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How word-of-mouth marketing can net your brand a bumper Christmas

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Christmas is coming, the countdown is on. For retailers and brands alike, 60 per cent of annual sales happen over the festive period so ensuring people are excited about your product is essential. This is as relevant for the everyday products that get us through the festive season as it is for the brands aiming to top the wish lists.

Rebekah Mackay Miller is managing director of trnd UK.

By now most brands will have locked their long lead ABL activity, but there’s still time to power that extra buzz, which makes the difference between a product people will queue down the street for and one that's left neglected in the bargain bin.

First things first, what did we learn from last year? When marketers came to analyse Christmas 2015 they found that the traditional approach, i.e. producing an amazing Christmas ad, wasn’t enough to guarantee a record-breaking Christmas for retailers. They found that the key to success lies in taking a digital first approach and driving engagement with consumers online.

But while recognising that consumer engagement is imperative, the mistake many marketers still make is failing to realise the power of the conversations happening offline, between real people. Word-of-mouth (WOM) is still the most trusted form of advertising and proven to have a much bigger sales impact than any paid media impression. A recommendation from a trusted friend is a safe and reliable way to make a purchase decision – a little welcome help in the often stressful Christmas shopping and something brands can tap into to bump up sales.

That magical buzz that makes your product fly off the shelves come December isn’t created by ad campaigns and online marketing alone. Two-thirds of branded conversations happen offline so brands that do not tap into the power of WOM risk only benefitting from 33 per cent of the potential. Brands need to mobilise the people who already buy their products and motivate them to share their passion for the product with peers (who trust their opinions), and convince them to buy your brand. Used in conjunction with traditional advertising, you’ll feed both ends of the sales funnel and deliver real results in time for Christmas.

Here are four practical ways to boost Christmas with WOM:

Take the first STEPPS. Are you currently marketing in a way that enables your story to continue to be told by your consumers? Understanding the key principles behind what puts your product front of mind is crucial. Jonah Berger defines these STEPPS: People talk about things that make them look good, so make sure your brand gives them the inside track (Social currency); Triggers help to start a conversation about your product; focus on Emotion rather than function if you want things to go viral; it helps if the product is Public and provides Practical value (everyone loves a tip) and finally, make sure you build Stories around your brand that people will want to tell.

Leverage the power of the collective. If consumer-generated content is not already a part of your strategy, make it. You’ll add instant credibility to your Christmas campaign. Showcase testimonials and real-life stories on your website, or use consumer-generated photos and claims in your ad campaigns. Content created by real people will resonate with your audience – they want to know, from people like them, if the product is worth getting excited about. As a bonus, showcasing UGC is a powerful way of illustrating to your consumers that you care and value their opinions – boosting consumer engagement and loyalty.

Create anticipation. People like mystery but they also want to be the one in the know. Identify your fans and give them a peek behind the scenes or the chance to purchase before the official launch date. Let people get excited!

Assess capabilities. Do you have the in-house experience with WOM campaigns to deliver results in time for the festive season? Does your marketing agency? If not, what can you do to remedy it? Working with a partner who specialises in WOM and consumer collaborations will ensure that you form a lasting connection with your consumers which, in turn, pays financial dividends long after Christmas too.

WOM is a hugely powerful tool for driving enthusiasm and action in customers and it is not too late to start factoring it into your Christmas plans. What are you waiting for?

Rebekah Mackay Miller is UK managing director of TRND

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Rebekah Mackay Miller

Rebekah Mackay Miller is the UK managing director of trnd.

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