Remember this commercial?


The woman in this commercial is pretty impressed with herself that she told TWO friends about how great Faberge Organic Shampoo with Wheat Germ Oil and Honey is. She’s hoping that her TWO friends will then tell their TWO friends, and so on, and so on, and so on. She’s hoping that YOU will tell two friends too, and the shampoo company hopes that word of mouth will sell shampoo. 

Watching a commercial like this today seems just silly. TWO friends? For those of you involved in online communities – when was the last time you had only TWO friends?? Word of mouth ain’t what it used to be. 

I have ridiculously thick, coarse hair. Seriously, it’s out of control. If I don’t take serious efforts to tame my mane on a daily basis, I absolutely run the risk of taking someone’s eye out. So, if I try a new shampoo, that makes my locks silky, soft, shiny and smooth, you’re darn right I’m going to tell someone about it. But I’m not just going to tell two friends. I’m on the Internet! I’m going to tell 1000 friends. And that is precisely the kind of word of mouth marketing that companies are scambling for these days. 

The issue is that word of mouth marketing can’t be forced. If the shampoo company called me up, or sent me an email saying, “Try our shampoo for the ridiculously thick-haired! If you like it, then get on Twitter and tell all your friends!”, I would be much less inclined to spread the word. Why? Because I KNOW I’m being marketed to. And I might lose credibility if someone were to find out that the shampoo company had contacted me, telling me to pass on the good word about their product. (I guess that’s why disclosure is important – but I digress.)

My point is, it’s no secret that companies should be thinking about ways to get their products in front of the eyeballs of people online. But they need to be more subtle about it. Perhaps they just need to send me a free sample when I order beauty supplies online. Perhaps I can go to their site and enter a coupon code for a free bottle. Perhaps they can buy and then put up blog posts about how people with ridiculously thick hair can learn to manage it, and earn my trust that way. 

If I try a product and it solves a big problem for me, then I will shout it from the rooftops. I WILL tell 1000 people. And maybe they’ll tell 1000 people too. And so on, and so on, and so on….

Online communities hold tremendous power in their hands. Companies who don’t see the power of the new word of mouth are missing the boat in a big way.

5 Responses

  1. Guilty as charged this am. But I’m not tweeting to spread the word about a product or company today. I strongly believe that chinese medicine holds great promise for the future of western medicine and want to shout it from the rooftops. And then remind folks to do likewise. Sometimes a gentle nudge to RT can start the echo. Othertimes, its; just obnoxious.

    Thanks Suze!

  2. I recently read “The Tipping Point”
    by Malcolm Gladwell……
    He talks about just this topic of word of mouth in great detail. If you are serious about why some things catch on and others don’t…why one product sells like hotcakes….. why something so cool and wonderful never took off like you thought it should….this book is well worth reading.

    My business is entirely word of mouth. I don’t advertise. My customers come to me predisposed to have me make something they need. This is the best way to do business, I am convinced.

    How this works with the web, I am not yet sure. I am dabbling with blogs and sites, but it’s mostly to catalog my work, something I can direct my existing or potential customers to.


  3. ““Try our shampoo for the ridiculously thick-haired! If you like it, then get on Twitter and tell all your friends!”, I would be much less inclined to spread the word. Why? Because I KNOW I’m being marketed to.”

    Point taken, Sue. I work in social media and see this discussion a lot.

    But, now I am starting to think a bit differently. You find a product you like (by yourself), you like it, and so you tell all your friends. Cool.

    So, on the flip side, if a company searches you out and says “try our product, and if you like it, tell all your friends,” then there’s only one more step there that’s different — the fact that you didn’t “find” the product you liked by yourself, but a company did (by making it, and promoting it onto you).

    Would you not tell all your friends just to be obstinate, admit defeat that you were marketed to? Even though you may really like the product?

    I hope you can see the point I’m trying to make. Anyway, nice post and I will link to it today on my company blog as I want to try and expand on this theme.


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