According to the presenters, 28 percent of the top search results for major brands come from consumer-generated media. That kind of statistic has generated a new industry--word of mouth marketing--with new companies launching that specialize in buzz, and even a trade association (WOMMA) dedicated to the art of influencing the key influencers.
In reality, the term word of mouth marketing is a repositioning of the old viral marketing craze of the late 1990s, but has taken on new significance with the proliferation of blogs and an explosion in consumer-generated media. There are three areas of focus when it comes to dealing with word of mouth: monitoring, incorporating, and influencing.
Monitoring buzz is the purview of companies such as Nielson BuzzMetrics. In a case study presented at the Ad:tech session, a representative of Nielson BuzzMetrics talked about how the monitoring of buzz can determine the effectiveness of specific campaigns. As an example, a study was done after the famous Oprah giveaway of 276 Pontiac G6s to determine the effect of the promotion. By monitoring various discussion boards, especially the automotive focus groups, the study determined that as a result of the promotion, the G6 was now identified as a "chick car" by members of the auto-buying community. Since the target audience for the car was male, the study suggests that the promotion might have had an unintended negative impact.
Companies such as Bazaarvoice are in the business of helping firms incorporate buzz into their e-commerce sites. The idea is that the opinions of consumers have more impact than marketer generated messaging. By incorporating both positive AND negative feedback about products into the retailer's site, there can be a substantial increase in units sold. This concept is also being factored into e-mail newsletters and promotions.
Of course, once we start talking about influencing the buzz surrounding a product, we are treading on dangerous ground--not that that's stopped marketers in the past. It is common practice for marketers to hire supposedly independent consumers to post positive spin about a product. But get caught--.and hell hath no fury.