Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why Is Word Of Mouth Missing From The Model?

Tom Hespos, over at MediaPost Online Spin (where I also write a column), considers the utter absence of word of mouth in media and marketing models. He writes:

Messaging is messaging, and when prospects receive marketing messages, those messages may be successful at prompting consideration or altering specific perceptions of the brand or product. But that’s only part of the picture. Increasingly, people who are considering a purchase turn not to marketing messaging, but to one another. It’s that aspect of mix modeling that I believe comes up short…

Modeling might be able to provide some decent feedback on the overall media mix if opinions on products and services remained static, but the universe of online conversation rarely stays that way. It’s a dynamic organism that can turn on a dime if, for instance, customer service policies change, a person or small group of people discover a flaw, or someone discovers a new use or application of the product. Perceptions are constantly changing, and messaging can do only so much when people can tune in to their peers and get real information with the marketing-speak filtered out.

I responded in the comments:

I’m glad to see a media guy thinking along these lines. It’s amazing that so many media and marketing people have left out of the equation the most influential information source: word of mouth. Rest assured, there is some innovative, experimental work being done by inputting consumer-generated media into a variety of market models. We even were able to predict the peaks of low-carb and Atkins diets several quarters before the actual drops. With word of mouth increasingly potent versus eroding (though still very important) paid media, CGM serves as a powerful proxy to understand the contribution AND inextricable influence of word of mouth in larger behavioral and sales trends and forecasts. It is an amazing, early indicator of actual and potential trends. But there are both quantitative and qualitative variables, and they can be complex. Moreover, social-influence mapping doesn’t always fit neatly alongside rigid reach-and-exposure metrics, which often form the basis of market models. But there’s great opportunity here.


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