If you have a positive experience with a brand, you might mention it to a friend or family member.
With 92% of consumers now trusting a recommendation from friends and family more than any other form of marketing, chances are they might then check it out for themselves.
This cycle is what’s known as word of mouth marketing. Instead of overtly selling to customers, brands are able to get their customers to do the work for them by creating experiences that they’ll naturally want to shout about.
So, which brands are pioneers of word of mouth marketing? Here’s a run-down of some of the best examples in recent times.
Chipotle is only just recovering from a food safety scandal that saw sales plummet. However, with a famously non-traditional advertising strategy, it has previously generated much of its success from clever and shareable online campaigns.
In 2013, it released an online video called ‘The Scarecrow’, depicting a dystopian world in which a scarecrow is forced to work in a fictional factory but eventually rebels to run his own. The video also happened to be a trailer for an accompanying iOS app that allowed players to earn codes for free Chipotle menu items.
By combining powerful storytelling with a real-life incentive, Chipotle’s campaign generated massive engagement. The video was viewed 6.5m views times on YouTube in under two weeks, while the game went to number one in app store’s free category. Most importantly, the campaign involved no paid media during the first four weeks, immediately gaining traction through social alone.
Offline, Chipotle also ensures word-of-mouth marketing by delivering a positive customer experience. Its employees are typically jovial and friendly, helping to foster the brand’s unique ‘food culture’. In order to maintain a high level of service, it implements what it calls ‘four pillars of throughput’. In other words, four essential roles, including a ‘linebacker’ whose sole job is to replenish ingredients so others can focus on taking orders.
Ironically, Chipotle’s food safety scandal spread like wildfire due to negative word-of-mouth, but as it tries to win back favour, it’ll be focused on turning this around.
Netflix arguably has a head-start on word-of-mouth marketing. Its core product (original programming like House of Cards) offers an enjoyable and original experience that people naturally want to talk about. However, Netflix boosts its CX by tapping into user data and sentiment – and delivering exactly what people want on the back of it.
For example, recognising the phenomenon of ‘binge watching’, Netflix strategically released all ten episodes of Making a Murderer in one go. What’s more, it released it on 19th December in the US – a time when viewers would be well primed to hibernate during the holidays.
— Netflix US (@netflix) December 28, 2015
Elsewhere, Netflix’s social activity is also designed to increase awareness about new original programming. It often does this through user generated content, sharing viewer’s excitement about their favourite upcoming shows in order to prompt interest in others. This taps into the notion that people trust their peers more than big brands, especially when it comes to what to watch.
I’ve written about Lush before, but with an increasingly successful strategy built on customer favour and loyalty – it’s an example worth repeating. Especially considering the fact that business is booming, with worldwide sales for the brand increasing 26% YoY in 2016.
Instead of traditional advertising, Lush largely relies on its brand values in order to raise awareness and engage consumers. Its values are centred around social and environmental causes such as animal welfare, fair trade and ethical buying. The brand has even backed more controversial campaigns like anti-fracking and Guantanamo prisoners.
— LUSH UK (@LushLtd) August 10, 2017
With a zero-spend policy on advertising, it uses organic social reach to promote the brand, focusing on content related to issues the brand and its target customer cares about.
As well as brand values, Lush promotes a unique in-store experience. Its employees are typically forthcoming and chatty, engaging customers in product demonstrations as well as general conversation. The store layouts are also unique, with products displayed so that customer can touch and smell them.
Combined, this creates a shopping experience that people truly invest in, with shoppers returning not just for the products themselves but everything that surrounds it. When you compare it to the experience of offered by Body Shop or Boots, it’s easy to understand why it has generated an almost cult-like following among millennials and generation Z.
— Ashley Jones (@ashley_jones103) August 17, 2017
Why would anyone want to put themselves through a workout that deliberately pushes them to their limit? Beats me, but then again, why does CrossFit have millions of loyal customers all over the world? It’s a conundrum that has led many suckers for punishment to find out for themselves, and CrossFit to become a multi-million-dollar brand.
Customer testimonials have been at the heart of Crossfit’s marketing strategy, with members sharing how and why Crossfit has not only transformed their bodies – but multiple aspects of their lives. With a constant stream of testimonial videos on its YouTube channel (and integrated into its main site) – anyone researching the brand for the first time is guaranteed to be met with a positive reason to join. The content furthers advocacy in existing members, and gives them incentive to continue.
Importantly, the testimonials often focus on those people might not associate with Crossfit, such as people with disabilities, health issues, or an older demographic. This allows potential customers to think ‘if they can do it, so can I’.
Another tactic used by Crossfit is WOD, or ‘workout of the day’, which as the name suggests, it posts on social daily. This gives people a reason to come back for more as well as share their own results. Essentially, if you know someone who is a fan of Crossfit – they’re probably already talking to you about it, whether directly or via social.
According to CNBC, 58% of small business owners identify word-of-mouth marketing as the most effective way to communicate with customers, stemming from both a lack of research time and a desire for quality products.
Now with over 1.25m paid users – Slack has certainly capitalised on this desire. The workplace messenger uses a ‘freemium’ model, meaning an unlimited number of people can use it for free before deciding to pay for the upgraded package. This is itself relies on word of mouth, with small teams advocating the brand and pushing the wider business to invest in its service.
This also means that the key to word-of-mouth is a great customer experience. Slack is said to have about four times as many support staff than sales staff, meaning that it is laser-focused on delivering exactly what the customer needs – both pre-and post-purchase.
We love tweeting but our Help Center is also just a click away: https://t.co/0dt5FI0xbu.
See what’s new at https://t.co/yKKsTpkbxM. ✨
— Slack (@SlackHQ) July 21, 2017
Slack also uses online content to help foster loyalty, mainly through its Medium channel. Here it keeps customers in the know about product updates, as well as communicates what is going on within the company itself in terms of culture and progression. Its Medium is said to help the brand generate an extra 70,000 visitors to its main website each month.
Overall, Slack is an example of how a great product and a slick UX can outweigh any flashy (and expensive) marketing campaign.