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Is viral marketing the same as word of mouth?

Seth Godin writes today that viral marketing is not the same as word of mouth.

Paraphrasing: he says that word of mouth is a diminishing function that dies as it gets passed along (I assume he’s referring to offline WOM), and viral picks up steam as it travels. (Read the full post here.)

I see it a different way.

Word of mouth marketing is the big category.  Viral marketing is one of the many techniques used to help word of mouth travel (usually by email).

Think of it this way: 

  • “Advertising” includes TV, print, billboards, etc.
  • “Direct Marketing” includes catalogs, mail, telemarketing, etc.
  • “Interactive” includes web, search, email, etc.

and

  • “Word of Mouth Marketing” includes viral, blogs, communities, etc.

When you look at where you get new customers, they all come from one of these major categories: WOM, advertising, sales, PR, direct, interactive, etc. WOM is one of the big labels.

Here is a list of the types of WOM that we wrote, circa 2004

Here is Sean Moffitt’s Word of Mouth Playbook featuring 230 tactics.

There’s a lot more about this in my book: Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking.  Seth wrote the Foreword.

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