I walked away from the 2009 Word of Mouth Supergenius event with many ideas and impressions, a fraction of which made their way to my Twitter stream in real-time. The event, hosted by Gaspedal, brought together leading word-of-mouth practitioners who shared tips for marketers seeking to build their brands in authentic ways. Some take-aways:
- Coca-Cola empowers its employees and associates to become brand ambassadors through social media instead of trying to control them. Adam Brown, Coca-Cola’s group director for digital communications, discussed how Coca-Cola is revising and disseminating its own guidelines, not just for employees but for bottlers. It’s encouraging to see a major brand like Coca-Cola realizing the power of its own employees and business partners to create word of mouth.
- Starbucks isn’t afraid to fight back when unfairly attacked by rumors that spread via word of mouth, as discussed by Matthew Guiste, Starbucks digital strategist. When Starbucks notices a nasty rumor like the false story about its attitude toward military personnel, the company uses word-of-mouth tools like Facebook to push back — and hard. The brand is not afraid of looking like a “corporate big brother.” And when Starbucks fans notice Starbucks speaking up, they join in to defend the company. I found Matthew’s points to be inspiring to any major brand in the public light. If your critics are using word-of-mouth unfairly to attack, it’s OK to fight back.
- Too many brands worry about transparency. Brands should not participate in word of mouth to be transparent. They should use word of mouth to build credibility, with transparency being a means to doing that. Transparency was one of the many topics discussed during a free-wheeling discussion hosted by Mitch Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation.
- I also appreciated what Mitch had to say about “in praise of slow.” The digital world is fast-moving, obviously. But it takes time — and a lot of patience — to build a true community especially through word of mouth. Mitch challenged bloggers in the audience to focus on creating meaningful content over a period of time instead of worrying about how frequently blog posts are written.
- Buzz does not create evangelists; evangelists create buzz. And the key to inspiring evangelists is creating a great experience, a key take-away from a discussion by John Moore.
Creating experiences, not one-way messages, resonates with my employer Razorfish. We’ve placed a heavy emphasis on helping clients like Mercedes-Benz USA bring their brands to life through compelling experiences, mostly in the digital world. In 2010, you can expect to hear more from Razorfish about the importance of experiences that build businesses — in commentary from executives like our chairman Clark Kokich, in thought leadership, and, of course, in the work we do for clients, to name a few ways. Meantime there are many lessons to be learned from the supergeniuses who spoke on December 16.