WOM (Word of mouth)

Article très intéressant envoyé par Isabelle Thibault

Consumer Buzz: The Ultimate Metric of Engagement
By Jonathan Carson, President and CEO BuzzMetrics

MediaPost OMMA magazine

December 2005

The Advertising Research Foundation, American Association of Advertising Agencies, and Association of National Advertisers announced last July their joint initiative to encourage industry-wide adoption of “consumer engagement” as a media measurement metric to complement traditional measures of consumer exposure.

While the initiative – named MI4 (Measurement Initiative: Advertisers, Agencies, Media and Researchers) – is in its infancy, it provides a solid vision in which to channel our efforts and guide progress. This discussion is most welcomed.

To further this important debate, we must explore the role of word of mouth (WOM) as an important leading indicator of consumer engagement, if not a fundamental building block of the entire concept.

Word of Mouth = Engagement

A steady stream of recent studies by research firms like Yankelovich, IPSOS Loyalty and Mediaedge have conveyed the power of WOM. Virtually every cross-media study to which one can point declares that “someone like me” or “another consumer” or “a friend or family member” are far more influential on consumption decisions than any other form of media. And recent data from GfK NOP (including historical Roper data) demonstrates that, while not a new phenomenon, WOM is drastically increasing in importance: in 1977, 67 percent of U.S. consumers called WOM one of the best sources for ideas about new products, versus 92 percent in 2005.

This trend, combined with the new level of observability and accountability that the Internet brings to consumer-to-consumer information exchange, signals that WOM has truly arrived as a media channel. And if P2P is the most effective manner of spreading information, then the success of media companies increasingly will be based not on the content they create and the eyeballs they draw, but the community and conversation formed around that content. Likewise, the success of marketers will be determined not by the so-called optimal mix of reach and frequency, but on the consumer carry-forward they generate and the intensity of conversation in relation to brands.

In effect, WOM becomes not only a medium and marketing goal, but the most powerful proxy of audience engagement. This notion is even more profound when you consider that accountability is assigned not only to the medium, but the medium in relation to the sponsoring brand.

Studying Buzz To Determine Engagement

While researchers continue to explore a variety of techniques to measure consumer engagement, the study of online consumer buzz already has proved itself a killer application. It all starts by employing sophisticated search software and linguistic algorithms to passively monitor the billions of naturally occurring conversations that occur in blogs, online message boards, public email groups and consumer-ratings Web sites.

There are three aspects that make this research so powerful and like no other. First, it is completely unaided and therefore devoid of many traditional research biases; people are talking precisely because they’re engaged! Second, the methodology has an uncanny ability to zero in on groups of affinity, and pinpoint audiences by lifestage and psychographics. Finally, this research opens a clear window into the minds of early adopters and trendsetters, thereby providing amazing predictive power.

A few savvy media researchers already are tapping into these data to understand how messages resonate through media, permeate conversation and ultimately impact the attitudes and behaviors of key audiences.

For example, television-network executives study online buzz to better understand why particular viewer segments become passionate about certain programs and not others. On the advertiser side, there are brand managers studying conversations to determine how their product placements resonate amidst the buzz surrounding the shows they sponsor. On the media buy side, sophisticated planners are tracking the early buzz occurring around new programming in order to make smarter investments on behalf of their clients.

Adopting Lessons of WOM

While it will certainly take time for the MI4 initiative to produce tangible results, it is already stimulating constructive thinking. I hope that all of the MI4 stakeholders will consider the successful applications of “engagement” research which are already taking place in the WOM field. It is not a theoretical model; it’s a real application that is already starting to influence all players in the paid media realm.

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