For Word of Mouth, The Secret Sauce Lies In The South

Is your brand in pursuit of that all-important consumer word of mouth and advocacy? Many marketers are trying to figure out what the secret sauce should be. Often the focus is on channels -- social media, or viral videos, or experiential. Sometimes it is on demographics -- young people, multicultural, or moms. However, if buzz is what you seek, then a good serving of southern barbeque might be what you need.

A newly released study, America's Most Talkative Cities, provides a top 10 ranking which demonstrates that word of mouth varies widely by market. The research shows that seven of the 10 most talkative cities are in the South, suggesting special opportunities for marketers to promote their brands through word-of-mouth marketing in that region.

Helping to prove the point that everything is bigger in Texas, residents of Houston lead the way in word of mouth, talking about brands more than residents of any other major city in the U.S. Two Sunshine State cities, Jacksonville and Miami, are in the second and third positions. Salt Lake City and Atlanta round out the nation's top five. All five of these markets are about 20% more talkative than the national average. 



As marketers pursue strategies to drive positive conversations about their brands, this research shows that people in some cities like to chat more than others. And many of the leading cities also have large multicultural populations, which prior research has shown tend to be more active in consumer conversations.

What exactly do consumers talk about in these conversations? Nationally, media & entertainment and food & dining are the two most talked-about categories, followed by sports, beverages and technology. At the individual city level, certain categories stand out from the national norms. For example, people in Houston are 37% more likely than the average American to talk about automotive brands. Auto marketers take note. In Jacksonville, people are 56% more likely to talk about financial services brands and in Miami, 75% of people are more likely to talk about travel.

This research is based on ongoing studies of consumer conversations about products, services, and brands, and is based on approximately 75,000 consumer interviews over a two-year period. This is the first extensive look at word of mouth at the local market level. 

The research also finds that the vast majority of these conversations take place offline, primarily face-to-face (78%) followed by phone (13%). Online conversation accounts for about 10% of brand-related conversation. The rise of social media has not meant an end to in-person conversation.  It gives people an additional channel through which they can communicate. But it doesn't supplant the chatter that takes place in people's homes, at the workplace, on the sidelines of their kids' soccer games, or at their churches or synagogues.

As marketers seek ways to tap the power of social influence, they need to be very aware of when and where people are talking. And predominantly, those conversations still take place in the real world. 

To be effective, word of mouth needs to be not only plentiful, but positive. The study looked at whether people's conversations about brands are positive or negative. Norfolk VA is the most positive of any city, and six of the top ten cities in terms of positive word of mouth are from the South. Joining Norfolk are Austin, Raleigh, Richmond, Jacksonville, and Houston. The non-Southern cities in the top ten are Providence, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Rochester.

The talkative and very positive nature of residents in southern cities certainly supports their reputation for “southern hospitality.” And it argues that a “southern strategy” for word of mouth may be just what the chef ordered.

Next story loading loading..