The Wall Street Journal published an interview [registration required] with David Neupert of M80 on the subject of word-of-mouth marketing. M80 was behind a recent Nestle campaign to mobilize 24,000 raving chocolate enthusiasts to evangelize on behalf of their high-end baking chocolate brand, but they also caught the attention of he WSJ because large marketing and ad concerns are beginning to buy up firms like M80 (which was purchased in June by WPP) as the demand for experiential and “viral” marketing increases.
The interview is worth a read in part because it discusses some pitfalls that marketers may encounter when undertaking word-of-mouth initiatives. Aside from the fact that many products lack a well-defined and rabid fan-base, even when they do, sometimes the rabid fans don’t want to spread the word. For example, when reaching out to hard-core devotees of Yanni, Neupert discovered that they were a fairly insular group and reluctant to “share” Yanni with anyone else. Talk about brand loyalty to a fault!
Nowadays everyone is talking about getting into “conversations” with consumers and trying to leverage blogs and a range of social media to make that happen (although it is unclear how much “conversing” actually happens between web-sites and their audiences). Not surprisingly, Mr. Neupert talks about it as well, stressing that companies “always” need to “participate in the conversation with the consumer.” He warns, however, that, even when you are actively conversing with your consumer-base, you may not be able to “get them onto a team that is going to be driving extreme word of mouth.”