This core truth about the power of consumer influence comes from an extensive review by the Marketing Science Institute.
The broader concept points to an immediate path for better brand ROIs if it is properly understood and acted upon.
For instance, what is intriguing about how influencers impact the brand purchasing funnel is that their effect is not equal across all elements of the funnel -- influencers more powerfully impact mid- to lower-funnel metrics such as "consideration" and "preference," but generally fail to move Awareness.
Various UM multivariate models of advertising effect show that paid influencers are 4 to 7 times more effective in lifting brand consideration and preference than they are in impacting awareness. Among people ages 25-54, social media influencers are typically +50% more effective than video ads in social media in driving a brand's consideration level.
Quality Beats Quantity
The Marketing Science Institute review indicated that doubling the quantity of product reviews could increase sales by +35%, but by doubling the quality of reviews, sales would increase by +69% -- a truly impressive lift for any communications channel. This underpins the comparative potential of strong, vibrant consumer word-of-mouth, (WOM) relative to paid influencers.
What this also means is that while influencers are useful, directly engaging consumers to talk about your brand can be much more powerful.
Therefore, when brands and agencies develop influencer strategies, we should also take into account the power of individual consumer word of mouth.
Bigger Isn’t Better
Professor Damon Centola of UPenn, who is author of Change: How to Make Big Things Happen, says, “If you want to spread gossip — easily digestible, uncontroversial bits of information — go ahead and tap a [mega] influencer. But if you want to transmit new ways of thinking that challenge an existing set of beliefs, seek out hidden locations in the periphery and plant the seed there.”
A recently released Influencer Trust Study by The Keller Advisory Group and Suzy found that advice from family, friends or co-workers is far and away the most trusted source of information on products or brands to buy. Ratings and review sites are the second-most trusted out of ten sources studies. Trust in social media influencers is far lower, finishing lowest on the list.
WOM not only works directly -- it also amplifies and makes paid media more effective. An estimated 25% of advertising effectiveness comes indirectly from WOM, according to work Keller and his colleagues, together with marketing Professor Koen Pauwels, according to a study published in the MIT Sloan Management Review.
What gets seen in ads often gets talked about as people share ad content that they find interesting, valuable, or humorous -- whether it's via co-viewing, or after the fact… “Did you see that ad about the car that parks itself, that's pretty cool…” after which the person who is told about the ad takes steps to look further into the product and eventually buy it.
Here's our six-point checklist to spur consumers to talk about a brand:
Consider advertising media tactics that are known to help boost WOM such as in-program media placements, sponsorships where the brand is actively referenced on screen, face-to-face promotions, event marketing, pop-up retail stores, consumer contests and inventive guerrilla marketing.
What gets a brand talked about are unexpected and innovative marketing activities because they provide consumers with a reason to talk.
Don't view creative ad wearout as the point at which consumers get bored with seeing ads; instead see new, fresher ads as an opportunity for igniting distinctive and vibrant brand conversations.
Make sure your brand is visible in retail, with a creative story or talk-worthy message: More than any other single medium, including video, things people see in stores drive them to talk.
For example, widen a brand's footprint for in-store sampling, prizes and product demonstrations. As every marketing-mix modeler knows, the biggest driver of sales isn't advertising, it's distribution, so harness retail-related consumer conversations.
Activate the company's staff as brand ambassadors. In the Trust study referenced above, 58% of Americans say they trust the advice they receive online or in-store from brand employees, placing it third behind family/friend, ratings and reviews.
Online communities are also highly trusted -- especially among younger consumers. Make sure the brand is actively engaged in communities that are a subject matter fit for your brand message. Or launch communities to attract an audience.
Above all, champion the brand solution of strategic surprise. A brand that forces us to rethink it is a brand with higher consumer spontaneous awareness.
For some brands, this means being brave, e.g., Nike and Colin Kaepernick. For others, it’s extending brand expectations into new areas -- for example, Lego helping visually impaired children by releasing Braille Bricks.
As the African proverb famously notes: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
When it comes to brand growth, WOM is a leading driver and there is an array of media and marketing strategies at our disposal to drive a brand’s visibility and growth. It takes a media village.