A word-of-mouth marketing campaign, also colloquially referred to as a WOM marketing campaign, is an advertising technique that relies on one consumer naturally promoting a brand by talking to another consumer about it. While word of mouth marketing campaigns are free in their most fundamental sense (it doesn’t cost you a penny when one customer talks to another about your products), inspiring conversation about your brand takes strategizing and great implementation. For a look into some companies that have executed fantastic word-of-mouth marketing ideas, read on.
Successful Word-of-Mouth Marketing Campaigns Examples
AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS (ALS) ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE
Perhaps the most famous word-of-mouth marketing campaign of 2014 was the ALS ice bucket challenge (of course you’ve heard of it). The fundraiser, presented in the form of a challenge, encouraged audience members to pour a bucket of ice-cold water on top of themselves, capture the event on camera, post it to a social media site (Facebook), and ask other friends or family members to perform the challenge, too. Of course, a donation was also encouraged, although the challenge itself was the main emphasis of the campaign.
When it came to the fame of the campaign, just about everyone knew of the challenge, and talked about it in corners of the globe ranging from the state of Georgia to the eastern European country of Georgia. Not only did the campaign receive a lot of word-of-mouth advertising, but it also inspired the participation of a slew of celebrities, too. And the biggest proof that the campaign was effective was the amount of money that the fundraiser raised – $115 million as of September 28, 2014, according to an article published on Cincinatti.com.
APPLE’S RELEASE OF THE IPHONE 6
Nearly as monumental as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (if not more so), was the September 2014 release of the iPhone 6 by Apple. Apple’s long-standing reputation as a company that provides the latest and greatest in terms of technology aided with the iPhone 6 WOM marketing campaign, but the campaign itself employed a variety of tactics and strategies that aren’t to be missed or forgotten about. For example, Apple designed a unique product offering (there’s nothing else like the iPhone 6 currently on market today), developed the right message (having an iPhone 6 screams “I’m cool and I’m technologically in-the-know”), and targeted the right group (those who already have iPhones and the young and hip).
While Apple spends a lot of money on its marketing efforts, it also gets a lot of free advertising, too, through word-of-mouth means. And by continually updating their products, the WOM marketing is ongoing and consistent.
Regardless of whether you’re on the east coast or the west, you probably know a thing or two about Dunkin’ Donuts (like the fact that their donut holes are delicious, and that their “medium regular” coffee is to die for). And, you probably know at least one person who has been to Dunkin’ Donuts and absolutely loves it. The reason that you know all this is because Dunkin’ Donuts has a fantastic word-of-mouth marketing strategy. Led, in part, by Dunkin’ Donuts social media manager Jessica Gioglio, Dunkin’ Donuts has made quite a splash in the world of trendsetters for great WOM marketing strategies.
So how do they do it? Dunkin’ Donuts is known to host social media contests, post content that is engaging and based on real-life fans, and share user testimonials and reviews wherever they can. And it works – Dunkin’ Donuts has over 10 million Facebook fans, 70,000 Instagram followers, and 400,000 Twitter followers. And those numbers are growing.
REEBOK CROSSFIT SHOES
Most people have heard of CrossFit, and if you do CrossFit, you’re bound to have shared a conversation or two about the benefits of a Reebok CrossFit shoe – and chances are, the conversation was promotional for the company (i.e., great WOM marketing!). So, how did Reebok go from a basic fitness shoe company to one of the leaders in the industry for the biggest-up-and-coming athletic activity today? Word-of-mouth marketing.
Reebok did a similar thing that Apple did with the iPhone 6: they created a product that was entirely unique and that would provide a unique fitness experience, appealed to a very particular audience (athletes, particularly those who do CrossFit), and sent a very specific message, which was something along the lines of, “challenge yourself, and increase your performance” by purchasing this shoe.
QDOBA’S QUESO CONTEST
While many of the campaigns above reached a very broad audience, a word-of-mouth marketing campaign doesn’t have to touch millions – it can be concentrated among a small customer base and still be incredibly effective. Case-in-point: Qdoba’s Queso Contest.
In 2014, Qdoba – the company known for on-the-go Mexican food – held a contest on its Facebook page. The contest was between two new Queso flavors, and the rules were simple: whichever flavor received the most votes would win, and would be introduced in Qdoba restaurants ASAP.
The effect was pretty amazing; total votes for the Qdoba quesos came in at more than 33,000, and Qdoba fans were commenting about the contest all over Facebook. And, you can probably bet that those who cast a vote will take a trip into Qdoba to try the new queso, and may even rave to their friends about how they were involved in the decision-making process, encouraging everyone they know to try it, too.
IHOP’S NAME CHANGE TO IHOB
Perhaps one of the more odd word of mouth campaigns, the International House of Pancakes “change their name” to International House of Burgers for a fleeting moment in 2018.
Yes, they simply flipped the p upside down to a b in hopes of creating buzz? (Although, no one actually knows what the point of it really was).
What we do know is that it generated quite a bit of attention. When they first announced IHOP was coming IHOB, they prompted followers to guess what the “B” stood for (which yielded over 30,000 guess responses). Then, when they finally shared the new name in a tweet, it had over 15,000 retweets.
Whether it was confusion or outrage, there is no doubt this “campaign” (if that’s what we’re going to call it) certainly got people talking and had the brand on people’s minds… be it for pancakes or burgers.
GILLETTE’S “THE BEST A MAN CAN GET”
A surefire way to make your campaign a word of mouth one? Address what people are already talking about. Earlier this year, Gillette did just that by joining the #MeToo conversation with their “Best a Man Can Get” video (which also aired during the Super Bowl). This campaign tackled toxic masculinity by encouraging men to stop making excuses for the “boys will be boys” rhetoric and to hold each other to a higher standard.
But Gillette didn’t just advocate for culturally relevant issue without putting their money where their mouth is. They are also donating $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profit organizations that are helping men of all ages be their best.
The video has been viewed over 31 million times on YouTube, and according to TalkWalker, Gillette had over 1.5 million social media mentions between in just 2 days (while the previous week had less than 10,000).
While some people saw the campaign as “overly political” or criticized the approach, there is no doubt it gained attention and got people talking about the brand.
EUGENE THE EGG “CRACKING” CAMPAIGN
It was quite a mystery when a simple photo of an egg broke the internet in a few short days. With over 52 million likes (and a stated goal of eclipsing the most-liked photo of all time: Kylie Jenner’s newborn photo with 18+ million) people were scratching their heads asking “What exactly is this?”
Immediately following the Super Bowl (exclusively first on Hulu) a short video later revealed that Eugene the egg was promoting the pressures of social media as he started to “crack” (and encouraging others feeling the same way to be aware of their mental health and to talk to someone about it).
It’s still a bit unsure where the root of this campaign started. Was it always a mental health campaign, or did the see an opportunity and run with it? Was Hulu in on it from the start (or at all?) No one really knows… but the concept is genius for all of the ambiguity that got people talking.
CHARACTERISTICS OF SUCCESSFUL WORD-OF-MOUTH MARKETING CAMPAIGNS
With so many great examples of WOM marketing campaigns out there, identifying some of the key characteristics of all should be pretty straightforward. While each campaign is unique and distinctive, all successful WOM marketing campaigns share some core traits. As emphasized in a great article about the importance of word-of-mouth marketing published in Forbes, all great WOM marketing campaigns feature the three E’s. In other words, they:
- Engage the audience;
- Equip the audience with a reason to talk; and
- Empower consumers with different ways of talking and sharing information about a brand.
When approaching and designing your own WOM marketing campaign, make sure to adhere to the three E’s, and to look to the examples of other great WOM marketing campaigns for inspiration and guidance.