Thursday, January 28
WOM is the first really new communications discipline to arrive since I left the agency world, and of course it is driven by the internet, which hardly existed then (in 1994). Ivo Laurin of Outbreak has been my mentor in it, and it was those discussions that prompted me to devote a complete web page to “What I like”. I cannot explain how this page helps my business; but I instinctively feel it is part of the new environment. I appreciate recommendations from people whom I trust and have similar tastes and interests. So I suppose that if you feel that way about me, that page may have something for you. Then of course, it is a way of thanking those businesses, large and small, whose services I have appreciated. Finally, it’s a more colourful and personal alternative to a c.v.
But the work of agencies like Outbreak is of course more focussed and systematic. And the most interesting thing for me is that it is most likely to benefit brands and products which deserve to succeed. For example, when I worked in London in the 80’s at BMP, I used to be a bit disdainful of Procter&Gamble, because of their TV ads; rigid in style, creatively barren, and appearing to assume that its customers are a bit thick. But one day, my account planner colleague, who had started his career at P&G, told me something that completely changed my attitude towards P&G’s products, and is the reason why I buy so many of them. He explained that all their products have to pass internal laboratory tests which prove that they perform better than their main competitor. If not, the product is not launched until it is improved. Of course P&G believe that their advertising tells people this. That is why so many TV spots have those silly diagrams half way through. But they just don’t convince me, nor anyone else that I know. Yet one simple piece of word of mouth information, from someone I trusted, has fundamentally changed my attitude to a complete group of brands. Can this be done on a commercial scale, and with integrity? That is the question agencies like Outbreak will try to answer. But it seems to me that even more than with traditional advertising, the brands that succeed with WoM are those that have something genuinely interesting to say.