WOMMA Established Word of Mouth Metrics


Yesterday, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) held their first Metrics conference, called "Measuring Word of Mouth," at the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago. The conference, which sold out in 20 days mostly due to word of mouth and followed the organization's founding conference several month ago, focused on the the measurement aspects of word of mouth marketing including the introduction of metrics terminology.

The genesis of the conference was the organizations acknowledgment that everyone in the industry was talking about word of mouth but had no common terminology. The groups three goals for the conference were to develop a common language of word of mouth related terms and definitions, figure out how to measure and track word of mouth and learn how to integrate word of mouth with other forms of marketing media. In developing these goals, WOMMA CEO Andy Sernovitz the measurement framework must "avoid pre-existing marketing terms, avoid bias towards online media and avoid bias towards active word of mouth campaigns versus organic, day-to-day word of mouth."

Kicking off the event, Sernovitz introduced several terms to describe the "objects" involved in the measurement framework. Five key terms were put forth that, together, encompass a WOM Episode:

  • Participants - Creator, Sender, Receiver: Individuals whose actions make up a WOM Episode and, who may serve multiple roles.
  • Action: What participants do to create, pass along, or respond to a WOMUnit.
  • WOMUnit: A single unit of marketing-relevant information shared by a consumer.
  • Venue: The medium or physical location where the communication takes place.
  • Outcomes: With five levels, this terms describes what action is taken by a participant on a WOMUnit.
Several other terms that further defined these "objects." For example, a WOMUnit was further defined by these terms:
    Topicality: Degree that the marketing message is contained in the WOMUnit.
  • Timeliness: Whether the WOMUnit arrives in time to be relevant to a campaign.
  • Polarity: Whether the message content is positive or negative.
  • Clarity: Whether the message is understood by the receiver.
  • Depth: The aspects and/or qualities that increase persuasiveness.
In one of the panels entitled "ROI of WOM, CRM Metrix's Laurent Flores, alluding to the cyclical nature of word of mouth, said WOM is different from current B to C and B to B models and is more like a CBC model - consumer to business and back to consumer. In another panel, entitled "Which Words Work," Northeastern University's Dr. Walter Carl cited a Mangold, Miller and Brockway study which found only 3.4 percent of face to face word of mouth conversations are stimulated by marketing. Carl opined that true word of mouth is embedded within daily conversation, that marketers must be sensitive to the venue, participants and topics being discussed when attempting to introduce WOM efforts and that knowing how, when and where conversation occur should be considered during product development so as to leverage conversation patterns.

BIGresearch's Joe Pilotta told the audience that ROI is crippled by current measurement models, particularly the measurement of impressions which simply measure the possibility of a target audience member to see a message. He joked that the only good thing about impressions is they keep people's jobs. His point was the metrics and methods of word of mouth measurement, whether generated specifically by WOM efforts or through influence from other media, are more concrete in measuring actual behavior as it relates to the passage of a marketing message.

Clearly, word of mouth is nothing new and has been around since the first cave man grunted "feed me" to his woman. While some way call word of marketing a fad, it's also clear that, as marketing expands beyond traditional channels of distribution, the creation metrics for measuring the effect of marketing delivered through non-traditional channels is imperative. This first conference for WOMMA took the important first step in quantifying word of mouth marketing.

by Steve Hall    Jul-14-05   Click to Comment   
Topic: Industry Events, Word of Mouth   

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I applaud andy becuase he has been able to make a great association out of something that can't exist. The man has done an incredible job. I will always reside in the camp that WOM is an outcome, and can not be paid for. It appears after the equal sign in the marketing equation, but never the less.....he has done a fabulous job building the association.

Posted by: erik hauser on July 14, 2005 2:17 PM

I'm glad to see that the WOMMA group is up and running and providing legitimacy to a standalone channel of marketing much like advertising, sales promotion, PR and online is today. Bravo.

Two comments to add:
1) As a response to Erik Hauser's comments, I appreciate the purist mentality when it comes to grassroots and authentic social forces like word of mouth. I must disagree however. For centuries, word of mouth has been brokered as a powerful commercial force and has come back into popularity recently given the growing limitations of mainstream advertising. If done right, WOM works, paid or not.

2)With the formation of a trade association - my fear is word of mouth doesn't "jump the shark". A lot of trade organizations tend to build a moat for the castle of incumbents and establish handcuffs and hardline rules that each member needs to play by. Hopefully WOMMA can maintain its value as an innovator and voice of change and credibility within a marketplace that desperately needs what it's representing. Kudos to WOMMA and team on a great start.

Posted by: Sean Moffitt on July 14, 2005 3:47 PM