Yesterday, Commercial Alert's Gary Ruskin said his organization sent a letter to the FTC asking it to investigate buzz marketers, whom he claims "are perpetrating large-scale deception upon consumers by deploying buzz marketers who fail to disclose that they have been enlisted to promote products. This failure to disclose is fundamentally fraudulent and misleading." He specifically named P&G's 250,000-strong Tremor, a group made up of teenagers who talk up products to their friends.
As pointed out by Word of Mouth Marketing Association President Andy Sernovitz, Ruskin incorrectly lumps together buzz marketing with guerrilla and stealth marketing. Following the Commercial Alert release, WOMMA quickly responded with a clarification of the difference between buzz, stealth, guerilla and word of mouth methods and procided a statement of its position on word of mouth and buzz marketing which, in a nutshell, requires open, honest and full disclosure in all marketing efforts.
As word of mouth marketing spreads, lawyers, who can't keep their hands off anything, are circling the medium questioning its adherence or lack thereof to FTC guidelines. Putting it simply, Reed Smith Chairman of Advertising and Marketing Law Douglas Wood told Ad Age,"If the motivation for [an endorser] is to profit from his or her endorsement, that connection probably needs to be disclosed. But since disclosure undermines the value of buzz marketing, advertisers are in a Catch-22." That simple statement presents a gigantic problem for buzz and word of mouth marketers who, while stating they fully support disclosure, can't avoid the notion true transparency can lessen the effectiveness of this form or marketing.
UPDATE: The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has responded to the Ad Age article in Comments and clarified it's stance on word of mouth marketing on it's own site here.
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) announced today that it hit the 200-member milestone 11 months after it began accepting members, a growth rate that, according to the organization, shows word of mouth marketing has become widely recognized as an important part of the marketing mainstream. Time, shifted marketing dollars, the final demise of the :30 and growth of future conferences will tell.
Online word of mouth research firm BuzzMetrics,has been acquired by Trendum, an Internet search and linguistic analysis technology company. The tow companies hope to create global standards to measure and analyze consumer buzz.
The company will do business as BuzzMetrics and have the strategic backing of VNU, owner of ACNielsen and Nielsen Media Research. VNU is a minority shareholder in the new company. BuzzMetrics hopes the deal will build on Trendum's technology, and expand the operation through VNU's global sales, marketing and research capabilities.
While we'd all have to agree that word of mouth marketing is part of advertising and not a separate entity, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association has forged ahead with the launch of the "Word of Mouth vs. Advertising" weblog where industry experts will come together to discuss the merits, impact and relationship of word of mouth to advertising in general. WOMMA says the blog is an experiment in participatory blogging and that 50 or so industry gurus have been invited to express their viewpoints on the topic.
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."
Word of Mouth Marketing firm, BzzAgent Inc., has announce the launch of the "Hispanic BzzChannel," a new destination within BzzAgent dedicated to the US-based Hispanic Community. This channel will provide members with the opportunity to generate buzz about specially-selected products and services while providing marketers the ability to build brand evangelism within the Hispanic community. This site will be bilingual, with all content available in both English and Spanish. It can be viewed at http://hispanic.bzzagent.com.
Word of Mouth Marketing Association CEO Andy Sernovitz opened the session, "Word of Mouth Marketing: Create a WOM campaign in five easy steps," by suggesting five steps needed to make a word of mouth campaign successful:
- Find the right people
- Give them something to talk about
- Create tools to make it easy to talk about
- Participate in the conversation
- Track and measure
Sernovitz also clarified that word of mouth marketing can involve other advertising tactics (other than true word of mouth) such as buzz marketing, viral marketing, product placement, grassroots marketing, referrla programs and brand blogging.
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), the official organization for the word of mouth marketing industry has released the first set of standards for tracking and quantifying word of mouth (WOM) marketing. The standards will be be called "Measuring Word of Mouth, Volume 1."
If you're interested in viral marketing, there's a business network you might consider joining. Hosted, as is the Adrants Network, on Soflow, the Viral and Word of Mouth Network is a network for people involved or interested in viral and word of mouth marketing. Launched at the beginning of May the network already has over 300 members including some of the top minds in the field. Join here if you're interested.