Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 2123
, Published on 05 April 2013
Lalitha, a 27 year old recently got recruited in one of the biggest MNCs as the HR Head in the financial capital of India, Mumbai. Born and brought up in Darjeeling, Lalitha was going through a bit of a culture shock when she came to live in Mumbai. The extremely fast paced life of this city was beginning to give Lalitha the Heebie - jeebies.
Being an introvert and her first time in a big city like Mumbai, Lalitha started feeling a little left out. Her friend Anita from work came up to her one day and asked her, “Why do you look so stressed Lalitha. What’s the matter?” She explained the anxiety she was feeling because of moving away from home and her family and living in such a big city all by herself. Anita told her, “Hey, it’s alright! This city can make anyone feel lonely. Me and a couple of friends are going to spend our day off tomorrow at the Sva Spa and Salon. It’s the best spa in this city and a day spent there will get you all relaxed. You should join us.” Lalitha instantly agreed since she needed some time off to pamper herself.
The day after the visit to the Salon, Lalitha felt like a new person. She thanked Anita for this wonderful recommendation. Months passed by and Lalitha was now getting in tune with the hustle and bustle of this city. Over the months, she had become good friends with her neighbours, all of them within the same age group. Preeti, one of her neighbours, once came over to her house and told Lalitha, “I went to see the movie Life of Pi yesterday. It was a brilliantly made film and you should definitely not miss this one. But don’t go to Cinemax in Wadala. The sound and the 3D effects of the theatre spoiled my movie experience completely.”
Being relatively new to this city, every time Lalitha was confused about something like a good restaurant to eat at or a good place to shop from or a good coffee place to go and spend time alone at, she would turn to her friends, colleagues or neighbours for a recommendation since she knew they would tell her the right place to be at and the places to avoid. +5’s for all those good recommendations and -5’s to all the bad ones!
So why exactly are we rating these places and giving them these points? It’s nothing but what the marketers proudly call ‘Word-of-Mouth marketing’.
The oldest and the most precious form of marketing for any company, Word-of-Mouth (WOM) marketing has grown to become an important part of the marketing plan of a brand. Since its inception in the form of Storytelling, WOM marketing has become more than just that. With the digital platform becoming the ‘next big thing’, consumers now have the power to voice their opinions about the brands that they use over various social networking websites, over the telephone, via emails and various other ways.
Brands are becoming increasingly aware of this Empowered Consumer and have therefore become very cautious in every marketing move they make. One bad thing said about their brand in any part of the country could hamper their brand and affect their sales.
So why is Word of Mouth marketing becoming so important especially in a country like India?
Indians are known to live in a very close knit society. All the people living in one locality may belong to different cultures yet when it comes to choosing a product or a particular brand they listen closely to what the others living around them have to say about these brands. Trust plays a very important role while choosing any particular brand.
A ‘Brand’ for an Indian consumer represents a trust mark and guarantee for value for money. Hence if recommended by a close friend, peer, colleague (word of mouth), the consumer is more likely to choose that brand over others. A recent survey showed that more than 70% of the consumers in India tend to consider recommendations from their friends and colleagues before buying any brand.
Brands recognise the importance of the use of Social Media as a tool for Word-of-Mouth marketing
We have come into a great era where a brand has moved from an intangible thing to a tangible and measurable entity as we enter into the digital age and the smart phones age. Increase in the use of the digital platforms and the use of smart phones has literally given the future of all the brands in the hands of the consumer. Hence, every brand recognises the importance of keeping their consumers happy and satisfied. Getting the feedback from their consumers has become as important as planning the right market strategy. And this is where social media plays a very important role. As rightly quoted by the famous Author Andy Sernovitz, ‘A happy customer is the greatest advertisement’
Here’s how Word-of-mouth marketing has evolved over the years (as given by Mindi Chahal for marketingweek.com)
The evolution of word of mouth
Word of mouth 1.0
Word of mouth used to revolve around the idea that one satisfied customer goes and tells friends and family about the service that they have received.
Word of mouth 2.0
Brands then capitalized on the potential of word of mouth marketing by developing strategies to actively gain brand advocates and set up affiliate models of selling, rather than simply using paid-for advertising. The rise of online shopping, comparison and review sites, social media, and experiential marketing all helped the spread of word of mouth.
Word of mouth 3.0
More recently, brands have started to put their business in the hands of the consumer. Affiliate selling has moved from agencies pushing out links to drive sales to consumers becoming the curators of their own websites. They recommend and share products on a variety of platforms, whether that is through virtual stores, apps or online store fronts, and earn rewards, points and cash.
So what is the future of Word-of-Mouth marketing in India?
As long as the Indian consumers continue to trust the opinions of their friends and family for making their purchase decisions, brands will have to ensure that they keep working hard towards gaining all those +5 points from every single consumer that they come across. Also making use of the full potential of Social media, a brand can become a consumer’s favourite in a matter of a few months. Even though newer and better ways of marketing have been found a marketer should not forget the effectiveness of something as basic as Word-of-Mouth marketing. After all life is all about going back to your roots and this form of marketing is nothing but the roots or as we like to call it the beginning of marketing.
This article has been authored by Meeta Khatri from K.J.Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research
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