as unique (or distinct/innovative), funny, interesting, or something people share in common with their social networks. -->