Our aim with this series is to bring you 100 word of mouth case studies – about 30% are out there and 70% will be new. One of the key questions we are asked, or rather challenged on is this; “my product is too boring to have any true word of mouth marketing, there’s nothing to talk about.”
People who ask the question claim that wine is interesting, cheese is interesting, hi-fi is interesting but really – what about scissors or floor sweepers? One of the most enduring and classic case studies is Fiskars scissors and how they turned around a company that was going bust with word of mouth marketing.1 They made scissors interesting. Whether you like or not, 10% of your market will be Advocates or Champions of your brand, no matter how boring you think it is, there will be people who love it. If you want to learn more about word of mouth marketing, we’d recommend you read Fizz by Ted Wright. Unlike many other word of mouth marketing books, it’s not about theory it’s largely about great case studies2 Or dare we say it, attend our events ‘cos they’ll give you an overview in no time. 3 .
But Bissell is another great word of mouth case study.
So what on earth is a Bissell anyway? Bissell is an old- fashioned carpet sweep, no motors, you just push it forward and backwards and it picks up the main dirt. It’s harder than average to create a booming community of fans and they did not have one. There are no vacuum cleaner parties to attend and there isn’t a cleaning symposium And, one thing they have going for them is that they readily pick up stuff left behind by vacuums or lesser sweepers. In addition, it’s much easier to retrieve pine needles, lego blocks and bigger items than fishing in a vacuum bag. The first thing that Ted did is find out who the Advocates and Champions are of the brand and there were two communities. One was ‘natural’ and one was ‘created’. The natural community which loves Bissell are people with Recreational Vehicles. They often are owned by retirees who own a pet dog or cat. That means lots of and lots of fluff, dirt and general animal detritus. They are often owned by retirees who own a pet dog or cat. That means lots of and lots of fluff, dirt and general animal detritus. However, they realised a secondary, created communities were ‘Moms’ who needed to wage war against the Xmas tree pine needle epidemic. So how did they approach these very different communities?
Now the culture of RV’s is very generous, you often invite neighbours over for a drink or a meal and most people don’t want to have people over to a home full of fluff. In addition, there isn’t a lot of room in an RV – so small solutions are the best solutions. So, they took some sweepers around RV centres in a golf cart and asked people if they would allow the team to sweep the floor to show how good Bissell was. After some initial awkwardness the vast majority said yes. Surely people had heard of Bissell before, yes, no doubt but they’d not been able to see how effective the product was.
Three months into this program, they were getting calls from national RV jamborees with 15,000 coaches asking for the team to turn up in their golf carts and show the effectiveness of the product. 9 months into the program they were getting calls to set up a stand at the jamborees because they believed it would bring in more foot traffic.
The second community is harder to consider. How do you target Mum’s who want to wage war on Xmas pine needles as the gateway to re-appraising the value of a Bissell in the home? Where do you go to show the product off? Selling trees on sidewalks? Going into people’s homes? After a lot of mental wrestling they realised the best place was to show off Bissell in the Santa lines in stores. What if pine needles were thrown about in the queue and they staged demonstrations. It took a life of its own on, they had people throwing all sorts of ‘crap’ around and kids having fun sweeping it up. Mums started to get out their mobile phones to take pictures of the fun, real word of mouth flowed into digital content.
The result? The companies sales increased by 45% in 2013 and Bissell quickly became a symbol of being a ‘serious camper’. In the first year the increase was 15% and the second year it was 25% .
It’s easy to say, oh that was obvious anyone could have thought of that they just needed to get out there and demonstrate. However, in our experience, it’s much more likely that digital advertising is considered a ‘safe’ route, it’s less hassle, you can be clever and this all just seems too obvious. But it’s not. There are two morals to the story. The first is that often your ‘Tipping Point’ community isn’t obvious, and you have to fish around to find them as was the case with ‘Pine Needle Moms.’ And the second moral is that with word of mouth marketing you often ‘have to go to them’ as opposed to trialling in a place convenient for you. Think about it, if you are selling a new toothpaste, how likely would you be to countenance a door to door approach where people trial your new toothpaste? You might send a sample, but a huge percentage of samples are thrown away. In addition many Millennial marketers shy away from personal contact having been brought up in an e-mail, text exchange way. In our experience many Millennials frankly don’t get the value of face to face intereaction. Sorry Millennials, that’s not all of you okay?
Finding your true Advocates and Champions is a process, it’s a blend of science and creativity. The science is in the methodology to find Advocates and Champions systematically. The creative element is to experiment to find the way to connect. Word of Mouth Marketing is obvious in hindsight, and so it should be but I’m sure if you are a physicist e=mc2 is obvious, in hindsight.
True Word of Mouth requires a mixture of science, creativity and experimentation, that’s the formula for success. If you want to know how to cook with WOM, come to our event.3 If you want to increase digital ROI off the back of real WOM, come to our event. Did I say that? Yep, come to the event and trial it, like the Bissell folk did, seeing is believing right?
3 https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/digital-marketing-wtf-the-better-way-revealed-a-womtwotm- event-tickets-53968464129