People love to talk, and the power of word-of-mouth marketing can have lasting impacts on a business. If consumers have a negative or positive experience, you can likely expect social media posts, Google reviews and happy hour conversations detailing what happened. Research shows we trust the opinions and experiences of those we know. And these conversations influence how we engage with brands. Neilsen reports 92% of consumers trust these recommendations more than advertising.
So how can you create a powerful word-of-mouth strategy?
Know Your Audience
The first question to ask is, “Who should be talking about this?” Word-of-mouth marketing often conjures images of the latest viral video (this one still cracks me up) or biggest news story of the hour. These are examples that have a large reach within the general public and are not targeted to any specific audience. But for the majority of businesses, the answer is not “everyone should be talking about this.”
Take a step back and look at your overall PR and marketing strategy. Who are you trying to reach? How would word-of-mouth marketing get you closer to reaching them? How could the marketing strategy be tightened to further target your message?
If the strategy isn’t speaking to your target audience, it likely isn’t a strategy at all – and should be revisited.
What are the qualities of strong word-of-mouth marketing?
It can be impossible to know what will take off and what won’t. But in general, the best examples of a strong word-of-mouth campaign can be found in four categories:
1. It makes you laugh.
Milton Berle once said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.” And let’s be honest – we can all use one after 2020.
Some of the best viral campaigns are those that bring humor and allow people to take a break from the every day. It’s been over 10 years, but Old Spice still gets views on its 2010 campaign, “The man your man could smell like.” Realizing the popularity of its lead character, Old Spice created more than 200 videos of Isaiah Mustafa engaging with customers on social media to answer their burning questions.
According to Entrepreneur.com, the campaign increased Old Spice’s Twitter followers 1,000%. That’s a clear indicator its customers were keyed into the message and willing to learn more.
2. It’s timely.
In May 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement reached a new apex as cities across the country erupted in protests against racism. Rather than stopping with a simple social media graphic or employee email, Nike worked quickly with Wieden+Kennedy to develop the “for once, don’t do it,” campaign. They were one of the first brands to publicly address the murder of George Floyd, and according to Ace Metrix, general population consumers aged 16-49 rated the spot as more empowering than 98% of all ads.
3. It’s shareable.
Yoda was already one of Star Wars’ most loveable figures, but when his tiny baby version hit Disney+ in 2019, Yoda frenzy hit new heights. EVERYONE wanted to know his back story, his real name (Baby Yoda? The Child? Grogu?) and if he would make it to safety. He was every viral marketer’s dream – cute, instantly famous, a little mysterious and perfectly giphable. But it was the viral marketing moment that almost didn’t happen. Failing to recognize the value in the shareability of this new character, Disney and Giphy removed him from the app due to copyright issues. Fear not, Disney realized its pop-culture mistake, Baby Yoda did make his comeback, and now we get to post adorable photos such as this one.
4. It’s relatable.
I’ve lost count of the number of non-profits who have told me they wish they could recreate the ALS ice bucket challenge phenomena. In 2014, the ALS Association went global with more than 17 million videos of celebrities and neighbors sharing videos of themselves being doused in ice water. Participants then challenged a list of friends, who had 24 hours to complete their video. According to Forbes and Statista, the challenge raised $11.4 million between June 1 and August 13 – compared to $1.7 million the year prior.
The campaign created strong word of mouth by having a clear set of instructions, a strong call to action, an emotional backstory and the endorsement of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates and Tom Cruise.
Word-of-mouth marketing can be a powerful marketing tool, but it isn’t the easiest to create. Regardless of whether you are trying to make your strategy go viral, the same rules apply – know your audience, relate to their struggles, be timely and when all else fails, make a giph of Baby Yoda.