Two interesting pieces of information I downloaded recently, both related to the power of word-of-mouth for brands: one, an extract of ‘Conversational Capital’ by Canadian agency Sid Lee from Gareth Kay’s blog, and the other, the Word of Mouth Marketing Manual – Volume II, by Dave Balter from Greg Verdino’s blog. Both are worth a read.
What is the definition of a brand? From Wikipedia, it is “a collection of experiences and associations attached to a company, organization, product or service”. A brand is only worth speaking about, in my opinion, when people start relating to it positively. If it is getting more negative than positive mentions by people, and by default, in the media, then it’s not really a ‘brand’, it’s just some company that’s trying to make itself noticed and isn’t succeeding.
Any company is only as successful as their consumers or users are happy with the experience they have with it, or in the case of potential users, the experience they have when they see people reacting to it. So though I’m not a Mac user, when I think of Apple, I think of the Genius Bar, for example, which is something I’m curiously awed by whenever I visit an Apple store. When I think of Virgin, I think ‘crap’, because I recently had a bad experience with them. When I think of Topshop, I think it’s a name that attracts the crowds and has the high-profile names and all that (Kate Moss), but is stupid enough to make mistakes like directing consumers who e-mail them (which is an option on their site) to call them instead, on a Sunday morning at 11.30 to boot, to book an appointment with their ‘Style Advisor’, even though their website says an e-mail is fine. Beginner’s error: if you can’t do it, don’t advertise it.
At the end of the day, the marketing budget of a company or ‘brand’ is only as good as its basic customer service. Nike has a huge marketing budget but when I saw on Facebook that someone I know had as his status message ‘Nike’s customer service is crap, go Under Armour‘, I thought: well, that’s 702 of his friends that Nike’s got to work that much harder to impress. I know you can’t always impress everybody, but the days of brands spending $X on marketing and reporting to their management that they’ve got Y pages of advertising in Z publications are gone. People talk, and nowadays they can make their opinions heard far and wide thanks to the World Wide Web. And this is global giant Nike, with a massive marketing budget, that I just mentioned. Think of the smaller brands and how much harder they’ll need to work if 700 people around Facebook start dissing their brand. Relate that to Dunbar’s number, at the very minimum.
It’s the reason why, though Orange pissed me off slightly a while ago, Play Balloonacy has actually done something to alleviate that situation.