Monday, December 24, 2007

WOM growing, but Trout has his doubts

Good overview of the state of word of mouth advertising in yesterday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Word of mouth, sometimes referred to as buzz marketing or viral marketing, was the fastest-growing slice of the $254 billion marketing industry last year, and is expected to account for more than $1 billion of ad spending in 2007 [sic], according to a report by PQ Media of Stamford, Conn., an alternative media researcher. That number is forecast to reach $3.7 billion by 2011, fueled in part by the eruption of blogs and the increasing popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook.
Industry guru Jack Trout is a little less than impressed, however:
"Word of mouth has always been nirvana -- obviously, having a third party say you're terrific is better than saying you're terrific yourself. ... But my sense is that it's still a work in progress."

Trout furnished a pair of recent high-profile flops to illustrate his skepticism. One was Pontiac's decision to give away its new G6 model on "Oprah," an effort that generated significant awareness, but "didn't sell a damn thing."
The story also included a surprise for anyone who's followed the debate about advertising's declining levels of credibility in the eyes of today's skeptical consumer: while they appear to be significantly less credible than word-of-mouth, newspaper ads scored much better on the trustworthiness scale than I would have guessed:
A recent survey by A.C. Nielsen found that 78 percent of respondents viewed recommendations from other consumers as trustworthy. That compares with 63 percent for newspaper ads, the second most-trusted medium…
I myself am one of those skeptical consumers, so I have doubts about Nielsen's numbers. But I'm sure the Post-Intelligencer was happy to print them.

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