Word-of-mouth advertising; is it really a new, social phenomenon?


Recent numbers from Nielson suggest what many of us have always known; personal recommendations, or word-of-mouth are the most powerful, and trusted forms of advertising. After all, who’s word are you going to take about that desert topping? Aunt Stella who’s been baking pies since you can remember, or some paid actress who probably hasn’t had a desert in months trying to keep her figure marketable?

OK, most commercial actresses these days are believable enough, but you get the picture. But while the “testimonial” is a viable, time-tested advertising tool, today’s online social environments are so heavily populated with consumers, they’ve become the best places for them to “spread the word” with more believability than an agency- or company-generated advertising.

Just a big game of Telephone

In Aunt Stella’s day, she would have gotten on the phone to her lady friends and swapped notes on recipes, sewing patterns and husbands, then they would have called their other lady friends, etc. Today people do it online in their social networks and share information with hundreds more people instantly. This means the generation of TONS of opinions about everything from ex-boyfriends to the newest cars, and that’s the kind of selling power today’s marketers are trying to capture with online presences on Facebook and Pinterest.

Recommending in tongues

We don’t just see this tendency in North America, but globally as well. Here’s a graphic that says we’re all speaking the same language regarding the believability of marketing messaging.


“Have I got a car for you!”

So it appears that what we continue to learn is that no matter how much of a Boy Scout that guy in the car lot appears to be, he’s still a used car salesman, and we’re going to be more influenced by cousin Louie’s experience with a particular vehicle that what that guy has to say. Social media is allowing marketers to present platforms for brand advocates to come online, and share their experiences, both good and bad, and by doing so gain accurate insight on their consumers so the can learn how to effectively talk back to them and keep those customers satisfied. Oh yeah, and increase sales too!

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