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What is Word of Mouth Advertising?

Updated on September 27, 2012

Have you ever recommended to a friend a new place to eat or a good mechanic? That is word of mouth advertising. Simply put, word of mouth advertising is information about a product, service, brand, or event that is spread from person to person. It can also be called word of mouth marketing. This does not include paid testimonials in magazines or on television, web, or radio advertisements. It does not necessarily have to be ‘by mouth’ either, as long it is a personal communication. If a friend emails you about a great concert coming up, or a co-worker texts you about the wonderful food at the new Mexican restaurant it is still word of mouth advertising.

Those in marketing know that the buzz or hype of word of mouth advertising is worth its weight in gold. Advertising messages pervade everything now: television, radio, the internet, clothing and much more. Some people are even being paid to tattoo logos and slogans on their bodies to promote a brand or product. All this advertising is mostly for brand recognition. So that when you see the product, there is an automatic connection in your mind that it is a worthwhile purchase. It works, and the advertising industry is a multi-billion dollar industry because of it. However, what cannot be bought is word of mouth advertising, at least not easily.

Let us look at an example. If you are in the mood for Chinese food, how do decide which restaurant to order from? If you are like most people, the first thing they do is consider places that are close and convenient and perhaps deliver in their area. Then they may choose based off of price, or perhaps specials, coupons and sales. Also, people often choose the brands they know. However, say there is a new restaurant in the area you have never tried. If you are adventurous you may try it on a whim, but even if you have received flyers and heard commercials about this restaurant, you are still more likely to go with an option you already know and trust. On the other hand though, say you saw a neighbor getting that brand delivered and you asked them about it later. This neighbor told you the food was excellent and it was delivered promptly. Now you have a trusted source of information about this service and are much, much more likely to try it. If you have a good experience, you are also likely to spread the word about this restaurant.

This type of information passing among individuals builds trust and loyalty in the product or service. It allows individuals to receive critical information from a trusted source that is seen as far more impartial than a paid advertisement. As such it is seen as invaluable to business and marketers alike.

In this day and age, newer forms of communication are opening up new opportunities for word of mouth advertising. When you visit a website such as Amazon there are reviews and ratings by customers. This is a form of word of mouth, but not quite as trusted. You do not know the person writing the review, and in fact it could be a paid review. But it does give some indicators as to the products utility. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter also engender a new type of word of mouth advertising. Sometimes a good deal or conversely a bad experience can spread like a virus through social networking friends or be tweeted thousands of times. This has led to the rise of ‘astroturfing’ where someone is compensated in some way to post positive comments (or negative ones about a competitor) in online venues while looking like an average Joe, in the hopes of spreading the given message in a ore trusted manner.

The bottom line is this. If you can get people talking about your product or service in a positive way, generating this word of mouth spread of information is worth as much or more than paid advertising. What is the best way to do it? Provide outstanding service, and even ask your customers to spread the word. You can even give incentives, perhaps offering a discount coupon for bringing in new customers.


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