Word of Mouth is Key to Dominating The Consumer Conversation

 Word of Mouth is Key to Dominating The Consumer Conversation
By Ed Keller

Brand marketers are always developing strategies that influence purchase intent. For the last decade or so, these marketers assumed that social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are driving consumers to engage with brands and make purchase decisions. Social media continues to grow at a rapid rate; daily active users for Twitter increased 11 percent year-over-year, and Facebook’s increased 18 percent during that timeframe. But, the reality of the situation is much more complex. Most consumers continue to look to their peers for face-to-face advice and recommendations about their favorite brands, impacting their purchase decisions.

While consumers use social media for a variety of reasons, face-to-face word of mouth recommendations among family and friends remain a vital force in consumer purchase decision-making. It is perennially cited as the most trusted source of information by consumers. The volume of real world conversations about brands continues to dwarf the conversations that take place on social media, often by a factor of five to one, according to our word of mouth tracking data. And the impact on sales from offline conversation is greater than the impact of social media.

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In a new, first-of-its-kind analysis of combined online and offline consumer conversation data, we uncovered a group of “Category Crusher Brands,” which are brands that outperform their competitors in social media performance and offline word of mouth recommendations. Included among the Category Crushers are American Express, BMW, Dove and Gatorade.

You don’t have to be a hot tech company like Apple or Amazon to excite people about your brand and generate consumer conversations that drive sales. But a ‘total social’ approach to consumer advocacy is a must for success, as we see reflected in this data analysis. The Category Crushers cited in our report understand that ‘social influence’ goes beyond a screen – and the consumer conversations they generate and amplify in-person can make a bigger boost to their overall social performance than those occurring exclusively on social media.

Lessons from the Category Crushers Leaders: American Express, BMW, Dove, and Gatorade

Our new e-book spotlights these four brands and provides details on the creative applications, messaging and strategy that helped them rise to their Category Crusher status. Among those lessons:

  • American Express holds a close relationship with its cardholders, treating them as more than just customers. From its Small Business Saturday program, American Express’ Blue Cash everyday credit card to providing its members with special access to events – American Express uses a strategy which often leads to loyal customers who will advocate for the brand. (TotalSocialTM Financial Industry Average Score: 43; American Express: 52)
  • BMW’s strategic marketing to luxury consumers and key sponsorships helped the brand transcend as one of the highest performing U.S. brands in face-to-face word of mouth marketing. (TotalSocial Auto Industry Average Score: 41; BMW: 58)
  • Dove defines itself outside of its personal care products by promoting positive self-image and self-worth for women. (TotalSocial Facial & Body Industry Average Score: 51; Dove: 60)
  • Gatorade produces sports drinks, but the brand goes beyond that to foster engagement by encouraging people to participate in spirited conversation about their favorite sports teams and sharing motivational content that pertains to athletic performance. (TotalSocial Beverage Industry Average Score: 40; Gatorade: 55)

The new analysis is based on continuous tracking of more than 500 U.S. consumer brands using our TotalSocial data and analytic solution. The full e-book, “Lessons from the Leaders of Social Influence: Brands that Crush their Category and Have Consumers Talking” is available for download.

Ed Keller is the CEO of Engagement Labs.