Word Of Mouth Marketing Isn't Effective If Your Product Sucks

from the just-saying... dept

Way too many people seem to think that “word of mouth marketing” is about getting others to spread your marketing message. That is, they think it’s about putting words into the mouths of others. But that’s not true at all. Real word of mouth marketing is about building a great product, and then letting your customers pass on the news however they see fit. If there’s anything to do on the “marketing” side, it’s merely to enable the tools for your biggest fans to spread the word, and then get the hell out of the way. However, it appears many marketers still don’t understand this concept.

Reader Aaron deOliveira writes in to point out a story about Hollywood studios apparently giving up on word of mouth marketing campaigns targeted at “faith-based” audiences promoting certain messages that the studios hoped would resonate with folks who are religious. In the article, they toss up all sorts of reasons why such campaigns haven’t done all that well, but deOliveira points to a blog post by Ben McConnell where he makes a different assertion: perhaps all those word of mouth campaigns failed because the movies just weren’t that good. It’s just that the studios are so sure of their product that they never even noticed it. So, once again, it goes back to this: word of mouth marketing is never going to make a lick of difference if your product sucks. Rather than focusing on such things, concentrate on making a good product first — and then worry about the marketing campaign. And if the campaign fails — recognize that maybe it’s got something to do with the product.

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Comments on “Word Of Mouth Marketing Isn't Effective If Your Product Sucks”

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Chronno S. Trigger says:


I was going to put this little anecdote in the advertisement article recently posted but it seems to fit better here.

The only reason I own “I am Legend” on HD-DVD (yes I know) is because of proper word of mouth. I saw the trailer for it and I thought it was just another serious movie, like “The Pursuit of Happyness”. I never would have seen it if it wasn’t for my manager telling me what the real story line was.

The exact opposite could be said. In the past I have passed on quite a few movies whose trailers looked good but people I knew said it sucked.

chris (profile) says:

word of mouth works in all cases

it just may not work the way you want it to.

if your product or service is great, it works to your advantage as people spread the word that it’s great.

if your product sucks, it works to your disadvantage as people spread the word that your product is junk or that you company is a bunch of thieves.

in either case, it worked, and people got the message.

Matt says:

its not just word of mouth, it's all marketing

You’re dead on, but this is representative of all marketing

This is why MS lobbies so hard and pushes so much marketing, why open source barely has to advertise at all, etc.

The better you are, the more quality and long-term you seek to improve a company, the less word of mouth is actually necessary….people can continually find referrals to increase business and only minimally have to put in effort to continually increase a customer base if a product/offering is good, in any business.

AKA the reputation precedes itself.

Pro says:

Re: its not just word of mouth, it's all marketing

Except that MS actually DOES create top notch products – This is what people tend to misundersand… I’ve been in software for 20 years now and can tell you that everyone else’s products pretty much suck. The idea that MS sucks, is actually word of badmouth marketing, by everyone else who isn’t smart enough to compete.

John Wilson (profile) says:

Re: Re: its not just word of mouth, it's all marketing

Oh, you must mean Vista!

Wait a minute…that’s not top notch, it’s a mistake. Just wait for Windows 7. Now THAT will be top notch!

Perhaps you mean Microsoft’s newly minted, bought and paid for ISO standard OOXML. Now THAT’s top notch!

So top notch that not even Microsoft can make a real product that supports it. You just can’t get any more top notch than that!



PaulT (profile) says:

Re: It's funny and sad...

Unfortunately, few people in the industry seem to realise that quality has an effect. It reminds me of the stories late last year about how disappointing DVD sales were for a lot of the big blockbusters – Spiderman 3, Shrek 3, Fantastic Four 2, etc.

They seemed to blame everything from a shrinking market to piracy but never attached the real reason – all of those movies were terrible, and most people don’t buy DVDs of movies they don’t like. Notice how mainstream Hollywood’s doom and gloom stories are conspicuously absent this year now that good movies are appearing. Spidey 3 – terrible reviews, disappointing box office. Iron Man – glowing reviews, exceeds expectations. It shouldn’t be so hard to see the connection.

This all applies double when your movie is aimed at a close-knit niche audience (as the “faith-based” movies mentioned in the article were. By their nature, “faith-based” will put off a lot of people who aren’t part of that faith. If you also insult that audience by making poor product, you won’t see profits unless you have a clever marketing campaign. “Word of mouth” ain’t clever unless you have a specific hook (e.g. Blair Witch Project, which a lot of people didn’t enjoy but still made a lot of money. I did enjoy it, for the record).

Don Bates says:

Word of Mouth Marketing

I’ve been in the public relations world for more than 30 years and if there’s one truth I’ve learned in all that time it’s that performance (i.e., good product, good service, good film, good game, etc.) is the touchstone of good public relations and word-of-mouth has always been a part of the mix. Recall the old adage: You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. On the other hand, it’s also true that as a result of puff and propaganda you can seduce all kinds of people to do all kinds of things that defy logic and reason. Look at politics. More germane, recall what circus impresario P.T. Barnum (1810 – 1891) said that gave Hollywood its first hint about how to drum up audiences for lackluster flicks: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” So there are at least two perspectives from which word of mouth marketing can be pursued. Which one does your organization favor? Which one do you?

Lloyd Duggan (user link) says:

Word of mouth marketing

People are going to talk whether businesses want them to or not. Word of mouth is a natural process that’s been going on forever. There are plenty of people railing about the crappy products and shoddy service that most businesses put out on the market. The key concept of word of mouth marketing is to influence ongoing conversations in a way that will cause people to talk about your product brand or service in a positive way. And the best way to generate positive word among consumers is the old fashioned way..to earn it by providing great products and/or knock your socks off service.

Mister Bates says:

Word of mouth marketing

This is why there is such an emphasis on first week takings.. How many mug punters have we sucked in, before the real truth about this slip-shod pig=swill gets out?. I am legend was pretty average and good have been x2 as good, possibly x4 if they didn’t insist on having a big star and big set pieces. I thought he became leader of the MPAA (Zombies) at the end. Ho-hum .. have to re-make it myself, with the proper storyline.

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