“The marketer who steered Coors Light’s ‘cold’ ad messaging for years is now taking the same approach to vodka,” according to AdAge and other recent trade news. “Andy England—who was chief marketing officer at MillerCoors from 2008 to 2015—is now CEO at Phillips Distilling, a Minnesota-based spirits marketer that under his watch is about to flood the market with new innovations, packaging and campaigns.” AdAge’s article caught our eye because Andy England is an advocate for the power of word of mouth. His innovations with packaging while at MillerCoors were a powerful example of how to generate word of mouth in a category where differentiation is often difficult. At MillerCoors, and again with his new vodka brand Cubist, innovative packaging is the conversation spark. Cubist packaging uses thermochromic technology that turns the bottle blue when its temperature drops to zero degrees Celsius or below. We know that packaging plays role in people’s word of mouth conversation. Our offline WOM data shows that the beverages (6.68%) is the most likely category where people talk about product packaging when they talk about brands. Offline, word of mouth conversation data referencing product packaging is also above average for beauty and personal care with 6.52% of the chatter, followed by children’s products (5.24%), household products (5.1%) and food/dining (4.87%). As part of a case study in our CEO Ed Keller’s book, The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace, England discussed his philosophy about the one-two punch of product innovation and strong advertising to get people talking. “If you want people to talk about your product, you’ve got to give them something to talk about,” England told us when we interviewed him, “and at the end of the day I’d far rather that they were talking about my product than my commercial.” Two prime examples were cold-activated cans and wide-mouth venting. With cold-activated cans, the color on the can turns blue when the temperature reaches 44 degrees. This reinforces and dramatizes the idea of “Rocky Mountain cold refreshment.” When England refers to the copy line on the package (“When these mountains turn blue, your beer is as cold as the Rockies”), he told us, “you know you’ve achieved something when guys start talking about whether their mountains are blue, when they literally use that copy off the package or the ads. That’s just a beautiful thing. As vernacular for “my beer is cold,’ you’ve got ‘My mountains are blue.’” Similarly, with regard to Coors Light, England noted, “We already have 100 percent awareness in our target market, but you’re not necessarily going to have a conversation about Coors Light unless there’s something to talk about.” So Coors turned again turned to a product innovation with regard to the packaging and invented wide-mouth venting, in which package designers enlarged the opening on the can to improve the pouring and reduce “gurgling.” The marketer and its agencies came up with a campaign that played on the word “venting,” in the sense of literally letting off steam. One ad featured a guy who escapes his girl friend to go to his buddy’s place because he has “got to vent.” England told us that one way to achieve success is when you have an idea that becomes part of the vernacular. “I remember playing tennis with this twenty-four-year-old, and we are playing doubles, and one of the other older guys said to me, ‘So what’s new in the beer business?’ And I said, “Well, there’s the new wide-mouth Coors.’ And the twenty-four-year old instantly said ‘Let’s vent!’ I thought, I love that!” We are excited to see how England succeeded in bringing this playbook to Vodka brand Cubist, that “is specially designed to be stored in the freezer—a ploy that plays off of the custom many vodka drinkers have of putting the booze in the icebox” according to Ad Age. “Cubist packaging uses thermochromic technology that turns the bottle blue when its temperature drops to zero degrees Celsius or below. The brand, which will initially debut in Minnesota and Arizona in August, will use the tagline, ‘The World’s Most Refreshing Vodka.’” And we encourage any marketer interested in seeing its brand become a part of the vernacular, to think like Andy England about innovation wherever it might come from, including packaging. And then, give people a vernacular to use to talk about it, while the package itself also serves as a visual cue to spark that conversation. The results will be something you . . . and your consumers . . . will be proud to talk about. SIGN ME UP TotalSocial Briefing
“Even before COVID-19, the podcast industry was seeing rapid growth, with monthly listeners reaching 645mn globally in 2019 and advertising revenues growing at a double-digit rate; industry revenues are poised to more than double by 2024,” according to PwC’s Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020-2024. Good news for podcast advertisers: we have strong evidence that the podcast audience is a word of mouth powerhouse. They talk more about brands across a variety of categories – in fact more so than the audience for any other medium including social media. And they are richer in word of mouth influencers, as well. Given the important tie between word of mouth advocacy and sales, they are a marketers dream audience. According to newly released Engagement Labs data, heavy podcast listeners, who on average listen to 1 or more hours of podcasts per day, engage in more than 100 offline conversations per week about products, services and brands. This compares to 76 weekly conversations for the general public – an increase of 34%. Source: Engagement Labs, July 2021 At 102 weekly WOM conversations, these heavy podcast listeners are at the top of the list versus other media. Heavy social media users and heavy radio listeners are tied for second, both close behind at 99 offline conversations per week, with heavy TV viewers at a distant 67 conversations per week. Source: Engagement Labs, July 2021 Moving from total conversations to conversations by category, podcast listeners outperform the general public across each of 15 categories. Food/dining and media/entertainment lead the way. And the gaps between the podcast audience and the general public is particularly wide in categories such as technology, children’s products, beauty and personal care, sports and retail/apparel. Source: Engagement Labs, July 2021
More influential, tooHeavy podcast listeners not only engage in more word of mouth, they are also richer in their concentration of WOM influencers than other media. Compared to the total public, they are 54% more likely to be influential – once again, placing them ahead of heavy radio listeners (+34%) and heavy social media users (+25%). Heavy TV viewers, meanwhile, index at 89. Source: Engagement Labs, July 2021 The highest number of influential consumers among heavy podcast listeners are in the telecom category who index at 208 versus the general public when it comes to their concentration of category influencers. This followed by everyday influencers of wine & spirits (178 index), beauty and personal care (169), financial services (165) and travel services (164). Source: Engagement Labs, July 2021 One indicator of the value consumer conversations is that they tend to occur among very influential consumers or what we call the “everyday influencers” who have large social networks and regularly make recommendations. Becoming a beloved and enthusiastically recommended brand involves connecting with consumers through purpose-driven storytelling, delivering great experiences, and refreshing the connection through innovative marketing and advertising. Marketers should keep this all-in mind as they plan and respond to the rapidly changing nature of consumer behaviors and conversations. While social media may send one signal, what people talk about and what impacts them the most is often much more complex and a major reason why offline and online are often uncorrelated to each other. The combination of TotalSocial data and insights and well-crafted storytelling can help brands and companies achieve their goals whether to development of original programming, grow their user base, or maximize customer retention and usage. SIGN ME UP TotalSocial Briefing
Ed Keller’s commentary published on June 7, 2021 in MediaPost “How To Become A Word-Of-Mouth Maven” Recently MediaPost published a piece, Disrupting A Once-Staid Category, Kotex Builds A ‘Menstruation Machine,’ that described the Kotex brand’s partnership with YouTube creator Simone Giertz who built a menstruation machine to dispel universal confusion about how monthly periods work. “The goal is to demystify periods to help reduce stigma. And we wanted a fun way to show how little people know about the way menstruation works,” says Sarah Paulsen, senior global creative and design director for Kimberly-Clark’s adult and feminine care brands. In fact, Kotex has been hard at work creating conversations about menstrual health for over a decade. And in doing so, it has helped to dispel a myth I often hear about word-of-mouth marketing – that it works only (or best) in “exciting” categories like technology, cars, restaurants, travel and movies. Not true. Word of mouth also works for everyday products and brands in categories like children’s products, beverage, and beauty products . . . as well as women’s personal care products.
Starting an Unlikely ConversationBack in 2010, Kimberly-Clark was launching a new tampon brand, U by Kotex, and made a bold decision to change the conversation about this traditionally staid – and quiet – category. To the extent people were talking about menstruation at the time, it was generally limited to private whispers between mother and daughter, sisters, or among one’s closest girlfriends. Advertising and marketing in the category had long been based on breezy images of snow, white purity and euphemistic language about “freshness” and “protection.” Kimberly-Clark executives believed that society’s unwillingness to talk honestly about vaginal health and menstruation was a serious matter with the potential to lead to bad health decisions and outcomes by teenagers unable to get the information they needed. And they decided to change that. The crucial idea behind U by Kotex was that feminine protection should not be a taboo subject. Not only should women feel comfortable talking about it, but the category could even become fashionable. The packaging and applicators would be colorful, and its marketing would break the cycle of euphemistic advertising and communications about the category. Tampons would become acceptable topics for conversation. The launch campaign was designed to encourage honest conversations and to provide essential health and how-to-information to young women. “Right from the start, we believed it was about word of mouth,” Kimberly-Clark’s Jay Gottlieb, VP of adult and feminine care marketing told my co-author Brad Fay and me when we profiled U by Kotex in The Face-to-Face Book. And it worked, both commercially as well as achieving its goal of starting a conversation –ne that lasted a decade, as Kimberly-Clark continues to engage young women with entertaining, creative and educational content to make menstrual hygiene talkable and shareable. The brand is increasingly trying to bring young men into conversations about periods, too. A new brand video launched in Brazil, for example, shows a young boy passing a Kotex back to the girl sitting behind him in class, according to the MediaPost article.
Offline Conversation is Very Different from Social MediaKotex’s decade of success with driving a conversation about feminine hygiene is a strong reminder that WOM can work for any brand in any category. It is not just for those that are in high consideration categories or limited to brands with Super Bowl sized ad budgets. And yet, I hear this misconception often. This may reflect two sources of misunderstanding: (1) that word of mouth is really a synonym for social media, while overlooking the huge volume of daily WOM that takes place offline (whether face-to-face, text, IM, email or video chat); and, (2) offline and online are mirrors on each other, when in fact they are fundamentally different from each other. A recent analysis of offline versus online WOM shows that social media buzz about brands is very concentrated, with technology now leading the way (44% of all brand buzz on social media is about tech), and together with media and sports, these “big three” account for nearly 80% of all brand discussion in social media. Offline, word of mouth conversation is more evenly distributed over a wide range of categories. Retail and apparel brands lead the list with 16% of the chatter, followed by technology (13%), food/dining (11%) and beverages (10%). In other words, online data does not reflect well people’s offline behavior. Word of mouth is not channel neutral. One cannot automatically generalize the results from online to offline. As we have shown elsewhere, each is important at driving business results, but one is not a mirror on the other. Do not look only at social media for inspiration or as a guide for creating a successful social brand. A focus on one at the expense of the other is at best achieving half the results and could possibly lead to incorrect decisions. Successful brands need strategies to drive both offline and online word of mouth. The 100-year old Kotex has demonstrated that any brand which puts its mind to it can tap the power of word of mouth. As Kimberly-Clark’s Paulsen notes, “it’s about continually testing and learning.” SIGN ME UP TotalSocial Briefing
Expedia Tops Travel Category; Auto, Telecom and Financial Sector Also Enjoy Rising WOM, Led by Toyota, Comcast, and Robinhood RespectivelyOur last blog talked about America’s changing brand buzz since Covid-19 , noting that WOM levels held steady during COVID-19 era, with certain categories gaining momentum during the pandemic. This week, Engagement Labs takes a closer look at the brands that have the greatest WOM strength as we prepare to enter the summer months, with hopes and dreams for a return to a more normal America this summer. To do so, we, examine the top brands by industry sector and report on those whose WOM has grown over the past quarter versus the prior quarter. These are the brands that are showing the most improved performance. As more states plan to fully reopen, the ranker gives an outlook to what may come. We start with a category view. With warmer months approaching and vaccination numbers surging, Americans are ready to hit the road. We see WOM about brands in travel services increasing the most (+13% as a category, led by Expedia, Airbnb and Southwest). After travel, the categories with the biggest WOM growth are automotive (+9%, led by Toyota, Ford and Honda), telecom (+5% led by Comcast, Tracfone and Cricket), and financial (+3% led by Robinhood, Navy Federal Credit Union and Wells Fargo).
WOM Growth by SectorMeanwhile, some categories continue to have challenges: children’s products (-23%), beauty and personal care (-14%), sports (-8%), and household products (-8%) have each decreased dramatically for the same time period. At the individual brand level across nearly 1000 brands, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer are all among the top 5 brands in all industries in terms of growth in offline WOM, joined by Toyota and Home Depot. Here are the top 3 brands by category. WOM is a proven indicator of sales and brand health. Congratulations to those brands that are getting ready for summer with the wind behind their sails (and sales). If you’d like to know where your brand ranks, contact us.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought countless challenges to Americans over the past year. From the everyday issues of social distancing, sickness and childcare, to the financial issues of concern over jobs / personal finances and understanding the stimulus – the past year has altered everyone’s way of life. But has it impacted how we talk about brands? This analysis looks at trends in brand WOM since the pandemic to reveal the impact of COVID-19 on how Americans talk about brands.
Overall, WOM levels held steady during COVID-19 era, but certain categories gained momentum during the pandemicOverall, offline WOM levels were largely steady (a small decline of 1%) during the COVID-19 era.* So even with social distancing and lock downs, Americans kept talking offline about products, services and brands as they navigated the many changes in their lives, and with it new brand choices that they needed to make. This average includes certain categories that gained momentum during this time, including health/healthcare (+10%), financial services (+4%), beauty/personal care (+3%) and media/entertainment (+3%). At the same time, other categories decreased, some dramatically. Among those declining in offline talk are sports (-13%), as well as travel (-7%), home products (-7%), telecom (-7%), auto (-5%) and beverages (-5%). Looking closer at specific product sub-categories, streaming media services, websites, discount stores, facial and body products and home centers gained serious ground since the COVID-19 era began. In contrast, talk about sports teams (NFL, MLB & NBA) tapered off significantly, as did talk about movies and casual dining – both industries shut-down across much of the country and throughout much of the pandemic.
COVID-19 remains the #1 most discussed topicDuring the past three months, 36% of Americans reported discussing COVID-19 on a daily basis, confirming that this is still not only top of mind but also very much a topic of conversation. Although it should be pointed out that this percentage has come down quite dramatically from late March/April a year ago when it was at 62%. Places to shop, nutrition/dieting, and the President follow as other popular topics among Americans. “Concern about your own financial situation” remains discussed by one-in-five Americans on a daily basis, but this is down nearly 8-points since a year ago when times were much more uncertain and thus, this was a much larger topic.
A silver lining for Financial Services: Americans have better things to say about the categoryNet sentiment (positive less negative/mixed) of financial conversations has improved, especially since late 2020. In fact, net sentiment reached its highest levels since TotalSocial’s inception in 2015. Financial companies, generally, have been understanding and aware of their customers financial situations during these unprecedented times. Policies across the industry ranging from deferred payments to extended filing deadlines to lower mortgage rates have helped cement a stronger relationship between financial companies and many Americans despite the ongoing pandemic.
And, closing on a happy note…A lot of consumers’ most impactful conversations in recent weeks relate to the COVID-19 vaccine, talking about loved ones (friends, family, husband) as well as the country and our President. A year ago, more Americans were feeling scared/confused as a result of their most impactful conversation. Today, the feeling of happiness far outpaces other feelings which is a good sign for our well-being moving forward.
Word Cloud of Most Impactful Conversation
B&M Joins the Top 10 As WellA newly released ranking of UK brand performance on social media declares Twitter, the social networking service, as #1, followed by Liverpool FC grabbing the #2 spot and YouTube claiming the #3 spot. Brands in media, technology and sports garnered 9 of the top 10 spots in social media performance. Retailer B&M joins this group as the only brand outside of this trio of categories to earn top 10 status, an honor it shared in 2019 as well. The ranking was released by Engagement Labs, a data and analytics company that measures online and offline performance for brands. This ranking focused on brand performance online via social media. The dominant role of sports, technology and media is consistent with prior findings from Engagement Labs that showed these three categories also dominate social media conversation in the US, where they collectively account for more than three quarters of all social media conversation about brands. The newly released analysis ranks the brands based on Engagement Labs proprietary TotalSocial® data and analytics platform, which continuously measures social metrics that are proven drivers of business performance of more than 400 UK brands. To achieve its top honors, Twitter holds the #1 position with scores dominating in volume, brand sharing and influence, but with a decidedly mixed performance in net sentiment – the brand has more negative online conversations about its brand than positive. Netflix has the biggest rank change among the top 10, from position #15 in 2019 to #4 in 2020. Due to the sharp increase in streaming media during the pandemic, consumer conversations about streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube are up from a year ago as the British population during Covid-19 – like people everywhere – were in lockdown, bored and desperate for home entertainment and eager to share with others. Similarly, while fans were unable to attend live sports events, football matches were aired live in the UK with its share of challenges of lockdown cancellations and delays, but very strong social engagement. Football clubs Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City online conversation landscape was primarily driven by high volume and brand sharing for sports leagues during 2020. The PGA did not garner nearly the same volume of online chatter as the rest of the top 10, but earned the highest online sentiment. B&M also earned high sentiment that helped propel it into the top 10 for the second year in a row. The Top 10 TotalSocial Online UK Brands is based on social media conversations along four conversation dimensions: volume (a measure of how many conversations mention a brand), net sentiment (the difference in the percent positive conversations minus negative), brand sharing (the extent to which people are share branded social content for the brand), and influence (the extent to which an influential audience is talking about a brand). The clout of consumer conversation is real – and it is an imperative aspect of any marketing strategy today. These conversations, reviews and the counsel of our peers have enormous impact on consumer choices and thus on brands in terms of sales, brand health, and other KPIs. The pandemic era has motivated consumers to explore new options across a variety of categories. More than ever, brands that respond most effectively to the pandemic through changes in products, messaging, and marketing should be in the best position to rebound once the economy returns to normal.
Offline WOM Impressions Now Stands at 14 billion per week, an Increase of 6%
WOM Sentiment is More Positive, an Increase of 13%
Billions and BillionsBillions and Billions was the name of a book by the famed astronomer Carl Sagan. It is also the amount of weekly word of mouth impressions about products, services and brands. Then, as now, people are often shocked by the sheer volume of people talking about brands. Back in 2007, there were an eye popping 13.2 billion weekly offline word of mouth impressions about brands. (By offline, we mean conversations taking place face-to-face, phone, emailing, texting, IM’ing, video chat – in other words, via any channel other than posting on social media.) That, of course, was when Facebook was in its infancy, having just opened itself to anyone, and there was no Twitter, no Instagram, and generally online social media was quite nascent. So where do things stand today? The volume of offline WOM impressions now stands at 14 billion per week, an increase of 6%. The takeaway: Far from eroding offline WOM, social media and offline WOM coexist quite well.
Changing WOM Landscape by Category: Food/dining is the Biggest Gainer, Automotive and Telecom Saw the Biggest DropsThe top 5 categories for offline WOM in 2007 remain largely the same today. All have about the same volume today as then, with the exception of food/dining which has grown dramatically:
- Media/entertainment: 1.8b weekly WOM impressions, 97% of what it was in 2007
- Food/dining: 1.8b, +25%
- Beverages: 1.4b, +4%
- Retail/apparel: 1.3b, +1%
- Technology: 1b, +1% from 2007; Sports/Rec/Hobbies: 1.4b, +5% in 2020
Offline Sentiment is Quite Positive – Both Then and Now – and Becoming Even More SoUnlike social media, where people come to share the best of their lives but also express their frustrations (often to the brands themselves), offline WOM is different. We have long understood that the “ask” in offline WOM is for advice about good products and services to buy. In 2007, nearly two-thirds of offline WOM was mostly positive, while less than 10% was mostly negative. The overall net sentiment was +41. (We calculate net sentiment by subtracting mostly negative and mixed — (some positive and some negative — from the mostly positive.) Today, the net sentiment is even higher: +47, representing an increase of 13%. This is on the strength of increasing positive WOM — +7%. Fully 69% of all offline WOM conversations are now positive. Only 7% are mostly negative. Categories with the highest net sentiment are personal care/beauty, children’s products, beverages, food/dining, and household products. All have net sentiment scores in the high 50’s or low 60s, and all have seen increases since 2007. Personal care/beauty’s net sentiment is up 17%. Categories with below average net sentiment include health/healthcare, sports/recreation/hobbies, telecom and financial services. Notably, telecom’s net sentiment was a paltry +10 back in 2007 and has now risen sharply to +33, a gain of 226%. Health/healthcare’s net sentiment has declined by 10%, to +23.
Offline WOM Was Mostly Face-to-Face Then. And Still Is.Our firm gained notoriety when we published statistics in our early years that over 90% of WOM takes place offline. At the time, 74% was face-to-face, and another 17% was by phone. Today, even during the pandemic, 66% of WOM is face-to-face, and phone remains even at 17%, for a total of 83%. In the year prior to the pandemic, face-to-face was at 71%, nearly identical to where it was nearly 15 years earlier. Of the remainder, the next biggest factor is IM or texting, which accounts for nearly 8% today (they were less than 3% in 2007), video chats account for 3% today (and were unmeasured then), and 3% take place on social media (vs. 1% in 2007).
Digital Media Drives Offline WOMMedia and marketing play an important role in driving word of mouth conversation. What people see on TV or in digital, at the point of sale or in promotions, or via email, radio, magazines or direct mail – all help to spark people to talk. In our early days, TV was the biggest media driver, followed by digital media of all types. Today, digital is by far the biggest force, growing by 116% since 2007. Nearly a quarter of all offline WOM now include people talking about things they see in digital media. It is a phenomenon we have dubbed, from URL to IRL: How Digital Marketing Drive Conversation, Online and in Real Life, noting that “if you’re a brand, you need an entirely new and holistic approach that bridges the online and offline divide.” TV, meanwhile, remains the second most important factor, but at a level that is close to 20% less than it was ‘back in the day.’
Real Relationships Still Rule, Even in a Digital MarketplaceWe wrote a book a few years ago called The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace. It was true then, and as these statistics attest, it remains as true today. Don’t get us wrong, we completely believe in the importance of social media. We also know that it’s not a replacement for offline WOM. That’s why we created our TotalSocial platform, providing an integrated view of offline and online. As our analytics demonstrate, the two are very different AND about equally important in driving business outcomes. Our purpose is to sound a clarion call for an integrated, holistic approach to social engagement that measures and activates both offline and online advocacy, and to avoid the trap of focusing disproportionately or even exclusively on social media at the expense of offline. As our long-time client and friend, Greg Pharo, Global Director, Media Analytics & Advertising Research at The Coca-Cola Company said in a recent Q&A when we asked him about the relationship between social media and offline WOM: “It’s like breathing: we have two lungs and we need to use both of them. Social conversations are important, but offline WOM is even more important. We should measure both using fit-for-purpose methods and understand that integrated marketing communication planning requires both to succeed.”
It’s our 15th Anniversary. Making it 15 years as a business is a pretty good excuse to celebrate and recognize a few of our advocates who are innovators and acclaimed marketing leaders. We are hoping that this year’s anniversary can be a great opportunity to look back – as we also look forward – and inspire during an otherwise tumultuous year. We caught up with four of our earliest clients who share their expertise and thoughts on the importance of consumer conversation data and word-of-mouth marketing in driving business outcomes. We hope you enjoy the following Q&A interviews conducted by Ed Keller, CEO of Engagement Labs. Click on the names to read the entirety of each interview.
On deploying WOM as part of communications and media planning or evaluation“I think there were 3 main ways we deployed the learning at SMG
- We formalized the need to include WOM in our accountability work, both on and offline, how much volume and what was the positive/negative splits over time.
- We formalized the need to include both on and offline in our communication planning insight work, how and in our insight work, what was driving the WOM – topics, sources, people
- We used the data for important but ad hoc questions that came up over time, for example to see how much the financial crisis in 2008-9 and the ad spend of the companies in those categories impacted two significant industries (auto and finance) in terms of brand favorability and advocacy. We used the data to support of continued ad spend but changes in strategy for the brands that we worked on.”
On value of word-of-mouth research/insights and undertaking serious modeling with Engagement Labs word of mouth data
“There were three very important findings. The most important one was that WOM was almost as important as media in driving sales. Second, we found that WOM works both ways: positive WOM increases sales, while negative WOM subtracts from sales. And third, there are significant synergy interactions between WOM and advertising: advertising generates additional conversations, and conversations make advertising more effective at driving sales.”
On social media and its relationship to offline WOM
“It’s like breathing: we have two lungs and we need to use both of them. Social conversations are important, but offline WOM is even more important. We should measure both using fit-for-purpose methods and understand that integrated marketing communication planning requires both to succeed.”Click here to read Greg’s full Q&A interview.
On importance of word-of-mouth today and how the advertising world embraces it
“I think today word of mouth is more important than ever, as consumers have become increasingly wary of “fake news” and product reviews. I am concerned that the industry mistakenly views social conversation as word of mouth. As Engagement Labs proves daily, the overwhelming majority of brand conversations do not occur online. Word of mouth is still driven by face to face (or Zoom) conversations between friends and family. Word of mouth continues to be the #1 influencer on purchase decisions. NUMBER ONE!!!”Click here to read Gregg’s full Q&A interview.
On word-of-mouth measurement and use of Engagement Labs data
“What struck us was that WOM was not just driven by the brand’s advertising, there were competitive brand interactions too. This meant that a brand’s WOM didn’t just depend on its advertising and other activities, it could be eroded by competitive marketing communications too. We also included a brand’s WOM weekly data in our Marketing Mix Models, and we clearly saw its sales impact there in two ways. First, advertising drove both sales and WOM, but, interestingly, second, the WOM also subsequently drove sales as consumers talked about the brand.”Click here to read Graeme’s full Q&A interview.
Full Q&A Interviews with Ed Keller
Kate SirkinKeller: Hi Kate. It’s been 15 years since we launched what was then called TalkTrack. Social media listening was just beginning with firms like BuzzMetrics; we were the first to measure offline word of mouth. You and your colleagues at Starcom Mediavest were very enthusiastic about the idea and became our first client. First, I want to say thank you. I am forever grateful. Can you think back to 2005 and recall what made you and your clients interested in word of mouth at that time? Who were the clients who were most interested and why? Sirkin: We were aware of the importance of word of mouth both on and offline from our channel planning tools (Market Contact Audit/Touchpoints) and while we had good social data, we did not have a continuous way to track the volume and quality of the off line word of mouth for our client’s brands and categories. We had very particular interest in the travel, electronics and beverage categories. Do you recall what was particularly valuable/notable about our word of mouth research/insights? Sirkin: A few items were particularly interesting, the volume of word of mouth and the differences by category and the variability over time, which helped us in our measurement work. Additionally we saw the large differences in the technology category between online and offline which helped us to develop strategies to take advantage of the online conversations and leverage them in offline media to drive more offline conversations. How did the agency deploy WOM as part of your comms and media planning or evaluation? Many people still wonder whether word of mouth can in fact be activated. So any insights you can share about then . . . and now . . . are appreciated. Sirkin: I think there were 3 main ways we deployed the learning at SMG
- We formalized the need to include WOM in our accountability work, both on and offline, how much volume and what was the positive/negative splits over time.
- We formalized the need to include both on and offline in our communication planning insight work, how and in our insight work, what was driving the WOM – topics, sources, people
- We used the data for important but ad hoc questions that came up over time, for example to see how much the financial crisis in 2008-9 and the ad spend of the companies in those categories impacted two significant industries (auto and finance) in terms of brand favorability and advocacy. We used the data to support of continued ad spend but changes in strategy for the brands that we worked on.
Greg PharoKeller: Hi Greg. It’s been 15 years since we launched what was then called TalkTrack. Social media listening was just beginning with firms like BuzzMetrics; we were the first to measure offline word of mouth. You and your colleagues at AT&T were very enthusiastic about the idea and became early and long-term clients. First, I want to say thank you. I am forever grateful. Can you think and recall what made you interested in word of mouth at that time? Pharo: Ed, our customers kept telling us that that recommendations and advice from friends and family were major reasons for switching carriers or getting a new type of mobile phone. We knew that word of mouth propelled our business, but we didn’t have a way to measure it or diagnose what types of conversations consumers were having about us and competing brands. So as soon as some of us in the market research department at AT&T/Cingular heard about TalkTrack we were very excited. Fran Linnane, our new head of market research, decided to give it a try – this was right before Apple decided to launch the first iPhone. We were playing in the hottest consumer category at the time, and its was absolutely necessary to have an insightful yet disciplined approach for understanding conversations and recommendations. Do you recall what was particularly valuable/notable about our word of mouth research/insights? In particular, you were the first client do undertake serious modeling with our word of mouth data. What did you find and why were the findings significant to AT&T? Pharo: We were getting a lot of value using TalkTrack for diagnosing consumer conversations. And, as a marketing scientist, I was particularly intrigued by the depth and richness of the TalkTrack data set. It got me thinking that TalkTrack’s WOM could be added into our AT&T Market Mix Model, side by side with media, pricing, distribution and other causal factors. We introduced the TalkTrack data into our MMM, and it went right in – it actually improved the model by reducing base effects and explaining more of our sales. There were three very important findings. The most important one was that WOM was almost as important as media in driving sales. Second, we found that WOM works both ways: positive WOM increases sales, while negative WOM subtracts from sales. And third, there are significant synergy interactions between WOM and advertising: advertising generates additional conversations, and conversations make advertising more effective at driving sales. A few years later we decided to try a new type of market mix modeling to see if media and WOM could explain not only our sales but also explain customer churn rates, Our hypothesis was that advertising might decrease churn and that negative WOM could increase it. We constructed what may have been the first churn-based MMM in our industry, and found that TalkTrack WOM data had a causal relationship to customer defections. Positive WOM was mathematically related to lowering churn, and negative WOM conversation increased it. Advertising also played a role in churn reduction: but our own advertising was much better at generating sales (new customers) than preventing customer churn, and customer service and product quality and pricing were important churn-determining factors. What changes to marketing or media strategy and execution did AT&T do as a result of the models that showed the importance of Word of Mouth? Pharo: We immediately realized the need to make our messages buzzworthy: make ads that people want to discuss and share with others. It became clear that ads which people talked about drove higher sales. It was one of the factors that inspired us to come up with more memorable characters in our ads and to use certain types of humor that got audiences laughing, talking and sharing. You were at AT&T when we started working together and now you are at Coca-Cola. Decisions about wireless purchases are considered purchases which you might expect word of mouth would help influence. What about at a fast-moving consumer good company such as Coke. Is WOM important in soft drinks as well, and if so why do you feel that is? Pharo: Beverages and telecommunications are about as far apart as categories can be. And yet, WOM is just as important for Coca-Cola as it is for AT&T. While beverages are considered “low consideration” purchases the truth is that people care a lot about what they put into their bodies – and they develop strong emotional attachments to food and drink. And what better way to understand emotions than to listen to what people are talking about? In fact, we have some of the most discussed brands in the world, with very high Brand Love scores. WOM is a wonderful way to understand dhow our brands motivate and impact consumers; which ad campaigns resonate with them; and how sponsorships activate consumer behavior. How does Coca-Cola look at the measurement of WOM and its role in marketing strategy and planning? Pharo: We aspire to have consumers love our brands. It’s not just about the purchase – it’s about the passion. Tracking emotional intensity requires more than just measuring impressions or shopping basket: we have to know what consumers feel deep inside if we are to understand what they love and what beverage experiences they desire. And what better way to do so than by listening to what they have to say? Social listening goes a long way – but we prefer to listen to consumers across all modes of conversation and all types of experiences. The voice of the consumer shapes new product plans, flavor formulation, packaging, distribution, brand personality, and so many other aspects of our brands. How do you see things today? Is word of mouth more or less important? How has it evolved? And how has the corporate embrace of word of mouth changed? Pharo: One of the biggest trends today is for companies to diversify beyond paid advertising for brand communication. We measure not just paid media impressions but also Earned and Owned interactions. WOM is the most significant form of Earned interactions, and C-suite executives increasingly want to activate a balanced approach to brand messaging using Paid-Owned-Earned. Brands are increasingly aware that experiential marketing holds great promise. There is not Nielsen-measured GRP for consumer experiences – but WOM is an excellent way to quantify and diagnose large-scale, sustained experiential marketing campaigns. How do you think about social media and its relationship to offline WOM? Pharo: It’s like breathing: we have two lungs and we need to use both of them. Social conversations are important, but offline WOM is even more important. We should measure both using fit-for-purpose methods and understand that integrated marketing communication planning requires both to succeed. SIGN ME UP TotalSocial Briefing
Gregg LiebmanKeller: Hi Gregg. It’s been 15 years since we launched what was then called TalkTrack. Social media listening was just beginning; we were the first to measure offline word of mouth. When you were at CNN you were very enthusiastic about the idea and became early and important client. First, I want to say thank you. I am forever grateful. Can you think and recall what made you interested in word of mouth and our work, at that time? Liebman: My role at CNN was to support their cross-platform ad sales efforts. We were looking for a syndicated solution to demonstrate the value of CNN viewers as influencers or brand ambassadors. Do you recall what was particularly valuable/notable about our word of mouth research/insights? And what the particular value was to CNN? Liebman: Part of our positioning at that time was that news is “social currency” and those in the know not only discuss politics, weather, news, etc., but are the same people evangelizing goods and services. The ability to report on Influencers at the brand level was unique and a compelling point of differentiation for TalkTrack. After you left CNN you became a client again at Telemundo. What do you recall about word of mouth among Hispanics and how it helped with ad sales there? Liebman: Hispanics were quickly becoming the “it” crowd – leading significant cultural change in the U.S. TalkTrack was a third-party respected data source that enabled us to quantify (put numbers) to this narrative. The data proved that Hispanics were leading the conversations about brands across every measured category. Our “Los Influyentes” presentation was highly effective in raising the importance of reaching Latinos beyond just their collective spending power. It was one of the sales initiatives I am most proud of. How do you see things today? Is word of mouth more or less important? And how has the advertising world’s embrace of word of mouth changed? Liebman: I think today word of mouth is more important than ever, as consumers have become increasingly wary of “fake news” and product reviews. I am concerned that the industry mistakenly views social conversation as word of mouth. As Engagement Labs proves daily, the overwhelming majority of brand conversations do not occur online. Word of mouth is still driven by face to face (or Zoom) conversations between friends and family. How do you think about social media and its relationship to offline WOM? Liebman: I think it’s fascinating that, according to your data, the two typically act independent of each other. I think offline WOM deserves the same, if not more, attention from Marketers than social media. Unfortunately, for most marketers, this is not the case. Is there anything else you’d like to add about the value of word of mouth and our measurement system? Liebman: Word of mouth continues to be the #1 influencer on purchase decisions. NUMBER ONE!!! The ability to see which media environment drives these valuable conversations should play a significant factor in media selection. Media agencies would be well-served to incorporate WOM measurement into their proprietary models. It might not be new and “sexy”, but WOM drives purchase decisions. It always has and it always will! SIGN ME UP TotalSocial Briefing
Graeme HuttonKeller: Hi Graeme. It’s been 15 years since we launched what was then called TalkTrack. Social media listening was just beginning with firms like BuzzMetrics; we were the first to measure offline word of mouth. You and your colleagues at UM were very enthusiastic about the idea and became early and long-term clients. First, I want to say thank you. I am forever grateful. Can you think and recall what made you and your clients interested in word of mouth at that time? Who were the clients who were most interested and why? Hutton: What triggered the interest in face-to-face word mouth, WOM, was the novelty of being able to track something that had previously often been thought of as untrackable. In other words, to know the previously unknowable, to quantify the unquantifiable. At the time Engagement Labs started, back in 2005, the relationship between advertising and WOM was not yet proven. Consequently, it was great to have a weekly series of consumer response data on WOM because we could align it to our weekly media weight and assess the relationship between the two. What was immediately apparent was that there was not a linear relationship between word of mouth, and an ad campaign but a multivariate one. In other words, looking solely at a brand’s total weekly media spend or weight did not yield a clear relationship with WOM. But a multiple regression showed an immediately different picture – even a simple multiple regression in Excel would reveal a clear relationship by media channel. Critically, the effect of advertising on WOM wasn’t dependent on the total media spend or activity, the impact on WOM varied by media channel. Typically, video and digital led this impact. We tended to focus on clients who were in high interest categories since it was easier to demonstrate the effect. Do you recall what was particularly valuable/notable about our word of mouth research/insights? Hutton: Yes, what was useful was to see, in any category, for example spirits, what was the relative lift in WOM caused by advertising for each brand. Some brands’ WOM was much more responsive to media advertising than others. This could be used as a measure of the relative ad effectiveness of a specific brand in a category. It provided a comparative metric of the ‘vibrancy’ or power of advertising for each brand. You used our data in your media models and found them to be good predictors of consumer behavior. Can you discuss what you did, what you found, and what it caused you to conclude about word of mouth and our word of mouth measurement? Hutton: What struck us was that WOM was not just driven by the brand’s advertising, there were competitive brand interactions too. This meant that a brand’s WOM didn’t just depend on its advertising and other activities, it could be eroded by competitive marketing communications too. At this time, little was understood about the power of advertising in driving WOM, indeed did it exist at all. Now we could see for a brand’s advertising that it definitely lifted its level of WOM. Advertising’s lift varied by brand. The first time we assessed it in detail, we saw a lift of about +30%, but equally it could be eroded by the competitive spend with the net effect that the actual level attributable to advertising was halved to just +15%. In other words, the impact of competitive Share of Voice was very visible and almost visceral! We also included a brand’s WOM weekly data in our Marketing Mix Models, and we clearly saw its sales impact there in two ways. First, advertising drove both sales and WOM, but, interestingly, second, the WOM also subsequently drove sales as consumers talked about the brand. How do you see things today? Is word of mouth more or less important? How has it evolved? Hutton: The world has shifted quite dramatically with the introduction of influencer marketing from about 2015. Previous to this, the industry often spoke about viral marketing, which currently is hardly referenced at all. Influencer marketing is a direct way of triggering consumer involvement. Today, UM has clear, undeniable evidence of how this new type of activation can directly influence a consumer’s consideration of a brand. As a result, influencer marketing has really come to the fore. One excellent book capturing the moment of change was Hit Makers by Derek Thompson, published in 2017. Hit Makers was to influencer marketing what Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, over a decade earlier, was to understanding the viral growth of a fan base and the general virality of trends. Hit Makers cleverly dissected the underlying reasons of how and why social media could be harnessed by one person, an influencer, who had an online following of millions to drive true influencer marketing and help build sales. We have real evidence to show that influencer marketing definitely drives the middle to lower end of the purchasing funnel. This is not to deny some of the criticisms of influencer marketing, but the principle of this form of word-of-mouth marketing definitely holds true. Is there anything else you’d like to add about the value of word of mouth and our measurement system? Hutton: One other area I like about the weekly tracking of face-to-face WOM is that it unambiguously tells us the consumer sentiment of a brand, and this also extends to detailed demographics, age, gender and so forth. This provides us with an important validation of the viral impact of our media and related activities.
Short-form video is quickly taking over social media apps and is changing not only the way users interact with each other but also how consumers interact with brands. The average time spent on mobile has increased to almost 5 hours per day in the US. Social media has evolved from status updates on Facebook and Twitter to highly engaging user-generated short-form video on apps like Snapchat and Instagram Reels. With the rise of Bytedance’s TikTok and its US-based competitor Triller, short-form video is more mainstream (and more addictive) than ever before, especially for Gen Z. Knowing that 49% of Teenagers have used TikTok, brands can’t afford to ignore these apps if they want to reach younger audiences. With the explosion of usage growth and no sign of it slowing down any time soon, it’s evident that short-form video creation and consumption is evolving with rising attention spent on these platforms. Expectedly, brands are quick to follow suit, leading to the parallel growth of advertising dollars spent on these video platforms. A recent report by InMobi revealed that time spent viewing video on mobile has increased x2.5 times in 5 years, while ad spending on mobile video has grown by over x7.5 times in the same period. eMarketer has forecasted that by 2022, mobile ad spending will account for almost 48% of all media spending by platform in the US. But it’s not enough for brands to be advertisers on these platforms. They need to participate in the content conversation on these apps in order to effectively reach Gen Z audiences. Brands that do not pivot to recognize the changing expectations of their consumers will become lost in the noise with diminishing ROI and increasing irrelevance. This participation is easier said than done. Apps like TikTok are harder to crack with their elusive algorithms and fleeting trends, making the Gen Z consumer difficult to reach. At QYOU, we have become expert at navigating this area for our brand partners with some special techniques of our own. For Gen Z there is no silo between social media and real-world chatter – but what gets talked about online is quite different from what gets talked about offline. Marketers should pay attention to both because analytics by Engagement Labs show the offline and online conversation each contribute about equally to business KPIs. The team at QYOU understands that the magic happens at the intersection of product, platform, and people. QYOU has spent the last few years connecting brands to consumers with creative influencer marketing campaigns and seamless integrations. From the start, QYOU ran successful influencer campaigns on Musical.ly (before it became TikTok), and won the ThinkLA IDEA award for Best Social Campaign in 2018 for our work for DreamWorks’ Trolls. QYOU has since provided hundreds of millions of views, engagements, and UGC activations for brands on these social platforms. More recently, QYOU partnered with Universal DreamWorks again to drive awareness and excitement for The Croods: A New Age on TikTok. The influencer and content campaign, supporting both the theatrical and premium video on demand releases, surpassed 110 million views with nearly 600,000 subscribers, making it the most followed movie channel in TikTok history.
“Influencers are an essential ingredient for brands looking to reach and engage with Gen Z audiences at scale. We are proud of our tried and true techniques that continually deliver outstanding results for our clients.” – Glenn Ginsburg, President of Global Partnerships, at QYOU.QYOU’s success is credited to the team’s expertise and focus on finding the right fit of brand, formats, influencers, and platform. Data is increasingly important to identify this fit, and at Engagement Labs, they are doing really solid work for their clients identifying the data that proves how effective and essential these platforms are for Gen Z.
“We work with high-profile social media, media and tech companies that demonstrates the value of our data, authority and expertise. In this next normal, we understand the difficulties many brands have in generating buzz among Gen Z and our data and analytics can help measure attribution and effectiveness behind their expenditures and objectives.” – Ed Keller, CEO at Engagement LabsIn 2021, brands will need all the help they can get from companies like QYOU and Engagement Labs to strategically prepare for drastic shifts in consumer preferences, including the incorporation of Live content marketing and e-commerce capabilities in order to stay connected to their target audience in meaningful (and profitable) ways. TikTok’s recent partnership with Shopify is already a major step in that direction. Brands need to participate in the conversation happening on offline and social video apps as both content creators and consumers. And with new technology in the mix in 2021, smart influencer marketing is essential. Request more information QYOU and TotalSocial