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Procter & Gamble on the science of WOM

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Brands & Campaigns

Today’s guest post comes from Beth Ludwick, manager of member communications at the Grocery Manufacturers Association.  Beth collaborates with us daily in the production of GMA SmartBrief, which covers consumer packaged goods industry — and was the very first SmartBrief publication that launched back in 1999.

Last week, marketers from some of the world’s biggest brands gathered in New York at the GMA CPG Social Media Forum to hear from experts on the front line of brand marketing in social media.

In the opening keynote, Steve Knox, CEO of an innovative word-of-mouth marketing service from Procter & Gamble called Tremor, discussed the science behind word of mouth (WOM), which he considers the most powerful and influential form of marketing (technology is simply the enabler).

A great way to ignite WOM, Knox suggested, is to apply basic principles of cognitive psychology to create a message that will prompt conversations, whether online or face to face. His idea is to create a disruption in your brand’s otherwise-consistent message — something incongruent with what consumers regularly associate with a product. He cautioned, however, that if the idea is too out of sync with the fundamental truth behind the brand, the message will fall flat.

Knox shared several successful and unsuccessful examples of this technique, with one of the most effective being the recent Secret Clinical Strength deodorant for women.  Most people associate increased activity with sweating and an unpleasant odor. To get people talking, Secret used the mildly disruptive message The More You Move the Better You Smell. All kinds of interesting conversations ensued.

As this case illustrates, even if you have a great product, WOM doesn’t necessarily just happen on its own. Marketers may want to try strategically applying principles of cognitive psychology to spark conversations and sharing among consumers.

More presentations from the GMA CPG Social Media Forum are available here.