Modeling Word of Mouth Marketing

By Greg • Dec 13th, 2005 • Category: Blogging, Business, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, People, Trends

They say one of the most powerful marketing mediums is word of mouth. The friendly dialouge that begins within some core social networks, friends telling friends, and then spreads from there. Very powerful indeed. Think about how many things you have tried because it came via the recommendation of a friend. A book you may have read, a vacation spot you may have visted, a product you purchased for your home, etc.. If you spend some time thinking about it you will find that your social network is one of the most influential elements around you.

This is not a revolutionary concept, its been studied and put into practical application for quite some time. In fact, its so powerful that now there are agencies dedicated solely to the modeling and execution of word of mouth marketing strategies. The latest on the scene is Todd Tweedy’s Boldmouth, which was officially launched this week. Todd is very specific about the difference between defining what his agency does: “Word of mouth marketing” versus the common and widely used term of “Buzz Marketing” – Mr. Tweedy, wants to make sure that there is a clear understanding that these are completely two different practice areas – word of mouth being much more powerful that “buzz marketing.” Todd states:

“Real word-of-mouth marketing is about sharing advice as well as product and service recommendations. These informal and typically person-to-person dialogs should not to be confused with “buzz marketing” that is nothing more than an attempt to artificially engineer a referral by offering incentives so that “agents” make recommendations on behalf of an organization. “Buzz marketing companies don’t create buzz. People that are interested in a product or service create ‘buzz’ using word of mouth,”

This of course, as AdRants states, is a direct shot at the “other” agency BuzzAgents, which works exactly under the model that Todd counters in his quote above. I would have to agree with Todd, there is a lot of truth in his statement. There is definitely something “artificial” about the buzz marketing approach versus true word of mouth. Buzz is more of a forced message, whereas WOM is a more natural and holistic approach.

“Disguising a commercial as a person and having these “agents” share commercial messages on an unsuspecting audience with misleading ‘buzz’ tactics simply creates more ad clutter and puts brands in unnecessary danger.”

Definitely an interesting point of view – although I believe there is some effectiveness for clients who engage with that model, there is a more positive influence and a longer term effect for brands who engage with true word of mouth marketing. After sifting through Todd’s blog (Word Spreads Quickly) (great name), I came across one of his posts that links to a diagram of how a successful WOM marketing campaign should be modeled, check it out:

This image tells alot. I never knew exactly what went into a strategic WOM campaign prior to studying the image. A structured approach to these various elements and getting them to work in unison is apparently what Todd calls the “secret sauce” to WOM marketing. Additionally, I am sure there are many other elements and tweaks to this model that can be added to further enhance a campaign. As you can see, effective WOM marketing is very much a practice area of expertise, combining knowledge from multiple channels. Thanks Todd for the great post and good luck with Boldmouth!

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5 Responses »

  1. [...] m they include: Todd Tweedy Launches by Shel Israel at Naked Conversations Modeling Word of Mouth Marketing by The Trend Junkie New Media Report [...]

  2. Actually I think the origin of buzz marketing came long before came into the picture. Every few years a group of marketers will try to reinvent their business (and differentiate themselves) by coming up with a new term for an old concept. Buzz marketing is exactly what word of mouth marketing was in the 1990s. Take it from someone who used the latter term until he had to substitute it with the former term. ;-)

  3. Absolutely Tim! “buzz marketing” or “viral marketing” has definitely been around a while. I think its fascinating that there are now agencies dedicated to the development and execution of these types of marketing campaigns. This definitely says alot for the power of the social network.

    Back in the early 90’s in a previous life as a concert promoter, I would be sure to hit certain “influencers” with information early on (before the masses) about upcoming shows, and I would ping my “in the know” email list with concert updates as well. Continuously monitoring how people came to hear about my shows showed me that this was the most effective advertising I could do!

  4. Hey Greg,

    I enjoyed reading your post, and couldn’t agree with Tim more! In fact, in the mid-’90’s we were calling it grassroots mobilization. My background is in direct response marketing (re-named Relationship Marketing) and worked for a great WPP specialized agency that was doing a mix of commerical and public affairs work. In fact, the agency was created by Matt Reece, the creator of President’s Kennedy’s direct mail operation and the grandfather of grassroots marketing.

    In addition to saying hello, I also wanted you to know about a study we’re doing in partnership with Osterman Research on word of mouth practices and ethics. The study is online and only takes a few minutes. And, if you or any of your readers participates I’ll send the research findings and data for FREE. Here’s a link:

    Many thanks,


  5. Thanks for stopping by Todd! I will send out the research link to some folks I know. Definitely looking forward to seeing the findings!



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