(Graham Brown mobileYouth) 5 Reasons Word of Mouth is a Myth. Word of Mouth is often confused with influence. Word of mouth does exist but it is less than 10% of the complete picture. Newsletter
(Graham Brown mobileYouth) 5 Reasons Word of Mouth is a Myth. Word of Mouth is often confused with influence. Word of mouth does exist but it is less than 10% of the complete picture. Newsletter subscribers can access the full article http://www.mobileyouth.org
5 Reasons Word of Mouth is a Mythby Graham D Brown, mobileYouthWord of Mouth is not core to our social nature.If we want to understand inﬂuence we need to move beyond the hype and look at the socialdynamics of real world interaction.In this article I want to expose some of the scams perpetuated by the creative industry and give youan insight into where and why real inﬂuence takes place.
Understanding Real InﬂuenceWord of Mouth is often confused with inﬂuence. Word of mouth does exist but itis less than 10% of the complete inﬂuence picture. If we want to understand thehow and why of behavior we need to stop focusing on WoM and start focusingon where real inﬂuence occurs - the non-verbal spaceIf you look at the social dynamics of inﬂuence, you’ll ﬁnd that Word of Mouth is not core to oursocial nature.If we want to understand inﬂuence we need to move beyond the hype and look at the socialdynamics of real world interaction.In this article I want to expose some of the scams perpetuated by the creative industry and give youan insight into where and why real inﬂuence takes place.If you’re in insights then here’s a new take on inﬂuence that may challenge some of the traditionalassumptions that may be holding you back.If you’re in the creative sector you’re going to ﬁnd this uncomfortable but then that’s a rally callfor change. Advertising may be broken but the traditional ad agency model refuses to die. Theinconvenient truth is that “word of mouth” is nothing more than advertising dressed up in theclothes of social media.First, let’s start by looking at how the industry sees inﬂuence and why that model is broken:
Dove’s Most Viral Video of All TimeDove’s creative agency can pat itself on the back for claiming to have produced “the most viralvideo of all time” but does creating virality actually lead to inﬂuence or are agencies just pullingthe wool over our eyes?If you look at the data, Dove’s share statistics appear to go ballistic hitting 600,000 shares withinweek 1, dropping off to near zero within 2 weeks.Dove Word of Mouth dataLast week we looked at why Facebook Fans are not real Fans. Now we need to look at why Word ofMouth is not inﬂuence.The Dove data reveals some uneasy truths about word of mouth which I’ll share below:Here are 5 reasons you should not believe in word of mouth as your answer:1. Word of mouth doesn’t last2. Word of mouth doesn’t create inﬂuence3. Word of mouth is simply advertising but through a new medium. It’s new media butbusiness as usual4. Word of mouth creates an illusion of activity and results but it’s the red queen hypothesisfrom Alice in Wonderland5. Word of mouth is a ploy by creative agencies to win awards for clever marketing campaignsNow, before you think I’m going to bang on about advertising as the solution, you know me better.This isn’t about regressing back to other ineffective media formats but taking time to understand thetrue nature of inﬂuence and how some creative agencies and analysts have perverted reality to stayin control.We identiﬁed Earned Media as one of the 3 reasons why youth are important to your business but ifyou want Earned Media you need to go beyond the transitional short term attention grabbing stuffand start looking at creating empathy.
The GoPro storyNick Woodman was a regular SoCal guy who took a sabbatical with a few surf buddies to goexplore the waves of the South Paciﬁc in 2002. Woodman’s goal was to use the time out to discoverblue sky ideas for new business. One such ideas was selling wristbands made of shells out the backof his VW Camper van. Needless to say, a lack of custom combined with a lack of focus (he spentmost of his time surﬁng) meant his business soon ran out of steam.GoPro Photo was originally designed for surfbut quickly spread to other applicationsWoodman’s posse were more interested in trying to photograph their day out on the waves thanpush trinkets on backpackers and tourists. But, taking photos on a surfboard in the water is fraughtwith difﬁculty so Woodman and his friends set about ﬁxing waterproof cameras to their boards or totheir bodies to capture the key moments. And, it’s at this moment the legend of GoPro was born.GoPro – the sports camera you can ﬁx anywhere.Inﬂuence is PassiveI found out about GoPro because I kept coming across so many triathlon photos on Instagramtagged with #gopro. Nobody ever said anything to me but within days of joining Instagram I haddetoured to Youtube to check out the thousands of owner submitted videos of mountaineering,surﬁng or skiing all accredited to that little plastic GoPro box.
Just some of the #gopro tagged photos on InstagramWhat’s interesting about the GoPro story is its success is the product of how real inﬂuence occurs.You see, nobody ever walked up to a teenager and said “you should start smoking, you know, you’lllook cool” but plenty of teens volunteer to start this lethal habit every year because they see andmodel the behavior of others.You can’t create inﬂuence if you are stuck with traditional models of segmentationClick To TweetInﬂuence occurs when people empathize. People empathize when you touch the emotional core oftheir being, when you tighten the tribe and help them belong. You can’t create inﬂuence if you arestuck with traditional models of segmentation. You need to move towards joining the dots.
Deﬁning Word of MouthThe issue is semantic but because it’s about meaning, it changes how we solve it.According to Wikipedia,Word of mouth, or viva voce, is the passing of information from person to person by oralcommunication, which could be as simple as telling someone the time of day. Storytelling is acommon form of word-of-mouth communication where one person tells others a story about areal event or something made up.When you wear a Threadless t-shirt you’re telling a story about who you are, your tribe and yourvalues. When you carry and iPhone 5 you’re telling people what you care about, how you seeyourself. What we misunderstand is that 90% of storytelling isn’t verbal. 90% of communicationisn’t verbal.The Myth of Word of MouthWhich raises a key question about word of mouth. Does Word of Mouth really exist?Yes it does but the real question should be “Does Word of Mouth = Inﬂuence?”If Storytelling = inﬂuence, then “word of mouth” is only a small percentage of how inﬂuenceactually occurs. GoPro built a billion dollar empire with very little word and very little mouth.• Word of mouth is only 10% of real inﬂuence• Real inﬂuence doesn’t happen via words or via mouthReal marketing inﬂuence doesn’t happen via either word or mouthClick To TweetDove’s approach to Earned Media is little more than advertising with a social media twist. You cancreate word of mouth, but word of mouth is only 10% of inﬂuence. 10% of inﬂuence is active. Yousee, traditional brands take new media and use it in traditional ways. Sure, they want to talk aboutwomen’s beauty issues but it’s still a campaign. Like many traditional marketing agencies, themessage relies on tapping our lizard brains – the reﬂexive cortex that attends to the immediate, theurgent.Seth Godin on our Lizard BrainsThe lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump near the brain stem that isresponsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive. Why did the chicken cross the road? Becauseher lizard brain told her to. Want to know why so many companies can’t keep up with Apple? It’sbecause they compromise, have meetings, work to ﬁt in, fear the critics and generally work toappease the lizard. Meetings are just one symptom of an organization run by the lizard brain. Latelaunches, middle of the road products and the rationalization that goes with them are others. Theamygdala isn’t going away. Your lizard brain is here to stay, and your job is to ﬁgure out how toquiet it and ignore it. (Source Quieting the Lizard Brain)Viral videos do not create brand success. In many way they can destroy businessesClick To Tweet
Why Word of Mouth may be a bad thingBeing “the most viral” therefore is next to worthless. Everyone knows Cadillac. Everyone has seenGangnam style, but who’s going to be buying them next year?History shows us that having a viral video is no precursor to success and, in many ways, candestroy businesses.Consider these two examples:• Cadbury’s Drumming Gorilla• T-Mobile’s Life is for SharingWhat happened to Cadbury following the award winning Gorilla campaign? They were taken overby Kraft and then asset stripped.What happened to T-Mobile following the award winning Life is for Sharing campaign? Theirchurn rate became the highest in the industry and they were forced to merge with Orange (anotheraward winner).Great brands aren’t built on viral videos or “word of mouth” because inﬂuence has little to do witheither. We don’t buy Apple because fans talk about Apple. No, we buy Apple because they seepeople using Apple. Inﬂuence isn’t verbal and that’s where all these agencies and brands arebarking up the wrong marketing tree.Great brands don’t need viral videos or word of mouth because inﬂuence has little to do with eitherClick To TweetWord of Mouth vs InﬂuenceIn this article I look at the word of mouth myth and share with you the key distinction we need tofocus on – the difference between word of mouth and inﬂuence.Human beings are designed to survive by adapting to their environments. Children learn languageswithout the ability to understand or speak them. Similarly, the bulk of social inﬂuence occurswithout language.A quote from Wikipedia on The Tipping PointHuman Behavior is sensitive to and strongly inﬂuenced by its environment. As Malcolm Gladwellsays, “Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places in whichthey occur.”Mirror Neurons and the Brain Mechanics of Inﬂuence90% of social inﬂuence is passive and non-verbal because we long developed the ability to copyand mimic others before we had language. We pick up on environmental cues.90% of social inﬂuence is non-verbal because humans developed copying before languageClick To Tweet
GoPro, by contrast to Dove, taps into what constitutes that 90% of inﬂuence – the passiveenvironment. 90% of inﬂuence happens visually without a word spoken. We see, we copy, we do. Iwrote extensively about mirror neurons in my previous books. Here we ﬁnd the empathic core ofthe customer, the core that makes us relate to others, feel their pain and model their behavior.According to Wiki, Mirror neurons are neurons in the brain that ﬁre when another person isobserved doing a certain action and are core to our development of supposedly “fuzzy” emotionslike empathy and morality which are ultimately key to our social survival.• Inﬂuence is non-verbal• Non-verbal accounts for 90% of how we copy and mimic behavior• We are social by design – our brain is hardwired to be inﬂuenced without language becausewe existing collectively long before we developed language• Non-verbal inﬂuence is core to our social nature – it’s how we learn language, read socialsituations and feel the pain of others• Non-verbal inﬂuence is key to our social survival as a speciesBeyond the Word of Mouth MythThe myth isn’t that Word of Mouth doesn’t exist, it does. Word of Mouth exists but it’s only a smallpart of the complete Earned Media picture. Most creative agencies like to promote it because it’s theonly part of inﬂuence they’ve ﬁgured out that they can control.Word of Mouth exists but it’s only a small part of the complete Earned Media pictureClick To TweetYou can create word of mouth, but word of mouth does not create inﬂuenceClick To TweetThe Myth is that we should be focusing on Word of Mouth. We shouldn’t. If you want brandinﬂuence, word of mouth is a distraction.You can create word of mouth, but word of mouth does not create inﬂuence. If that doesn’t botheryour agency then they are simply creating advertising in everything but the name.Inﬂuence, unlike WoM, is sustainable. You can build and maintain it. Every hit Psy has afterGangnam style will be a disappontment. Every marketing campaign the agency tries to run afterwinning the award will be a disappointment unless you spend at least as much again to maintain theillusion of popularity.• How does your marketing create empathy?• How are you breaking down the walls between customers to help fans empathize with eachother or to help fans empathize with your own team?• Are you focusing on word of mouth or helping customers display social proof to each other?Beyond viral and word of mouth, we need to think empathy and passive inﬂuence. Empathy andinﬂuence, not word of mouth and attention, create the modern brand. We need to think long term.We need to look at how the customer sees it, not in our own brand bubble.
Empathy and inﬂuence, not word of mouth and attention, create the modern brandClick To TweetHere’s what you can do now:◦ Be gentle! Things are going to take time. I even use “word of mouth” in my writingswhen I should be saying “Earned Media” or “Inﬂuence”. Don’t let theinconsistencies stop the show. It will take time before we understand the full pictureof change.◦ Start educating those around you about the difference. It may seem semantic rightnow but as Einstein said, “the way we see the problem is the problem”◦ Find out more about the social dynamics of inﬂuence◦ Sign up to our newsletter to stay up to date with more opinion articles like this