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My Response To “WOM Marketing Flaws Exposed”


Please see the original blog post here. I imagine this post will end up catching some significant attention in the word of mouth industry, and rightfully so. Rarely do I see a take on WOM that challenges its effectiveness. As a WOM marketing guy, I challenged myself to digest the author’s points in an unbiased manner and address them as such. Here’s my take:

– The first glaring question I have is “What constitutes a WOMM campaign?”, as Christopher references in his opening stat line (by way of Don Peppers’ keynote). We must determine what it is we’re actually addressing here, in order to argue for or against the author’s points.

– My biggest issue with the article is the call that “WOM and marketing are mutually exclusive”. The author’s reasoning for this statement seems to fall with the idea that marketing exists to push sales and WOM exists as a natural conversation between everyday human beings. He calls this situation a “conflict of interest”. The irony here is that WOMM is a discipline that essentially operates in opposition to the typical, traditional approach of one-way push marketing. When marketing, in general, is incorrectly executed, it is certainly in opposition to natural, organic brand-infused conversations between real people. We agree there. But that’s not what WOMM is all about. Which leads me to the next point…

– A general misconception about WOMM is on display in this article. WOMM is not simply about rudely interjecting a logo or advertisement into someone’s private life. As Andy Sernovitz writes, “Happy customers are your best advertising. Make people happy”. He also preaches to “be interesting or be invisible”. The first step in WOMM is self-analysis of your brand, your product, your communications, your service. The marketing and promotions aspect means absolutely nothing if the essence of your brand is not authentic, honest, interesting and valuable. People won’t talk about you if you suck, if you’re annoying and if you’re selfish and self-serving. To me, the attitude towards consumer engagement and brand authenticity that the best WOM marketers preach is anything but in conflict with the reason consumers hold brand related conversations. If anything, we’re all coaching our clients to increase the general awesomeness of their products and services so that consumers will want to talk about how their lives have been positively affected.

– Christopher recommends that companies “don’t interfere” with everyday brand related discussions. While I agree that “interfering” should never be the intention of any marketer, that shouldn’t mean just sit back and hope for the best. Once your product/service is WOM-ready (authentic, remarkable, beneficial to the consumer), your efforts should be aimed at arming your customers with all the tools they need to understand and share your product/service. Not because of sales commissions, but because your product/service is f*ng awesome and your customers can’t wait to enhance the lives of their friends by sharing you with them. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.


Posted by

Growth obsessed startup co-founder (MusicBox) and strategist-for-hire.

2 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Nice retort. I had a bit of a twitter conversation with the author and Don Peppers, who was cited as the source of the “15% of WOMM fails” stat.

    As you can see in the original post, the stat is cited by link. However, the link doesn’t lead to the source of the number.

    They directed me here:

    The four year old study focuses on Viral Marketing. To Don Peppers’ credit, his presentation does label the stat as Viral Marketing, but I think this calls out a bigger problem.

    Too often, people confuse one tactic with the holistic nature of word of mouth.


    • Appreciate the comments, Pat. Think we’re on the same page with this one.



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