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General Mills & Kraft Create WOM Communities

This week General Mills and Kraft joined Procter & Gamble’s Tremor by creating their own word of mouth evangelist communities. 

Take a look: 

What does this mean? It’s proof that word of mouth marketing is an essential element of your marketing plan. When money is getting tight, you need an army of fans who talk about you because they love you.

Special kudos to General Mills for being the only one of the three to make a proper ethics commitment. Everyone who signs up has to be at least 18 and agree to this:

When you do pass on news, samples or coupons relative to those products, you agree to identify yourself as a member of General Mills’ Pssst… program.

I continue to be flabbergasted that some companies choose to ignore the most basic ethics requirements of a program like this, along with FTC regulation and UK law.

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  1. Adam October 6, 2008 at 12:49 pm #

    This is good news for the folks who earn their living doing this stuff. But the fact that two companies (and it doesn’t matter which) have decided to enter the fray, does not prove that WOM is an essential element of the marketing plan. First, you’d need to demonstrate positive results. And they probably don’t have any yet. But even that wouldn’t prove your point. “Essential” means the outcome could not possibly occur without it.
    I believe strongly that WOM is very important. And I’d like to see the industry succeed. But I have to share my personal feedback with you: I work for a large company in marketing and innovation. When I see claims like the one you made above, it makes me trust you a little bit less and it makes me feel like WOM gurus don’t really have the analytical chops that it takes to compellingly deliver results.
    Maybe I’m being harsh. I don’t mean to be. But the claim you make above is simply false – on its face. You guys need to dial down the hype and sell your vision (and yourselves) based on the cold hard reality that WOM just makes sense. Because it does.

  2. Andy Sernovitz October 6, 2008 at 1:03 pm #

    Adam –
    I’ll never dial down the hype – I am the guy who promotes word of mouth marketing.
    And I hear this all the time. If I don’t provide a mathematical, analytical justification for WOM in every blog post, someone says “see…you can’t prove it”.
    That’s exactly the response traditional marketers have to every new marketing technique. I heard the same thing in 1996 when I was the guy telling people that the Internet was going to be an important part of the marketing mix.
    Word of mouth works, and it always has. On the other hand, I’d love every blog post about television advertising to be held to the same analytical standard: Prove it works, every time.
    Because I’m a skeptic.

  3. Adam October 6, 2008 at 5:03 pm #

    You misunderstood me (or I wasn’t clear – or both). And your comment above almost suggests to me that you don’t really understand hype either (as opposed to fluff).
    The point of my initial comment was not that everything must be rigorously analyzed. I have blogged in opposition to the often ridiculous demand for ROI (
    The point of my post was that you said something that is simply false. The fact that Kraft and GenMills have started WOM communities does not prove that WOM is an essential element of a marketing campaign. It just doesn’t. Your statement is false. There are plenty of other inspiring things you could have said based on Kraft and GenMills. But what you said was false.
    You can hype WOM all you want to. But you can’t redefine the word “proves”.
    And frankly, given your comment above, why would you even use that word?
    So Andy, we do not have a disagreement about the “traditional” way of thinking versus your obviously new way of thinking. I agree with you that WOM is important. I agree that it works. I agree that it should be considered an essential part of a marketing plan.
    But words mean things Andy. And even in the new age world of online social media and WOM, there are standards of evidence. When you say A proves B and it obviously doesn’t, you undermine your credibility. When you and I talk, you will come to find that I am anything but a traditional marketer. Even so, my feedback to you stands. And if you’re getting that feedback from me, I promise that what you’d get from a traditional marketer would be much worse. More likely they would just discount you and that would be the end of it.

  4. Andy Sernovitz October 6, 2008 at 5:27 pm #

    You make a great point. I should have said more companies are adding word of mouth as part of their marketing mix. I think we both agree that this is a good trend.

  5. Adam October 6, 2008 at 11:55 pm #

    We do agree on that. I’m wondering if the WOM sell to skeptical clients (and I am not one of the skeptics) should be based more on common sense. Actually, I’ve been thinking for a while that marketing in general needs to incorporate a lot more common sense.
    For example, I have heard countless times, a piece of in store creative or an FSI or whatever, described as “intrusive”. Now in the real world, we don’t like things that intrude on us. Somehow as marketers, we forget that.
    In the real world, there are very few brands that occupy more than a few seconds of our time each day. Even if you sit at your computer all day long, you are not thinking about the fact that it’s a Dell. Or even an Apple. But marketers that spend all day obsessing about their brand forget about the fact that most people just don’t care enough.
    The unfortunate reality is that we marketers actually can pull people’s strings. In years past, we were able to pull them successfully for an extended period of time. Today’s consumer is considerably more savvy. We can still pull people’s strings, but the effect is rather short-lived. Still, traditional marketing is not an abysmal failure. It may get there at some point but it isn’t yet. And that fact obscures the powerful common-sense logic around WOM.

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