Brand Communities, Recommendation, and Going To School On The Other Guy’s Putt

If two golfers reach the green around the same time, neither wants to putt first. That’s because it’s always instructive to watch the other player’s ball roll; it susses out hidden breaks and the speed of the green.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonThat behavior is not unique to golf; shoppers look to learn from their peers as well. As part of their participation in the Consumer Electronics Show last week, PR giant Weber Shandwick released a study that found the greatest influence on electronics purchase decisions comes from consumer reviews, not professional ones. In fact, electronics buyers value consumer reviews over editorial reviews by a more than three to one margin. Perhaps more importantly, they found that on average, buyers checked eleven consumer reviews before committing to a purchase.

All of this merely confirms the power of recommendation. As Paul Rand, President of Omnicom word of mouth shop Zócalo Group, asserts quite regularly about buyers; “92% say that the recommendation of a friend, family member, colleague or expert is the single most powerful influencer of their purchase decision.”

So it only makes sense for marketers to leverage this phenomenon and encourage reviews. But sales are a competition so there’s always someone looking to bring performance enhancing drugs to the race. Last Summer, Forbes ran an article concerning authors who anonymously pen self-promoting book reviews, or worse, slams on the work of rival authors. Around the New Year, the Huffington Post ran a piece on view count inflation on YouTube music video counts and a subsequent adjustment in those numbers.

People innately seek the opinions of others they respect and trust. And well tended brand communities provide forums for sharing those opinions. Weber Shandwick’s  report even closes with suggestions on how marketers can protect their recommendations’ legitimacy so they stay effective. But as long as there is money involved, some dirtbag will try to Lance the system and scam some bucks.

Yet another reason why authenticity is such a valued commodity these days.

 

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

In Today’s Participatory Culture, “People Are The Medium”

Picture 5SocialVibe President and prolific new platform pundit Joe Marchese’s most recent blog entry on MediaPost presents a simple, 21st century update on Marshall McLuhan’s original marketing mindblower “The medium is the message.”  In a few paragraphs, he presents the case for “People are the medium” and his thinking is genuinely compelling. Most notably, he cites how people will spend over three hundred and thirty million hours this year on Facebook alone, creating and sharing incredibly vast quantities of consumer generated content.  To McLuhan’s point, this personal stewardship of content and commentary, the highly human context of all these ideas, inevitably influences how these messages are received.

Marchese believes marketers must reconcile themselves to this new truth and respect the revolutionary notion that people are the medium before they can truly work effectively in social media.  Given that our industry currently lacks the infrastructure resources to do that on a large scale, social media could remain broken as a marketing platform for a long time.  At least as far as Facebook is concerned.

One marketing medium that does recognize people as the medium is the rapidly-expanding specialty of word of mouth.  Today, almost all marketing professionals recognize the increased role recommendation plays in purchase decisions and so word of mouth has exploded as an offering, with agencies, PR firms and specialists all jumping in to set up shop and claim expertise.  Our friend Paul Rand at Zocalo Group got into this space early with the balance of assessment and direct engagement required to change mere observation into actionable influence.  Without participating in the discussions out there, word of mouth remains a game of chance, and no one can afford that these days.

Historically, corporations have proven awkward at connecting with people on a personal level.  As we charge headlong into an increasingly hyper-connected future, we will have to address that.  

If we don’t, we will lose one very valuable medium.  And billions of potential consumers.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79