Chrysler changes its ad for Peta

Promo for Chrysler’s big event didn’t go down too well with Peta… why.. because there was a monkey (actually a Chimp) in it…

Before

Peta protested… Here is what they said:

Dodge isn’t going to dodge a bullet on this one. It needs to pull the ad–and we’ve contacted the company asking it to do just that.

& here is the revised version of the video:

After

Kudos to Agency… You did stick it up.

Google Chrome … The Early Marketing Chronicles

Make no mistake… I love Google. I love the way their products just work and over the years, have come to love their marketing as well… Remember ‘the 1 GB inbox’ Gmail… it carved out a space where apparently none existed… It was a perfect flanking attack which shocked Yahoo and proved to be disruptive. Chrome was another of those launches from Google stable which like gmail competed in a significantly mature market and have a great potential to be disruptive.

While the strategic objectives for Chrome go much beyond merely gaining few % points in browser market, the marketing objectives must have been pretty clear from day 1 : Create a positive emotion around the product which would supplement the visibility garnered by the usual Google PR machinery & hence create a strong foot hold amongst the early adopters…

Tough task considering the market was very comeptitive and needed an innovative circuit breaker… Innovative was what Google chose by becoming the first company to launch a major product using a comic book… yes, I actually mean a comic book. Who does that right … well apparently, those who do get huge amount of PR, not only in mainstream web media but at places that actually matter for early adopters, those fabled geek hangouts … Round 1 to Google, Well played…

But this is old news… almost 8 months old now… the fizz from comic book is largely gone… & meanwhile the product has stablized a bit… has found acceptance amongst fanboys… is gaining new users every day because of the hard push its getting from Google’s virtual estate (try accessing google.com using IE &  get bombarded with a free Chrome ad… ditto with youtube and gmail) and Google’s real world  clout (Google has cut few OEM deals for Chrome already)… now would be the perfect time for the next phase of marketing… Marketing objectives presumably would change to expanding user base and becoming more mainstream, and probably go beyond 1.2% the browser currently commands.

& Google has tried… by shifting from comic books to videos… and essentially trying to get community to do their marketing. In theory it makes great sense – Get the beehive to create your videos…  they would almost definitely be cool and they would be free…

The end result is 12 great videos. All submitted by amateurs like us and all of them look great.

Two shining examples of seemingly great stuff. But is Chrome perfect in its marketing… is it doing all it can do. Is it this hard to go beyond 1.2% despite all the hard push its getting?

There is no doubt that Google’s execution has been beyond rapproach but they could certainly do a lot better on market positioning front … lets think a bit here, IE is ‘The ubiquitious browser’, FF is ‘The safe browser’… What is Chrome… they used to be somewhere in between ‘The fastest browser’ or ‘The simplest browser’… in last 8 months they have moved further south and are trying to become a browser that is great in everything (Right now they are ‘A new web browser’ … Really Google?? Hope you are just testing that positioning statement and would get rid of it soon)

& then they could have certainly done a better job of naming their key features… think of their choice of ‘In-cognito’ for privacy feature… Great buzz word… yes, Communicates the benefit to the end customer clearly… no

Think of what microsoft did with same feature in IE8 – ‘In Private’ … firefox folks – ‘Private Browsing’… I can bet that perceived first mover for this feature would be Microsoft not Google (& this despite the fact that Chrome debuted this feature in mainstream when people had hardly heard about Safari and IE8 betas offering privacy features) & perception is all that matters in marketing world.

Chrome needs to understand that its operating in a world where 92% of people don’t understand the meaning of word ‘browser’ … not many would understand In-cognito…

Also have a look at the first TV ad they chose to air…

Very cute… this ad was designed to emphasize the clean and uncluttered interface of the software compared to its competitors and it does that too… but only to people who already know Chrome. It has a call to action in last frame, but that effect is negated to a great extent as for a first timer Chrome can be an OS, a Kid’s Game, A browser, A decorative piece… all with equal probabilities.

Chrome has delivered master-strokes (like the comic book launch) … some of them need some refining before they can help Chrome go beyond 1.2%… its a good product and certainly deserves a double digit market share at least.

Do it Google. You have a wonderful product and a wonderful execution team. Focus your energies on one single benefit and beat the hell out of your communication. Do it right and soon you would be no 3 (or if luck is with you, no 2)…

How & Why of ‘fachak.com’

As a relatively new web entrepreneur, one question that i get asked a lot – Why Fachak.com … or how fachak.com … and/or many variations of same question.

Thought would walk through the thought process we had at time of our choosing (good or bad) …

A .com

We were very clear right at the outstart that whatever domain name we choose, it has to be a .com … i always use ctrl + enter and i am sure many more people do so … hence i always ended up typing  slideshare.com instead of slideshare.net before I reached the actual site.

Moreover, I have seen a lot of friends assuming by default that the site they are viewing is a .com … so while they would remember ‘your-domain-name’ out of ‘your-domain-name.xyz’ they would in all probability type in your-domain-name.com … instead of whatever it was.

10 dollars or less

If you are rich and have tonnes of money, you may as well spend much more … there is a sprawling domain market where can get you great domain names for millions.

But this was never even a consideration for us … not even a single thought was spared on spending anything more than 10 dollars on domain name … we had limited resources and we would be better off spending them elsewhere.

Easy to pronounce

Ever wondered what makes google or yahoo or ebay sound so good …  may be its because they are  both bisyllables … amazon, orkut are tri syllables but still great domain names … facebook, myspace have four syllables each … add anything more and it becomes almost unpronounceable … try bruceclay.com … does that give your tongue some curls …

So our domain had to be limited to two or max three syllables. Fachak.com depending upon which side you stand on …  is either a bi or at max a tri syllable. And whatever is the no of syllables, its easy to pronounce.

Difficult to mistype

Ever noticed how you almost never misspell while typing google or facebook … now try wakoopa … how many times do you mistype that out of 100 times … is it a significant no … most probably yes … why … because its easier to type ‘g’ than it is to type ‘w’ … its easier to type ‘o’ than it is to type ‘p’ … All the letters in google – g,o,l,e or in facebook – f,a,c,e,b,o,k are at relatively easier words to type in a qwerty keyboard. Similarly, all the letters in fachak – f,a,c,h,k are at relatively easy fingertips.

Hard to misspell

If you are a startup, a significant lot of marketing would happen by word of mouth … probably on those water cooler conversations … so try misspell that domain name thats lingering in your mind since last night … is it possible to misspell it … if the answer is yes, be sure a lot of people would do it.

In fact, thats a problem for us too … some users have reported that they  typed in facha.com the first time they tried to reach fachak.com … so thats one thing we need to work on in our communcation …

A positive or no meaning…

If you were lucky, you were yahoo … but that was 1995 … and for rest of us are mere mortals … words with positive association that would still satisfy other guidelines are not so easily available … so go the sony way … coin a word that carries no meaning .. and do a lot of marketing to give it a meaning …

That was the route we followed with Fachak. Although, fachak signifies sound of splash in  native Hindi …. in most other languages its an unknown word.

& finally ‘The Rule’ – No other rule is indispensable

The most important guideline – none of above guidelines is indispensable … if you find a name  that’s great in some areas but lacks in one or two, you may as well go ahead with it … ultimately its your baby … if you feel its right choice, go ahead right away.

In fact, Fachak was not a result of following these guidelines strictly but more a result of  a creative streak inspired by an advertisement in a comic book. We had tried about 500 keywords while searching for available domain names – all the while trying permutations on words with positive meanings – cool, trendy, hip … et al … when I finally found something that was available. When we crosschecked fachak against the guidelines we had formed, it fitted the bill perfectly … or almost perfectly 🙂

Finally, do give your domain name about 3-4 weeks to grow on you, before you finally accept it or reject it … especially with names that carry no meaning at all …

It took my team almost 3 weeks, before all of us really started liking Fachak.com … before that it was yet another idea thrown in by a crazy entrepreneur 😉

Positioning Path – Time to think beyond End Positioning?

Something I wrote more than two years back. Republishing it.

Cavincare for a lot of Indians is a household name. The originally Southern company that made its mark with Chic is now trying to expand its wings across…

‘Spinz’ the Talcum, Deo & Dab-on brand of Cavinkare is one such product which might become a significant business for the company. Few facts…

  1. 600 Crore talcum market,
  2. 55% market share for Ponds Dreamflower talc & Ponds dream flower magic.
  3. J&J is the second guy in market with 10% share (near domination in kid powders)
The respective positionings of all players as espoused via their respective TVC’s

Brand

Target Segment

Positioning Path

Ultimate Positioning

Ponds DFT

Middle-Aged Women

Freshness

Confidence in social interactions

Ponds Magic

Young Women

Fragrance

Attraction of Opposite Sex

Spinz

Teenagers

Fragrance

Life Non Stop Fun

As per marketing team of Cavinkare at IIMB workshop, they wanted to establish Spinz as a brand that is associated with fun, a positioning that is not taken by anybody in the talcum market. The marketing team decided upon this positioning after a lot of consumer research and was pretty confident about its success.

In blind tests for better fragrance, the competition was beaten hands down. Same was the case with their innovative packaging. Response from market was good. Great going till here… But consumers still were not buying the product (3% market share… growth rates were good, but with that kind of differentiated positioning, the potential was much higher), and the marketing team was left wondering what went wrong.

Well this is a typical case of undifferentiated positioning path. While the final desired positioning is pretty clear and differentiated; the way TVC’s reach that path is not.

To make matters worse, the TVC’s of Spinz only remind you about the Ponds advertisements. They show males swarming the female model during most of the ad, and frankly the only difference I found in this advertisement when compared to Ponds Magic was the model they were using.

Also, the fragrance of Spinz in market is Rose and Lavendar, the two fragrances ponds is known for. So again no differentiation here.

They should change their positioning path to something else instead of fragrance. But then the investment in the fragrance had been huge. So may be, they can keep Fragrance as main idea and change the way the TVC’s are made. Spinz is pure fun and Ads should communicate that in a humorous and hip way.

Other thing they can do is to launch new fragrances in market, (Presumption is that a new teenager is a prosumer and will like to move beyond what has been on offer for years) and move beyond Rose and Lavendar.

Moving over, a major hiccup for the company has been the low market share of Spinz especially in North; possibly because of not that great S & D structure.

Now I don’t know much about inter company relations, but I see no conflicts between Cavinkare and ColPal, which might form a amazing set of channel collaborators. Albeit such stuff in actual boardrooms is a matter of fantasies.

The Word of Mouth Marketing

Something really old… derived from a research paper I wrote in first year of FMS (i.e in 2005… so please excuse the hyperbole :)) …

Ford Mustang should have been outsold by the Chevy Camaro, which had more resources and what many consider a better product but Mustang got the word-of-mouth, and outsold Camaro by a wide margin.

Word-of-mouth marketing is the latest term for a phenomenon can make or break a product. In fact as per a May 2001 report from consulting firm McKinsey & Co., 67 percent of U.S. consumer-goods sales are influenced by word of mouth.

So if word-of-mouth is so powerful in propelling the growth, it is obvious that all companies would like their products or services to benefit from a positive word-of-mouth. But then why do so few try to orchestrate a campaign to create one?

Probably, because marketers believe that it is a phenomenon they can’t control. But a simple research says otherwise. There are many successful examples of word-of-mouth marketing around the world.

In fact on a careful inspection, all these examples, a common trend is visible. Lets call it ‘9 M’s of Buzz Marketing’. Examples considered for this analysis are both from developed economies like US or Europe and emerging economies like India.

9 M’s of Word of Mouth Marketing

Most of the marketers have tried to follow an unstructured approach to what could have been a very structured and logical procedure for word-of-mouth marketing. Even where some marketers have tried traditional models, they have not been relevant to Word-of-mouth Marketing. Analysis of both successful and unsuccessful word-of-mouth campaigns show that even the 5Ms of advertising, as espoused by Kotler, need certain modifications.

MISSION

Of course, before embarking upon any campaign, we have to be very clear about our advertising objectives. & of course, the objectives must flow from prior decisions regarding target market, market positioning and marketing mix. In nutshell, Word-of-mouth marketers normally have objective of either informative advertising or persuasive advertising.

Informative advertising intends to create awareness and knowledge about new products or new features of existing products. Mozilla Firefox did educate the net users about the availability of an alternative browser all through word-of-mouth only. Hotmail appended a soft-sell line — “Get your free e-mail at Hotmail” — to every outgoing e-mail from its users.

Persuasive advertising aims at creating liking, preference and, ultimately, purchase of a product or service. There can be three types of propositions that can generate word-of-mouth: rational, logical or self expressive.

  1. Rational word-of-mouth is the word-of-mouth created due to communication of actual logical benefits to the consumers. A few years back when dettol antiseptic was a word-of-mouth in middle class India, it was a word-of-mouth based on rational benefits.
  2. Emotional word-of-mouth titillates the emotional side of human heart. Depicting a mother’s concern for her son’s health created a word-of-mouth for ‘Chawanprash’ in Indian market. It aimed at linking the image of a caring mother with chawanprash.
  3. Self-expressive word-of-mouth hinges on to two aspects of self-image: how a customer sees himself and how others see him. A pulsar rider, probably, depicts an image of a style conscious, forward-looking and modern rider where as a Bullet Electra rider depicts a typically strong, macho personality.

MONEY

If used in isolation, a successful word-of-mouth marketing campaign requires much lesser money to achieve the same results as compared to traditional marketing but in most of the cases word-of-mouth marketing is used most optimally in combination with traditional advertising techniques. When Tom Cruise used an Apple laptop in Mission Impossible or Kareena Kapoor (A bollywood actress) rode a ‘Hero bicycle’ in Yaadein, it isn’t an accident but a planned ploy to generate word-of-mouth complementing the traditional advertising. This form of ‘complementing word-of-mouth’ requires much larger amount of money to maintain synergy between word-of-mouth and traditional marketing.

Similarly, the desired scale of operation dramatically up scales or down scales our costs. Generating word-of-mouth in the city of New York alone would have been much cheaper rather than whole of USA for Wrigley’s when they sent 4 bubble gums to every residential postal address.

& as is expected higher competition category normally means more effort and money input to ensure effectiveness of your campaign and hence higher costs going in to achieve a desired result.

Come what may, every word-of-mouth has a certain lifetime and fades off after some lean period. How long we wish to continue and revitalize the word-of-mouth for our products, will determine the amount of money and effort we will have to expend. For Perfetti to maintain the word-of-mouth for its Big Babol amongst Indian children, it had to introduce something new and exciting for children every few months like

  1. Picture Story – inside every Big Babol pack (1994 – 96)
  2. Comic books on every stick pack (1997)
  3. Magic Candles (2000)
  4. Lenticular cards (Giga cards) (2004)

And continuing a word-of-mouth like this by inventing does demands a considerable monetary investment.

MIND SPACE OCCUPIED BY PRODUCT

Before deciding upon word-of-mouth marketing as the most potent tool, we have to consider that word-of-mouth doesn’t necessarily work for each and every product. P&G’s foray into word-of-mouth marketing failed miserably because the stories about daily care products didn’t generate the amount of interest in people minds, as those about Toyota cars would have.

To get some mind space & hence some word of mouth, campaigns have to satisfy some basic criteria.

First, products ripe for word-of-mouth are unique in some respect, be it in look, functionality, ease of use, efficacy, or price. In the case of collapsible scooters, the key word-of-mouth-worthy factors are functionality and ease of use; which other product allows people to dash from place to place on a lightweight, folding device?

If the product can become an object of aspiration, its probability of being successful in generating word-of-mouth for itself increases manifolds. It should have an aspiration value associated with it, which may be either natural or artificially created by rationing the supply. Walt Disney created a huge word-of-mouth when in 1991 it announced that the company would retire certain videos, allowing consumers just a limited time to purchase them. Similarly in Indian Market Kinetic’s Limited edition models of high-end bikes was effort to generate a word-of-mouth for the product by rationing the supply.

Another feature that can take a product on the bestseller lists is its Fashion Statement. Consider funky-colored nail polish, a word-of-mouth-created product, if ever there was one. Mohajer’s homemade concoction created such a stir on the University of Southern California campus that she soon found herself in business. The word-of-mouth then reached a near-excruciating decibel levels when actress Alicia Silverstone gushed about her sky-blue polish on television. In three years, Hard Candy sales hit an estimated $ 30 million.

If products combine two or more of these factors they will form a very strong case for word-of-mouth. Take into consideration the case with Google’s Gmail, which was both a fashion statement and an object of aspiration for people to have. Google created secrecy and exclusivity while initially launching its Gmail account. This exclusivity lent the word-of-mouth to the product.

MASS NETWORK VALUE

Customer value is of critical interest to companies, because it determines how much it is worth spending to acquire a particular customer. However, traditional measures of customer value ignore the fact that, in addition to buying products himself/herself, a customer may influence others’ buying decisions also.

Consider case of Tommy Hilfiger, which initially focused on young, urban African-Americans to imprint brand with a street hip ness. The popularity of Hilfiger clothes quickly spread from the inner city to the suburbs, reaching a broad audience of all ethnicities.

To design the word-of-mouth marketing approach for a product, it will be a wise idea to track the path of the word-of-mouth for a similar product that was successful and then seek to replicate that pattern. More sophisticated techniques – attempting to model how consumers interact with one another and how highly they value others as sources of information or as behavioral models – can also be employed.

MESSAGE

Message is the heart of word-of-mouth marketing. Message should be successful in generation of conversational value for itself. We can put in millions of dollars and hours of effort but if our message doesn’t inspire a typical ‘canteen conversation’, it has very low chances of being a successful word-of-mouth generator.

The ground rule that is message should be simple and unobtrusive. We should not try to hard sell a particular feature as the entire point of word-of-mouth marketing will be destroyed if we try to do so. An account of effectiveness of simple advertising is Hotmail, the free e-mail service. The start-up company used a fairly simple and easy to remember message — “Get your free e-mail at Hotmail” — with every outgoing e-mail. In its first 18 months of business, Hotmail signed up 12 million people.

But simply being unobtrusive doesn’t generate word-of-mouth for itself. It should have one or more of following characteristics for it to be characterized as a good candidate for word-of-mouth.

Unusual

If we can get something that is unusual, that has never happened before, that can become talking point of town, the campaign is bound to succeed. During the dot-com bubble, hundreds of brands followed a conventional approach to brand-building i.e. entrusting their budgets to the traditional marketing establishment but ‘Half.com’ literally set the bells ringing and put itself on the map by convincing a small town in Oregon to change its name from Halfway to Half.com, Oregon.

Curiosity

If the message can generate curiosity among the users, its effectiveness is established. Sony promoted the new serial, `Jassi,’ through `flash mobs’, wherein groups of 15-30 people went into high-traffic areas such as Big Bazaar and Apna Bazaar called out for `Jassi’, and through groups of women on the train who struck up seemingly impromptu conversations about `Jassi’.

Similarly, Electronic Arts used this curiosity factor to a great advantage. A beautiful woman approaches a patron and whispers in his ear, “Save me.” She slips a business card into his pocket and walks out. On the card is a phone number. Not hers, but one for an information line about Electronic Art’s new online suspense-thriller game called Majestic.

Emotive

If our message can get people emotive about the product, we can smell success. A striking example is how Star Network established itself in India through the serials ‘Kahani ghar ghar ki’ and ‘Kyunki sas bhi labhi bahu thi’ using this factor. These serials generated a huge word-of-mouth because they tickled the Indian family values and led Indian women to identify themselves with the characters in the serials. These serials became regular talking points in women gatherings to the point of mad craze and hence pushed up Star Network to be the number one channel from being a distant third.

Taboo

Normally it’s difficult to create word-of-mouth for taboo subjects but some companies have succeeded by discussing these taboo subjects in a creative manner. The most obvious case is Viagra, which has become one of the most talked-about prescription medications ever. Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, faced an uphill battle when trying to generate word-of-mouth for its breakthrough drug, because impotence was a taboo subject. But by popularizing the medical terms “erectile dysfunction” and “ED,” the company transformed the ‘un-discuss-able’ into fodder for the bedroom and backyard alike.

Entertainment value

Entertainment, too, provides a positive fodder for word-of-mouth generation. The publicity of the product can go under the garb of the entertainment value of something associated with the product. Lufthansa, for example, announced the launch of Tick-e-Tee, a virtual golf tournament on its website (www. lufthansa-india.com).

Similarly, Reckitt Benckiser used comedians in its stores in US to start about a word-of-mouth for its potato sticks that were continuously losing sales. This model has been followed regularly by many companies worldwide (including India) to target various segments of people, primarily kids.

Entertainment value was the thinking behind a recent San Miguel Light campaign, Stickers with images of Sammy, the beer’s rebellious mascot, were handed out to people aged 18-25. The idea was to stamp the stickers, reading “Kick Me,” onto their unsuspecting friends’ backs.

MESSENGER

Messenger plays a very important role in defining the line between the success and failure of word-of-mouth marketing. The message can be great but if the messenger is not credible or fails to register an impression, the probability of word-of-mouth generation again is very low. The desirable characteristics –

Credibility

Credibility is an extremely important factor in word-of-mouth generation. In fact, even behind parity and attention catching ability, it is the credibility of the messenger that consumers put in the messenger that comes out to be main factor. Till few years back, customers would have chosen Bajaj Chetak scooter as their first choice as they got the reference from the most trusted sources – their family and friends.

Birla Cement has successfully used retired ‘overseers’ to create a word-of-mouth for its brands, parking them at local ‘haat’s where people ask them for relevant tips. Retired ‘overseers’, become reference points for people in the villages. It is credibility of these overseers that attracts people to these ‘haat’s.

Parity

Probably, this is one of the most ignored factors while selecting a messenger. If the messenger has got some sort of parity with the ultimate consumer, the message will be passed much more strongly. Consider Sony Erickson and its introductory campaign for the T68i cell phone. The company hired paid performers who asked passersby to take their picture with the company’s new T68i cell phone that offers an add-on digital camera. Pokemon cards and WWF cards spread through out India like a craze as children are influenced by messengers, who are closest to them in distance and characteristics: the other children

Similar was the case was with ‘palm top’ word-of-mouth. Whenever the officials saw other executives using the Palm Tops in their meetings, while they were still stuck with traditional paper, the effect created a greater word-of-mouth than say a celebrity using the palm top would have generated.

Visibility / Attention catching ability:

If we can get a well known celebrity to pass over a message in rather modest way, it can have a snow balling effect. Tickle Me Elmo became the best-selling toy of the 1996 Christmas season in the United States after Rosie O’Donnell played with the doll on her daytime talk show. A public relations agency had cleverly engineered this runaway success by sending an Elmo to O’Donnell’s son.

We have to identify early adopters, who commonly try to convert others, and make them part of a community of customers. This gives the customers, a sense of exclusivity and belonging ness to the brand. Harley-Davidson did this by tapping into the fervent loyalty of its customers by establishing and sponsoring the Harley Owners Group, or HOG, and relying on extensive word-of-mouth to rebuild its brand.

Similar case is with using opinion leaders within a community to get a product rolling in Indian Rural Market. When Mahindra Farm Equipment launched its Mahindra Super Turbo 595DI tractor, It gave test rides and sold the product to opinion leaders, who used tractors over considerable periods of time.

MEDIA

Media for word-of-mouth marketing has taken many innovative forms and with the advent of internet, the choice and effectiveness have virtually increased by an infinite scale.

Social gatherings

The basic idea of word-of-mouth marketing is to create awareness about the product by facilitating conversation between people. Social gatherings is one way. This was the idea followed by Tupperware. Selling a line of kitchen containers without advertising and even without distribution? The answer: Have women hold parties and talk about them to their friends.

Emails

Email is the fastest way for a word-of-mouth to spread. Ford used this medium to generate word-of-mouth for its Ford Mondeo car. It got a flash clip coded by Satyam Infoway, where users can see and move the car in 3-D platform and can see it from all the possible angles. This mail was forwarded to thousands of users, not only in India but abroad also.

Sunday, a Hong Kong mobile network operator, tried a more up market approach with Eva, a virtual girl looking for love. Registered Sunday users received e-mails from Eva, asking them to meet her in Sunday’s chat-room.

E-Diaries/Blogs

E-Diaries/Blogs are online web diaries and can be very influential tools on web word-of-mouth generation. Normally these are maintained by people who are considered masters of their fields and people tend to benefit from their day-to-day experiences. Mention of your product in a highly visible blog can create a favourable word-of-mouth.

Dot-com companies like Epinions.com & Mouthshut.com have built their entire businesses and web sites around customer word of mouth: consumers rate and review products, and the results are tallied for prospective shoppers to view. Such forums, as well as the past successes of word-of-mouth marketing, are themselves generating word-of-mouth about the growing power of customer hype. Indeed, companies that are unable to control word-of-mouth may soon find the phenomenon controlling them.

News groups

News groups are another medium that can be used to generate word-of-mouth for our product. Normally, news has a much larger effect on consumers than plain bland advertisements. It has been a norm for companies to place their agents to generate favourable news for the product. The most glaring and recent example in this case is success of Mozilla’s Firefox against Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Mozilla created a web platform to mobilize the firefox users to help spread word about mozilla. These users posted stories about mozilla in many news groups and soon the strategy paid off when many leading news papers covered the emergence of mozilla.

MEASUREMENT

Good planning and control requires an effective measurement strategy. Word-of-mouth marketing has always been considered as something highly ideological and the normal belief is that their can be no sound and effective measurement technique for word-of-mouth effectiveness. Of course, traditional approaches have been applied to measure its effectiveness but a striking example of how wrong the traditional measurement can go, is illustrated by 2003 MTV video Music Awards in the US. The aim was to get more people talking about MTV. The year before 12 million U.S. viewers watched the Video Music Awards against 10.7 million people in 2003. One would judge the 2003 program as falling short in building the brand. But anyone tracking U.S. media coverage of the 2003 event certainly recalls the open-mouth kiss between Madonna and Britney Spears that got the whole country talking. In addition to the word-of-mouth generated by water cooler conversations, the news media writing about what happened created a GMI (gusher of media impressions) for the MTV Music Awards far beyond the reduced GRP total. Over 100 million news media impressions were generated for MTV as a result of that one tantalizing moment.

So it is very clear that traditional methods alone are not adequate when it comes to measurement of effectiveness of word-of-mouth marketing. A term popularized by Mark Hughes has been to use MIRP i.e. Media Impressions beyond Rating Points

Now, if we apply MIRP factor to MTV example, MIRP ratio comes out to be 934%. Using the traditional metric of rating points, the marketing of MTV’s Video Music Awards was a disappointment. But when measured in MIRP (934% MIRP factor) you see the phenomenal total impact on the MTV brand (110+ million impressions vs. 10.7 million viewers).

MITIGATION

Last but not the least; a marketer has to take care of potential negative effects of word-of-mouth marketing too. One has to take care that the word-of-mouth generation doesn’t go out of ethical boundaries. Some companies like VESPA hired male and female models to hang out on scooters outside cafes and nightclubs in the hope of someone walking by and asking about the stylish scooter. This was an example of manipulative advertisement which sometimes, does cross the ethical lines.

There are times when customers see through the manipulation and deception. This was exactly what happened with Sony. First, it turned out that Sony had fabricated quotes from a fictitious film critic praising movies such as Vertical Limit and The Animal. Soon after, two supposed moviegoers who gushed about The Patriot in Sony commercials were unmasked as studio employees.

And with rising resistance of users towards undesirable advertising methods marketers have to take into consideration proper media to deliver their message in a rather inconspicuous way and without compromising their privacy.

Similarly, a negative word of mouth can do much more damage than can ever be imagined. The reasons of generation of negative word of mouth have to be diagnosed very fast and proper communication via either traditional advertising or any other media has to be done. Let’s not forget the most recent example of “Yours is a very bad hotel,” a PowerPoint presentation developed by two disgruntled travelers that was initially forwarded to five friends but since then has been passed around on the Internet to an estimated million people.

Similarly, a company has to think of congruence among the generated word-of-mouth, the culture of country and image of the company. This was exactly what didn’t happen in case of A&F who promoted t-shirts with a risky racial slant in US (example: Two oriental men accompanied by the slogan “Wong Brothers Laundry Service: Two Wong’s Can Make It White”). The offense prompted protests, complaining phone calls and e-mails forcing the t-shirt line to be pulled out of market. This was followed by a corporate apology.

So finally, are we convinced – Word-of-mouth Marketing needs a shift of tactics and thinking on the part of marketing executives. With customer’s increasing indifference to traditional advertising, marketers can no longer afford to force and feed the information about their product to the customers as was done earlier.