Acknowledging and embracing these two areas is the right thing to do in an age when consumer empowerment reigns, and where advertising continues to become more fragmented, more costly, and less effective. But problems arise with an overemphasis on short-term, silo events--or, too often, word-of-mouth gimmicks. The consequence is a tendency to disregard the more subtle yet prolific dimensions of WOM and CGM. I'm especially referring to what my colleague Pete Blackshaw refers to as incidental word of mouth and, often, incidental product placement.
When such events are incidental, the consumer creating the message or media may or may not have an intended target within his trusted, immediate social network. However, a single consumer's permanent archive of CGM can have a lasting impact on the awareness, trial, and purchase behavior of other consumers. To realize and manage the consequences of incidental CGM and product placement, marketers and their agencies must consider not only the overt action or consequence,, but especially the long-tail effect. This is increasingly true as search and social media become more efficient and effective at connecting relevant content with relevant audiences.
Incidental WOM and product placement, especially the textual kind, are obvious, where Google and its competitors long for exposing and monetizing that long tail of content, mostly created by consumers. But in a world where multimedia publishing technologies are proliferating--including devices and platforms to capture, create and share content--we're entering a new era where brands must acknowledge the incremental impact of incidental word of mouth and product placement. I'm talking audio, still images and video.
I'll use myself and video as an example. (But please don't take too much enjoyment in this at my expense!). Consider my very G-rated "Pool Orgy" video, which I recently created on a whim. It has since been viewed 153 times, but on closer view that also happens to be 153 impressions of incidental product placement for Jeep Wrangler, Lay's Potato Chips and Corona beer. I emphasize these product placements were completely accidental--no staging went on here.
You may say that's only 153 impressions, no big deal! But consider that I've attached tags to my video--including "Corona,","Jeep," "Wrangler,""Lay's" and "Potato Chips"--to archive and optimize my video (in association with these brands) in the search engines for indefinite discovery by brand stakeholders. Moreover, consider that a good chunk of those 153 views were among members of my immediate personal network, resulting in numerous media experiences with high trust and engagement (or so I'd like to think), and potentially high consequences of brand association.
Finally, what if you multiplied the propensity for 153 impressions by thousands or millions of other content producers just like me? I'm definitely nobody special, but a large army of clueless video amateurs like me could be significant. We are a growing force, commanding attention in venues rivaling the online reach of traditional, mainstream television properties. I'm talking gathering places like Revver,YouTube and MySpace. We must not forget armies of smaller, more distributed sites, even video blogs.
So what does this mean for marketers? They must realize that WOM and CGM don't exist in vacuums; they are much more than campaign tactics or encapsulated events, bound by time and spend. Online WOM and CGM are incremental, indefinite and span across media, and our attention to them are dictated in often unpredictable ways by search engines and social affinity groups. Online WOM and CGM happen whether we like it or not. And that's exactly what marketers and their agencies should start paying a lot more attention to.
What do you think?
And one last thing: we haven't even begun to talk about copyright implications...