When it comes to marketing, getting an organic word of mouth is the holy grail for all the right reasons. A positive consumer sentiment leads to higher loyalty and referrals for the brand, which in turn lead to superior brand reputation and higher sales.
However, despite its benefits and criticality, there are very few companies that are able to get it right. Basis an analysis of brands that have managed to create a word-of-mouth buzz, there emerge 5 critical factors that can help to drive organic word of mouth. Note that these aren’t mutually exclusive. More pillars a brand delivers on, higher are its chances of garnering great word of mouth:
1. Product / Service experiences that spark delight
This is perhaps the most potent and sustainable driver of organic word of mouth. A product experience that goes above and beyond expectations becomes a tangible reason to spread positive word of mouth. Delighted by the value add, consumers take pride in their choice and often cannot stop gushing about their experience on social media as well as in real-world circles. The best part about such a recommendation is that it is highly tangible and hence immediately understood and experienced.
This delight could come from any part of the consumer journey- product features, delivery, design aesthetics, UI/UX, packaging or even post-sales and support experience. Such an experience truly differentiates the brand, and consumers often go out of their way to evangelise it.
However, to reach here, a brand will need to carefully look at its every moment of truth and find a consumer-relevant differentiator. Next, it needs to consistently and predictably deliver on this differentiator. Amazon is an example where wide assortment, predictable delivery and customer support are big delighters that make consumers proactively recommend the brand. Similarly, in the case of Apple, the minimalistic design, intuitive UI and promise of privacy have created a legion of fans who swear by every product from the brand’s ecosystem.
2. Positioning that inspires connections
A sharp positioning can quickly differentiate a brand and establish a consumer connection. When a brand lives its positioning through product, packaging, content and activations, it triggers proactive word of mouth.
Some brands position themselves as highly aspirational. Weaving a story through prestige, provenance and premium pricing, they build an aura of exclusivity that consumers want to flaunt in their social circles. Then there are others who go to the other end of the spectrum to position themselves as a ‘smart alternative’ that provides the best value for money. They make their consumers feel smart and savvy, resulting in proactive recommendations. boAt is a good example of a brand that has managed to position itself this way.
Brands’ positioning also becomes a talking point when it is anchored on a tangible promise that consumers can experience. ’30-min delivery’ promise of Domino’s and ‘2-Min’ prep of Maggi are classic examples of where brands have done so successfully.
Startup brands often use their underdog credentials, founder stories and charming newbie naivete to position themselves as challengers who are disrupting category norms in consumers favour- quintessential Davids pitted against the Goliaths. When a beauty brand talks about “No Nasties” or a health-food brand promises to tell “The Whole Truth”, consumers not only take notice but also root for them. To learn more about the advantages Davids enjoy vs. Goliaths on this aspect, read our earlier post here.
However, the journey to build a sustained consumer connect via positioning isn’t without its share of riders. Taking a sharp positioning-led stance also makes a brand accountable. When consumers build a closer connect, they can also take brand digressions quite personally. The feeling of being beguiled into a relationship is a bitter one. Consumers might go up in arms if the brand deviates from its professed values.
3. Storytelling that creates conversations
Today, brands have many storytelling opportunities. From ad films to social media posts to activations and even notifications- every touchpoint can be used to narrate an interesting story. Share worthy stories generate organic conversations and trigger strong word of mouth that can quickly amplify brand awareness. However, storytelling as WOM strategy also has some watch outs.
Brand storytelling needs to be in sync with its positioning and carry a clear category connect. Else, while consumers would remember the message, it is highly likely that they would forget the messenger.
Second, it needs to have a unique take on the topic it touches upon. Often brands hop onto topical bandwagons with an intent to ‘add their voice’. This does little to differentiate the brand from its peers. In fact, it’s highly likely that the brand’s content would drown in the larger marketing noise around the topic and do little to trigger conversations and generate the desired word of mouth. For our take on when brands should speak and when they shouldn’t, refer to our earlier article here.
4. Experiences that drive immersion
When brands curate immersive experiences, they quickly become the talk of the town. And in a digitally driven world, these experiences can be massively amplified, increasing their reach multifold.
A good example of a brand that has managed to create such an immersive experience is Bacardi. Bacardi NH-7 weekender, an Indian Music Festival, has evolved over 12 years since its inception in 2010 to bloom into a mega-event spanning across multiple artists and cities with thousands of audiences in attendance. The event is the ultimate manifestation of brand ethos that is all about meeting new people and making new connections in an atmosphere of fun and conviviality.¹
Recently, Mattel Toys has used generative AI to creatively market the “Barbie” movie. A dedicated website allows users to create their own Barbie cover using a tool called ‘Barbie Selfie Generator’. In line with the interpretation of Barbie in the movie that speaks to the diverse avatars of Barbie launched by Mattel over time, the activation allows users worldwide to identify as professionals in different fields, personalities and colour avatars. And by doing so, it helps all movie goers- adults and kids- immerse in their own Barbie fantasy experience, creating both awareness and anticipation for the upcoming movie.²
5. Offers that heighten anticipation
Discounts, coupon codes, referral incentives and point-based loyalty programs have ceased to be a differentiator anymore and have almost become a hygiene. However, there are brands that have managed to stand out even in this cluttered space by designing offers that heighten consumer anticipation, thereby generating quality word of mouth.
Google Pay is a good example where a brand managed to create a high degree of chatter and initial traction through a simple scratch-card led reward program. Every transaction on Google Pay led to a scratch-card and rewards varied with every transaction (mostly “better luck next time” 😊 to small cashbacks). Thus, the brand introduced gamification in the mix, ensuring that more than the actual cash amount they won, consumers looked forward to scratching the card in eager anticipation of checking out if they got lucky enough to win some free cash!
Big Billion Day by Flipkart and Prime Day sales events by Amazon are examples of mega-sale events that created massive excitement and brand chatter. These have now become flagship properties for these brands. Similarly, limited drops by a few smartphone brands or even fashion brands have also become highly anticipated events.
Interestingly, creating word of mouth through exciting offers isn’t just limited to tech brands. McDonald’s Happy Meal for kids and Kinder Joy toys are great examples of creating anticipation among their target audience of kids. By periodically refreshing the toys, these brands have kept the anticipation alive.
Getting organic word of mouth is a dream of every marketer, and as pointed out above, there are ways to achieve this. We hope some of these will spur ideas to generate strong word of mouth for your brand.