Continuing on my post on the Marketing Science Institute’s Board of Trustees Meeting and Conference, the second and final day focused on new media and word of mouth. Here’s a three part summary:
A Construct For Word Of Mouth And Social Networks
The day began with a great presentation from Dina Mayzlin of Yale University, who presented “The Management of Social Interactions.” While all of the research about social network theory was interesting, I was most drawn to one of her more fundamental constructs: what motivates people to spread word of mouth. She says:
- They enjoy it
- They’re altruistic
- To build their image
I think Dina’s right, but I think she’s missing a fourth fundamental motivator: the basic human need (like sex) to express one’s self. Case in point: MySpace. MySpace is a lot of things, but it’s an expression megaphone, if anything.
Word-Of-Mouth Listening: The First Step
Following Dina Mayzlin’s introduction to social networks was a great presentation by Randall McAdory, manager of Web-based consumer insights at DaimlerChyrsler. He’s a committed researcher to the notion of customer listening through passive measurement of Consumer-Generated Media. He shared the key areas where CGM insights impact automotive business decisions:
- Concept Phase: product development, public relations, product research
- Pre-Launch Phase: product development, marketing strategy, advertising, public relations
- Launch Phase: marketing and advertising, sales training, manufacturing
- Post-Launch Phase: product redesign, marketing and advertising
Randall mentioned that it’s sometimes very hard to present CGM findings on automobiles to various key internal stakeholders; he used the analogy of telling someone their baby is ugly. I often feel Randall’s pain in my own experience. I think this pushback has more to do with the fact that big companies often have cultural and customer philosophy issues to overcome. Companies can suffer from:
1) denial that customers do talk about, engage with, and own the brand, and
2) a disrespect of the customer when the customer has something to say.
Discussion: Word Of Mouth’s Evolving Impact On Marketing And The Organization
Following Randall McAdodry’s presentation, was a panel discussion including:
- Steve Knox, CEO of P&G’s Tremor
- Randall McAdory
- Dina Mayzlin
Each person’s most important point, according to me, and paraphrased by me:
- Steve talked about the importance of understanding the consumer insight and framing the message the way consumers want to hear it.
- Randall noted that although DaimlerChysler is only focused on the listening component of word-of-mouth marketing, buzz is actually fostered and affected by a wide range of consumer touch points and experiences. Buzz isn’t a standalone outcome of a single effort.
- Dina Mayzlin thinks the laws of social networks apply similarly in b2b contexts as they do b2c or c2c.
- I noted the continued rise and dichotomous relationship of search and consumer-generated media. Search engines love CGM. If search engines are our window into our Internet and information universe, then together search engines and CGM will play a major role in brand equity and customer decision-making.
Finally, Jim Figura of Colgate asked a great question: What will social networks, word of mouth and CGM look like in five years? I believe Google (and others like it) will continue to serve as a catalyst of CGM by exposing the long tail of social networks – the proliferating niches of dynamique content over formerly centralized institutional content. And if Google’s prowess continues into the evolving mainstream advertising and media world – as it has done so far with a vengeance – then this combination results in a world where average people (aka consumers) with relevant experiences and passion will have a much more influential role in determining the fate of brands – brands that marketers today think they have so much rigid control over, but really don’t. It will fuel a renaissance of more genuine customer-to-marketer relationships – one based more on mutual respect.