Word of Mouth Marketing is killing itself

The boys and girls at Cymfony recently published a report that found that ‘nearly 50% (of senior marketing execs) believe (social media) is a vital component of corporate communications that should be monitored at the executive level and allocated significant resources.’


But the best part of this report is what Adweek picked up on is that these same marketing execs ‘find their agencies ill equipped to help them succeed in that space.’

Here’s my favorite part:

Clients complained that their agencies — creative, media, public relations, design and others — typically treat social channels like blogs as traditional media. In other cases, their ideas are not backed up by practical skills in the area. What’s more, one client pointed out that his agencies have little of their own experience using social networks or video-sharing sites for themselves.

“I think traditional ad agencies have very little contribution to make,” Bryan Simkins, a marketing specialist at FedEx, told TNS. “They are mostly driven by their compensation models which are made for closed media. Those models don’t apply in open media.”

Here’s my take: Client wants some of that word of mouth marketing. Agency throws up a blog (without considering if that company even needs one). ‘Look! We did social media!’ Client wants more. Agency creates a video and hopes it goes viral. More. Agency does product seeding. And when it doesn’t work, lo and behold, they cry, ‘WOM doesn’t work! We tried it!’

What do you expect from a disjointed, add-on approach? Without a vision, without a reason for being, without an overall long-range plan, these approaches are Mr. Potato-Heading at best. And you know how often that works out.

And THIS is why we (Brains on Fire) are beginning to shy away from the term ‘word of mouth marketing.’ It’s killing itself from the inside out. It’s becoming tainted and muddied to the point where agencies are creating ‘really cool’ direct mail pieces and, since they think people will talk about how cool it is, it’s suddenly word of mouth. Sure, we’re searching for what to call it as it pertains to what we do specifically in that realm, but we haven’t found it yet. Stay tuned.

So what’s the solution? Can agencies learn how to NOT treat social channels as traditional media? Or will marketing execs have to start looking for alternatives to bring into the mix? No matter what, there has to be a vision in place that includes a company ready to engage in transparent, honest, two-way communication before anything will work.

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