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How and why offline word of mouth marketing still rules

How word of mouth marketing works today

We’ve been writing about digital marketing for years with an emphasis on spreading brand messages, and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association has released a graphic that highlights that word of mouth marketing is much more complex than the business card swap parties of the past. There is a growing school of thought that consumers simply want to connect with the human side of a brand, but with over 3 billion brand mentions in America every day, it stands to reason that brand affinity is nowhere near dead.

What is most powerful, however, is noting that nine in ten word of mouth conversations about brands occur offline, contrary to what the social media maven gurus say. Digital media marketing is powerful and helps educate consumers as to what brands they prefer to recommend, but online recommendations are still less common than offline recommendations.

The reasons offline word of mouth still happens is twofold- opportunity and obligation. When someone says to your face, “I just bought that car and it is the smoothest ride I’ve ever known, I will never own another brand,” there is an obligation not only for that person to be honest because you’re belly to belly and can hold them accountable when your new ride is reminiscent of a Pinto, but because it is uncommon to be deceptive about recommendations when in front of people.

Second, opportunities arise frequently offline for a word of mouth recommendation- consumers in Sur La Table tell each other what coffee makers they’ve had and which pods are the most enjoyable because they’re in the same aisle, Target shoppers passing through the candle aisle point out candles that last the longest to others, not because they went to RateACandle.com to weigh in, but because the physical opportunity arises and it is human nature to help people in front of you.

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Although Yelp.com and review sites have gone mainstream, offline recommendations still rule because consumers don’t exactly have time to seek out ways to recommend every brand they’ve come in contact with or rate every professional they’ve ever interacted with, it’s an unreasonable expectations for brands to have.

On the flip side, when a consumer rates a brand or service professional, it should be seen as a high honor, given how far out of their way they typically have to go in order to do so.

WOMM stats today:

Click to enlarge.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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