WOM: From Discovery to Evangelism.

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Remember this post? And this one? This is a follow-up.

We've already talked about the difference between advertising-generated WOM and user-generated WOM.

We've also talked about how WOM and peer-to-peer recommendations drive purchases, while advertising doesn't (or at least, not much).

And we've talked about how the combination of great products and great marketing can create amazing results for most companies.

So far so good. This post is sort of a clarifying recap of all of these topics, more specifically as they relate to the three principal stages of customer "acquistion". (Ugh... the ugly word!!! Yuck. I only use it because I can't think of a better one just this second.) Please feel free to suggest a better term.

Okay. Here's the nickel overview:

Discovery: PR, Advertising, etc.
In most cases, Advertising, PR, and other "agency" WOM initiatives are still the best drivers of Discovery and Brand Contextualization. You want to get the public's attention? You have a story to tell? You need to carefully position your brand or product? Call your agency or professional services firm...

Beware, though: There is mounting evidence that they don't have much to do with purchasing decisions, so don't expect exposure and buzz around events and promotions to drive sales for very long, if at all.

Purchase: Peer to peer recommendations and WOM.
Peer-to-peer recommendations drive purchases. Period. If you don't believe me, start looking at some of the data being aggregated by WOMMA and its partners. We base our purchases on what other people do. (Even if they're complete strangers - albeit famous or well-respected strangers... which you might call "influentials".) If our favorite celebrity wears Ray Ban aviators, guess what? We soon will be too. If our best friend recommends a restaurant, guess where we'll be having dinner this weekend? If our colleagues sing the praises of a new PDA? Guess what we'll be adding to our panoply of e-gadgets? We go see movies based on the recommendations of peers. We buy music, electronics, cars, clothes, shoes, food, and video games based on peer recommendations. Their influence on our purchasing habits is a whole lot more powerful than advertising and positioning.


It's just in our nature to recommend great stuff to people we interact with. Offline, that's friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, peers, etc. Online, it's everyone who reads your blog, drops by your Myspace page(s), reads your posts on message boards, or reads your emails. Depending on who you are and what you have to say, you could influence the purchasing decisions of anywhere from 1 to 120,000 people per day.

And as a bonus, our peers also play a huge role in the "discovery" process as well.

Evangelism: User delight starts with exceptional design and execution.
User Delight breeds Evangelism. It's that simple. Blow our socks off with great products and services, with great design, with great ideas, with great execution, with great ease of use, by just doing everything right (and then some), and everyone who touches your products will become an evangelist.

Ironically, although this is the third stage in our little progression, its roots are firmly anchored long before #1 is even a spark in your creative department's hive-mind. Every successful brand starts and ends with great products. There's no way around it. Without great products, without something to actually create exceptional user/customer experiences, this whole thing - including the creative - is just a house of cards in a windstorm.

Great products and experiences are the foundation for all of this. The trick is... You don't always get to find out just how great your creation is until it's in the customers' hands.

So: Three stages = three toolsets = three distinctive ecosystems. At its most basic core, that's it.

Any questions?

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