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ASK THE EXPERT: How to harness the power of word of mouth

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Social media is the most affordable and effective way to build your brand and launch new products, but it is not a traditional media, and many watchmakers have failed to harness the power of viral marketing through word of mouth, suggests online strategy consultant Gael Parfaite .

Before we go into details about how your brand can use social media to go viral, I would like to debunk two myths in the watch industry that I hear all the time:

  1. If we make the most astonishing watch, we will go viral.
  2. Our astonishing watch did not go viral because we don’t have a large enough marketing budget.

A low-quality product or insufficient marketing budget will indeed stop your brand from going viral. However, a great product and a large marketing budget alone will not make your brand viral either.

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A brand or a product goes viral because the people behind it have mastered the art of the word of mouth and have secured the elements that make a brand go viral.

I understand that in the current covid crisis, the word viral can be politically sensitive, but it is the best analogy to describe the principle of organic marketing.

Does a watch brand need the internet to go viral?

Brands and products could still spread like wildfire before the internet. Many marketing geniuses managed to build brands without social media. When a brand acquires the necessary elements to go viral, it will indeed be able to do so without the internet. This process will simply be slower and localised at first. Social media does not make a brand viral; it makes a viral-capable brand spread faster and more widely.

Why has social media not produced viral marketing for our brand?

Many watch companies have failed to harness the viral power of social media due to the misconception that social media is about getting followers and likes on social posts. But after 10 years of chasing pointless followers and social likes, almost all watchmakers have been left holding deserted social pages that end up damaging their brand if they are not constantly boosted by online marketing or fake followers.

Nonetheless, watch brand social media managers continue posting the same old traditional marketing, hoping for something to happen.

If you are frustrated that your brand does not get the international recognition it deserves, it is time to look at what makes a brand go viral.

Here is why going viral is important:

  • Viral brands gain widespread awareness
  • Widespread awareness generates demand
  • Demand generates sales

Online word of mouth

As consumers get overwhelmed by product choices, word of mouth from trusted sources has become the quickest and most efficient way for them to cut through the noise and make purchase decisions.

For a watchmaker, viral word-of-mouth recommendations can make the difference between you chasing customers all over the world to buy your product and customers all over the world chasing you to buy your product.

Traditionally, trusted sources were predominantly friends and family, but research over the last 10 years has shown that online word of mouth through people sharing photos, comments and reviews is playing a key role in purchase decisions.

Mastering word-of-mouth recommendation used to be an art, but it is quickly becoming a science. Behavioural economics and big data analysis of social media are breaking down the secrets that generate word of mouth and make brands go viral.

To understand word of mouth, you need to understand people

Not everybody is equal when it comes to word of mouth. Some consumers will share with others whether they feel positively or negatively towards a brand or product. Others will not actively share with others no matter how positively they feel about a product.

The Law of the Few suggests that 10% of consumers influence 90% of purchase decisions.

On Amazon, only 1 in 10 customers leave a comment. It is amazing to realise that only 10% of people will influence 90% of the future purchases of a given product. (source: RightTimeMarketer/BrightLocal)

In his book The Tipping Point [2], Malcolm Gladwell states: “The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.”

In Diffusion of Innovation [1], Everett Rogers pinpoints how an innovation spreads in the market. He has identified two groups of individuals that play a crucial role. These two groups on Rogers’s adoption curve are the ‘Innovators’ and the ‘Early Adopters’.

Diffusion of Innovation

The Innovators

Innovators are only 2.5% of the population, but they play an important role during the launch phase of a product. They are the group of people wanting to try the product first.

If it is presented in the right way, they will be ready to take a chance on a new and unproven product. Innovators are willing to pay more for the benefit of being the first to try it. They tend to be wealthier than other customer groups.

They are by nature risk-takers. They are comfortable using a product that may fail to reach the mass market. Innovators are willing to give honest feedback on products and find ways to improve them.

Under the right circumstances, they can be encouraged to publish online content presenting their experiences with a new product and provide validation.

This online content will be spotted by the next group, the Early Adopters, who are actively seeking new products but are waiting for the Innovators to validate them.

The Early Adopters

Early Adopters are a unique group of individuals who are motivated to spread information through word of mouth. They represent only 13.5% of the population but can raise a product from obscurity to mass market.

Early Adopters are the most valuable asset a company can have. They don’t need the internet or social media to spread the word; they are naturally influential. However, social media has increased their sphere of influence.

Early Adopters, as described by Rogers, should not be confused with online influencers, some of whom are frankly money-grabbing narcissists in search of self-promotion and should be avoided.

Early Adopters are not primarily motivated by money but by spotting and revealing the ‘next big thing’. They are viewed and respected as opinion leaders. Early Adopters tend to be socially active online and often create online reviews and other content around new products that they strongly like or dislike.

A large amount of content published by Early Adopters and the word of mouth they generate will attract the Early Majority consumers.

The Early Majority will take the product to critical mass, and it will reach the tipping point. As a result, user-generated content will be greater than the content generated by the brand’s marketing department.

Are wealthy people Innovators and Early Adopters?

The ultra wealthy are more likely to be innovators and early adopters than the general population. Contrary to popular belief, most Very and Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (VHNWI/UHMVI) are self-made businessmen. They have been able to spot business and financial opportunities before anyone else. Take, for example, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs from Apple or Alibaba Express founder Jack Ma.

The vast majority of ultra wealthy people are part of the Innovators and Early Adopter segments on Rogers’s adoption curve.

Wealthy people are unlikely to share content on social media; nonetheless, they are influential in their own way, much like celebrities.

Connecting with Innovators and Early Adopters

Innovators and Early Adopters are two groups that any brand should nurture. They are your powerhouse for word of mouth. They are by nature willing to take more risks and are the most influential.

They are self-motivated and don’t need financial incentives to actively promote your brand, but they need to feel value and recognised by your organisation.

By taking the time to understand and contribute to the personal objectives of the individuals in these two groups, you will be able to secure long-term relationships that will greatly benefit your brand.

Watch brands need to build connections with these valuable Innovators and Early Adopters who are capable of producing highly trusted brand awareness on a large scale thanks to social media and Google.

They can save watch brands millions of dollars wasted on untrusted marketing, and if you don’t have a million to spend on marketing, they will deliver the equivalent.

Focus on your market segment

For every 1,000 people interested in watches, there are only 25 Innovators and 135 Early Adopters, but if you read the signs, you can find them using social media.

When seeking out these special 160 per 1000 individuals, it is important to keep within your market segment. Innovators and Early Adopters will be most influential with their peers.

If your market is the ultra wealthy, with watches priced at $20,000 and above, then you need to connect and build a network of ultra wealthy Innovators and Early Adopters. They will be able to influence the UHNWI Early Majority [3].

After you locate 200 UHNWI interested in your product, you need to identify and connect with the 5 Innovators and 27 Early Adopters. These 32 individuals are the powerhouse that can influence the Early Majority segment of UHNWI, taking your brand to critical mass in the UHNW segment.

Innovators and Early Adopters from a different market segment will be less effective, as their spheres of influence will be mainly made up of people like them. So, you should mobilise within your market segment.

In summary

  • Word of mouth is about people, pure and simple, but the right type of people.
  • Effective word of mouth happens within a peer group.
  • Early Adopters are the most active, and Innovators are the igniters.

If you have the right people, then word of mouth is natural and easy to stimulate. You need to develop a special relationship with the Innovators and the Early Adopters. If you nurture these relationships from the highest level of your organisation, you will benefit from a powerful mechanism to boost the sales of your products.

Start recruiting them today and see your brand transform into a viral brand.

About the author

GAEL PARFAITE is an accomplished online strategy consultant with 22 years of experience in internet marketing and online consumer acquisition. He is a pioneer in innovating strategy to engage with consumers online.

Website: https://www.gaelparfaite.com/

References:

[1] Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition by Rogers Everett, Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-5823-4
[2] The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. ISBN 978-0316346627
[3] Crossing the Chasm, 3rd Edition by Geoffrey A Moore. ISBN 978-0062353948
[4] Diffusion of innovations – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations

1 Comment

  1. All good points Gael. I think one major issue is that there isn’t a clear person at watch brands who are supposed to understand and implement this advice and information. Most watch brands we work with have vague or no leadership in the department of making advertising and marketing decisions. Often it gets left to a PR person or a brand manager -who have other things on their plate. Watch brands, to really make use of this information, must first hire professionals in roles that are empowered to do something with this great advice.

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Rob Corder

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