Book Review — Fizz: Harness the Power of Word of Mouth Marketing to Drive Brand Growth

Author Ted Wright opens Fizz: Harness the Power of Word of Mouth Marketing to Drive Brand Growth with a prescient, pre-Fizz experience from his late-90’s graduate school days.  Fizz-3dLeft

Entering a University of Chicago computer lab, he noticed that all the students’ faces were glowing blue from the Netscape page on their monitors. Minutes later, at his own lab computer and frustrated by his own slow search on Netscape, a neighboring student leaned over and said “have you thought about using Google?” By the time he left the lab, the word had spread, and the blue glow was gone from the students’ faces – replaced by the white sheen of the Google home page.

Thus the seed was planted in Wright’s brain: the power of “talkable”.

Wright’s very readable book is filled with engaging anecdotes and observations within the world of marketing. Perhaps the first to get my attention was his creed that marketers should assume that their audience is smart – “at least as smart as you are”. How novel!

The word-of-mouth marketer can’t just be sitting at a computer poring over social media and demographic data. He / she will have to have a relevant story that is new, true and authentic about their brand – because that is what your Influencers will talk about. Indeed, it is the newness of something related to what the influencer loves that will wind them up to do the word-of-mouthing — and they love to know what’s new before their peers do.

But why gear your efforts to just influencers, since you may know that they only make up 10% of fizz_soda_fizzconsumers? Because it’s likely that the remaining 90% might not show any interest in your product – until their influencer’s word-of-mouth brings it to their attention. That 90% is very interested in what those influencers think, and will follow their lead.

For all of our present communication channels – be they cable television, the internet, social media, and who-knows-what-else even just a year from now, more does not mean better. Wright notes that 75% of Americans don’t believe companies are truthful about their ads – regardless of communication channel (are you surprised?). Instead, 50% of all purchasing decisions are based primarily on the recommendation of a friend / influencer.

Wright offers a simple real-world illustration to set the table for the “talkable”. If you have ever been to a beer tasting festival, you already know where I’m going. Everybody gets their 2 oz. sampler glass at the start. There’s a lot of “competition” at these festivals, and they are all pouring the 2 oz. samples. But it’s the product and conversation sharing that opens the face-to-face opportunity to tell your product’s story. The newness of your authentic story and product is what the influencer will in turn begin talking about. Pretty obvious, right?

Now, contrast the sharing philosophy with that of the recording industry about 13 years ago.   Rather than acknowledge and work with the rising and unstoppable tide that was Napster, Kazaa and other file-sharing technologies, the recording industry tried to hoard its products and punish their customers – the very life-blood of their business. How did that work for them? Your business may not be staffed with Scrooge-ish hoarders in the way that the recording industry was, but Wright’s illustration certainly makes the case for how sharing – your brand, your story, AND your product – will facilitate the word-of-mouth that will positively influence purchasing decisions.

Wright devotes an entire chapter to how to convince your boss about the effectiveness of Word-of-Mouth – that it’s not just another shiny marketing fad du jour that will be old news by the end of the week. In fact, this is where the Fizz fun starts! Without being a spoiler, let’s just say that Wright has developed a couple of game-like formats to play with the boss which will quickly demonstrate why high-priced billboards and TV ads are a) less effective than you think, and b) well… high-priced!

If your boss needs more convincing, Wright cites a large-scale 2011 study undertaken by AT&T to see what they were getting for their $20 billion per year advertising costs. And no, that’s not a typo. I indeed wrote $20 billion. That’s billion with a “B”. For advertising! But I digress…

The short story is that AT&T determined that word-of-mouth efforts resulted in 10% of their sales volume. Not much, you say. But that 10% was second only to their paid media (30%). You know – the stuff that ate up most of that $20 billion advertising budget! So, did paid media or word-of-mouth provide the most bang for the buck?

Many marketers and advertisers can recite a quote by John Wanamaker, the early-20th century retail innovator and merchandising genius. While Wanamaker believed in the power of advertising, he is believed to have famously said “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

Maybe if Wanamaker had only used half his total ad budget, and invested it in sharing both his products and his story to influencers, it would be Wanamaker and not Wright who could lay claim to the word “talkable”.

Wright, T. (2015). Fizz: Harness the Power of Word of Mouth Marketing to Drive Brand Growth. New York: McGraw-Hill.

http://fizzcorp.com

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