Bob Lefsetz is a well-know music industry guru who covers critical issues for industry insiders.
So why did he write 625 words about a turtleneck from Uniqlo? And then email it to his thousands of email subscribers? And why did my friend Josh Dorf email it to me?
Not because he was paid. Not because he was part of some cheesy word of mouth advocacy program. Not because the company asked him to.
He did it because true word of mouth, driven by authentic enthusiasm for amazing products, is an unstoppable force.
Read this classic example of word of mouth in action:
Andy couldn’t stop talking about his down jacket. Just before the season opened he’d gone to Aspen and purchased it. And he didn’t stop wearing it and telling me how cheap it was.
But I ignored him.
Because I don’t care about fashion.
My wardrobe got stuck in the seventies.
Only one problem, part of it’s wearing out.
You see I used to buy these Duofold turtlenecks. Not the Steve Jobs mock kind, but the full on up to the neck like Mort in Bazooka Joe type. They’re great for cold weather. And my skin has an aversion to wool, Duofold is cotton. As for fleece replacements, I’ve got a wide neck, nothing fits. So I keep on wearing the same orange Duofold turtleneck, despite the rip in the neck. But I’m getting desperate. I searched online. The company’s gone and so is the inventory. What am I gonna do?
Saturday, on a bitter cold afternoon I found myself at Mid-Vail sipping hot chocolate with Dan and Vickie. And when Dan stripped off his jacket he was wearing a brand new turtleneck. Where did he get it?
Dan started waxing rhapsodic. About a shop in New York City. Even though he lives in the Pacific Northwest. And in the middle of all this, my cell phone rings, Verizon, AT&T tends not to work at Mid-Vail, and it’s Andy, where are we?
And when Andy saunters into the building and hears Dan talking about Uniqlo his eyes light up, THAT’S WHERE HE GOT HIS SKI JACKET!
And the story is repeated for the umpteenth time. How he went to Aspen and it’s so cheap and by this time I’m intrigued.
Because I want a turtleneck and the enthusiasm is catching.
Dan’s telling me about this special technology, Heattech. And if he had a carton I’d have bought it right then.
And the reason I bring this all up is not to sell you Uniqlo clothing but to illustrate how word of mouth works. We tend to ignore it the first time, but when it’s confirmed by someone else, we pay attention. And when the story is told with enthusiasm, we lock on.
Now on some level this is no different from the way it’s always been. But with the Web, there are changes. First and foremost, there’s no middle. Either people are raving about your product or trashing it. Nothing’s unknown online. So if you’re not superior, you’re toast.
And if you are great, you’ve got an instant business, you can sell more inventory than you can make.
Advertising starts the conversation. It’s informational. Nobody believes it until they hear it from someone else. So instead of telling me how great something is, give me the backstory, the technology, we’re all hungry for information, we utilize this when we tell our stories to others.
So I couldn’t figure out exactly what turtleneck Dan had bought when I surfed the site so I e-mailed him, and he sent me the link.
This is different too. We don’t go to the store blind. We go armed with information, whether we’re buying clothing or concert tickets.
But as I was debating how many and in what color to buy, it turns out Uniqlo has no e-commerce function. Which on one hand is insane and on the other just makes me want the stuff that much more.
So I go to the Store Locator and see that although they are not in Los Angeles, they’re in Russia. That appeals to me. We’re all global citizens.
This is how you build a brand in the twenty first century. On quality. And price. Unlike the designer goods, Uniqlo is cheap. You’re not paying for the advertising, you can buy this stuff, wear it and throw it away. Prices have sunk for technology, why are we paying inflated prices for clothing?
I know, I know, it’s more complicated than that, involving offshore manufacturing and sweat shops and…
The point is I NEVER buy clothing. I wear stuff until it’s threadbare.
But I’m eager to lay down some cash at Uniqlo.
The turtleneck: http://www.uniqlo.com/us/CPaGoods/itemcode=069686
The stores: http://www.uniqlo.com/us/store/