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. -->


Taslim said...

Good points Anne. Though, to play devil's advocate, what community these days isn't commercialized? You mention purity in online spaces but isn't is ingenious that marketers could create something that mimics CGM and that becomes a part of "culture" rather than an "advertisement"?

Think about the M80 campaign we discussed in class, and how most of the viral videos did not even mention the Mylo brand. Would you still consider this an advertisement?? I would, because the clip is using CGM to market a lifestyle, not a product. This tightens the gap between culture and marketing, making it hard for audiences to tell whether this is an advertising campaign or a statement about culture.

OneEar said...

We are trying to use viral marketing to grow our religion.

Our "product" or God is not as good as some, but we hope to leverage technology to overcome some of his weaknesses.

Thanks for the tips.

Katie said...

Going off of Taz's point, as we discussed in class, I think that in order for word of mouth to be successful, a company must provide the platform for genuine WOM to develop. But if companies try to commercialize CGM by creating it like an advertisement it would not be successful because it lacks authenticity and may damage the companies reputation or credibility.

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