I read a very interesting article recently about how Word of Mouth (WOM) is influencing the box office receipts of a number of new film releases. Yahoo Movies
, have discussion forums for people to discuss up coming film releases and films currently showing in film houses, where they can share reviews, background info and just gossip about the stars and what they are doing.
Professor of Marketing, Yong Liu has analysed this “chatter” and has concluded that Word of Mouth for Movies has a dynamics impact on Box Office Revenues. Liu characterizes the message board postings as “word-of-mouth” and examines “the dynamic patterns of WOM and how it helps explain box office revenue” in the July issue of “Journal of Marketing
The WOM data were collected from the Yahoo Movies Web site. The results show that WOM activities are the most active during a movie's pre-release and opening week and that movie audiences tend to hold relatively high expectations before release but become more critical in the opening week. More important, WOM information offers significant explanatory power for both aggregate and weekly box office revenue, especially in the early weeks after a movie opens. However, most of this explanatory power comes from the volume of WOM and not from its valence, as measured by the percentages of positive and negative messages.
In other words, any WOM is good WOM. Whether Yahoo Movies message board comments are “pro” or “con,” the more messages posted, the more interest is generated for a movie, and subsequently more movie tickets are sold.
WOM is something that many marketers have flirted with over the years. There was even a company in New York City which employed people to ‘talk up’ products that they liked within their social groups and peer relationships and were rewarded if sales grew. This strategy is particularly hard to measure and accurately map, but there is no doubt that people buy goods and services because their friend/family/colleague recommended it to them or endorsed the item.
So how do we utilise this powerful tool to market our own products or services? I subscribe to the notion that humans are essentially tribal by nature and seek to belong to groups where they subscribe to a philosophy, ideology or music. These groups bear symbols and icons that identify themselves as members of that tribe. Be it religious iconography (crucifixes etc) or simple tribal dress (hip-hop hoodies, heavy metal tattoos & piercing, financial sector pinstripe suits) every tribe has ways of identifying themselves and communicating to each other. They also have "modus operandi", they way the do things, specify goods and services and where they will buy these goods and services. Tapping into this and understanding the characteristics of these nuances is key to success.
We as marketers need to find new ways of cutting through the collateral noise generated by mass media campaigns and focus on identify the tribe (target audience if you will) that we are aiming for and communicate our messages in a way that they seek information, and in a language that fits their tribal culture and need. This is a powerful way of challenging the norm and seeking to deliver true value to customers and life time value to the vendor.