Sometime early last week, I was walking past the bookshelf in my apartment when I did something unusual: I actually stopped and looked at a few of the titles.
The first book to grab my attention was one called Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking by Andy Sernovitz. I picked it up to scan the contents and intro, but before long I was laying on the couch, in full reading mode. The book kept my attention during my rides to and from work the entire week, and it was still fresh on my mind early Tuesday morning when I was sitting down to get a haircut.
Joe Gambino has been dicing domes from the third floor of the Tribune Tower for over twenty years. He’s got an old-school barber way about him, always asking which way I part my hair and snipping accordingly. There’s a classic masculinity about this shop, too, with no attention paid to wall art or the few random bottles of hair product in the display case, but Playboys are neatly splayed on a table next to where I sometimes sit and wait. At 26, I still can’t bring myself to open one in public, opting instead for a Scientific American.
That morning there was already one other man in the barbershop chatting with Joe when I got there. His presence was fortunate, because it was early, and after Joe and I both shared our Memorial Day weekend activities with each other, I was out of topics of conversation.
The man asked Joe, “Did you hear about the White Sox giving all the police officers free tickets to any game of the season?”
Joe had. I hadn’t.
Boom. Word-of-mouth marketing. Beautiful in its simplicity, no?
Some people might dismiss WOM as an antiquated technique of the pre-Social Era. Indeed, Word of Mouth Marketing was published in 2006. In his book, Sernovitz places particular emphasis on blogs, because that was before the platform exploded into so many mutations that continue to proliferate at warp speed. These new social media amplify strong WOM campaigns, rendering the fundamental WOM strategy all the more important.
WOM still begins with a great idea that will get people talking:
“Let’s give tickets to every Chicago police officer to thank them for their service.”
SIDE NOTE: Anyone reading this who keeps up with the turbulent world of Chicago politics might know that the back story behind this idea is a bit more complicated than that, but let’s assume that the idea sprang organically from somewhere within the White Sox organization.
Way back in the day—I’m talking two thousand eight—this news would have most likely been disseminated via a barbershop-type scenario or a news story that you just happened to stumble across. But this is 2012, a time when complete strangers share opinions, news, recommendations, and more with one another through a constellation of media. Here’s a small sample of tweets referencing the aforementioned story, which was generated after a quick search of “white sox cops”:
These people and many more all liked the story for one reason or another, so they tweeted it. With a story like this, people might tell a few friends, maybe a coworker or two. But they will absolutely tweet it. Or pin it. Or post it to Facebook or Tumblr or maybe even the blog they’ve been updating since 2006. Some people will post it to all of their accounts with just one click.
No, they don’t have to actually use their mouths for it to count as word-of-mouth marketing.
Sernovitz writes, “You need to do two things: Find a super-simple message and help people share it.” He also makes this observation: “People share surprisingly simple and stupid things.”