8 reasons word-of-mouth marketing should be on everyone’s lips

Geno Church‘s reputation precedes him when it comes to the world of word of mouth (WOM). He’s recently released a new book on the topic, Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements and last week at The Influence Group’s new Influence Sessions he shared his stories, research and best-kept secrets about the joy and the power of passion.

Here are some of his insights for marketers today:

1. We’re living in a new world of marketing.

There’s a paradigm shift happening right now. There’s a new 21st Century brand landscape and it’s not just about technology. It’s about people. We have to put people first and create real relationships with people.

PS: Marketers don’t get to decide on what gets talked about today. People do.

2. There’s a problem with today’s technology. Passionate conversation is missing.

It’s no longer about making a transaction. It’s more about creating a more meaningful exchange with feeling. We have to know our why. Why we do what we do and why it matters. Not the what or the how. It’s part of the passion conversation. What’s more, your brand is a lens through which people get to see what you stand for. Make sure there’s something people can believe in when they come looking…

3.  Too many businesses are too fixated on mimicking.

It’s not about doing what other companies are doing. You don’t need to post on Facebook every second. Pin on Pinterest. Or Tweet on the hour. WOM marketing is not about social media. It’s about any business action that earns a recommendation from customers. In full disclosure: A relationship has to exist before that happens.

In other words:

No passion? No conversation.

No conversation? No word of mouth.

No word of mouth? No successful business.

4. The best WOM marketing is really how a company does business every day. 

Marketers have a love language problem. They get too caught up with obsessing about ROI and not enough about motivating or inspiring people. The passion conversation is not something you own: it’s something you pass along and pass forward.

5. There are three kinds of motivations that spark conversations about brands and organisations:

  • Functional. People engage in functional conversations about brands to get information needed to make decisions and to better interpret the world around them.
  • Social. People engage in social conversations about brands to impress others, to express uniqueness and to increase their reputation.
  • Emotional. Brands that invoke strong emotional feelings are more likely to be talked about. Make sure your brand is evoking a strong emotional trigger. It hits home the most.


6. Research shows that brands are talked about in two types of conversation channels:

  • Online. The more public platform (also, voyeuristic) where people feel they have to show how brilliant, unique and special they are. This is called a ‘discontinous conversation’ because you can actually decide when to respond, and you have the time to determine how you want to respond (depending on how good you want to look.) This is about making a social connection. Not an emotional one.
  • Offline. The more personal space, where you have more instantaneous, face-to-face conversations.  This is called ‘continuous conversation’ because it is naturally more emotional, more spontaneous, authentic and real.


7. Emotions tend to trigger passions.

Take Rob Morris, for example. His organisation, Justice for Children International needed to change its name – and its mission was to end child sex slavery and trafficking around the world. After working together, the name was changed to Love146. It was based on a heart-felt story about a 12-year old girl who was in a Philippines brothel. Her number, 146, was pinned to her dress. Rob noticed that there was still fight in her eyes! Long story… but love146.org now has thousands of people around the world making a difference to help end child sex slavery.

8. Advertising only prompts 22% of all conversations people have about brands, products and services (Source: Keller Fay).

So marketers have a job to do in the new economy: Find ways to share ideas and information with people that will inspire them. They need to be the advocates and the living messenger. Therefore, focus on making a difference but not from the doom-gloom perspective. This is about finding solutions for people to believe in.

An example of a favorite brand of the millennials? Warby Parker. They are a hugely successful startup in the eyeglass business. No stores. Just buy a pair of vintage-inspired prescription eyeglasses online starting at $95. And for every pair they sell, they give one pair away. This is the kind of cause millennials care about. Warby Parker have a purpose, a passion for what they do and so millennials have become their best brand advocates.

Before Church had to dash to the next workshop, I asked him what he’d dare us to do to get out of our comfort zone: “Make sure you know what your customers really think. Try walking in their shoes. Guess what? We think we know what they value and care about… but we don’t really know. Go find out.”


Mary van de Wiel
BY Mary van de Wiel ON 29 October 2013
Mary van de Wiel (call her Van) is Brand Psychologist and CEO of branding consultancy and lab ZingYourBrand.com and host of NY Brand Lab Radio.