Word of Mouth Epidemic


Word of mouth is the flowing of information from one person to another through oral communication, particularly one to one communication. In the digital age this can also take place through phones, blogs, chats, email, text/IM etc.  It basically is an epidemic which flows contagiously. Take for example a sexually transmitted disease (STD), which engulfs the next person which comes in contact with an already infected one.  The person contacted is influenced by the information it is exposed to, this instigates him to forward it to someone else.


In today’s era a consumer is thrown information about hundreds of products in a day. It is very vital to capture the space in the minds of the customer. Word of mouth helps in creating that image because it comes from a trusted source, one to one communication. Particularly for brands to become from mediocre to great word of mouth becomes a very important tool. There have been several success stories coined with word of mouth in branding; for instance ‘Snapple’ the brand of tea and fruit juices derived its success through word of mouth in the late 1970’s, 'Hush Puppies' the famous shoe brand showed a dramatic turnaround in the mid 1990's through word of mouth. Contagious as it is it can also have a negative impact on the brand image for example Cadbury insect infestation issue, coca cola having pesticides these news spread like wildfire majorly through WOM. This significantly deteriorated the brand image of existing market leaders and costs millions to the firms.

The system is also based on referrals made by existing users of a product. It minimizes the risk and acts like a perceived incentive to the prospective buyer. Slowly the trust is built and word of mouth marketing sails through. Not every individual has the potential to trigger a word of mouth epidemic. There are some major sources which play a handy role in spreading the message across. That source is often referred to as ‘connector’. A connector is a person which connects many individuals, a central node through which information can be transmitted. The important trait of the connector is its reliability. People tend to trust these types of individuals. These are amicable people who make friends very easily, they do not judge people, do not get prejudiced and follows them a huge network of people.
fig.connector at the centre

Malcolm Gladwell, the renowned management thinker in his book ‘The Tipping Point’ talks of that magical moment when ideas, trends, social behaviors cross a threshold, tip and spread like a wildfire. That tipping point is reached, thus making the ‘word of mouth’ a phenomenon. Before this tipping point it is basically in the process of becoming an epidemic or a viral phenomenon.

There is no doubt that word of mouth is an efficient marketing tool in current era of cut throat competition. But there are some reservations expressed about it when it comes to buying an expensive product or any technical product where expert opinion is preferred over popular sentiment. 

P.S.- Required a lot research but was worth it. My first related to the field of marketing.

2 comments:

nicely done

November 23, 2012 at 12:04 PM  

i value the comments i receive.
its also expected that people comment with their identity.

PS thanks

Regards

November 24, 2012 at 9:36 AM  

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