John Moore writes about a study conducted by BzzAgent discussing which group is best suited for Word-of-Mouth advertising, Heavy Loyalists or Light Loyalists. I always find studies on WOM advertising fascinating because in reality it really is one of those things you can’t control. If someone finds your product or service good enough to talk about they will. If they don’t, they won’t.
Many times marketers get too caught up in how they can achieve WOM advertising without even putting their focus into the product. Great products many times have a way of speaking for themselves. That doesn’t mean that we should pay attention to how we should get the word out about them, but getting the word out on a shoddy product does more damage than we think.
For example, Nokia spent so much time developing hype for their N-Gage that when it came out and everyone found out how horrible it was it killed any chance for decent WOM advertising for their latest edition, which is far superior. The newest N-Gage is the type of thing that geeks would be more than willing to talk about on their blogs and therefore increasing the viral spread of the technology. However, mention “N-Gage” to anyone and they will cringe simply because the first version is stuck in their head. The “idea” of N-Gage is not a pleasant one.
Back to the heavy loyalist vs. light loyalist issue. Two easy examples to think of are Apple and Linux which definitely have heavy loyalists followings. The problem with these heavy loyalists is that they mostly come from the geek demographic and are unable to effectively reach a company’s desired market. Ever have an Apple fanatic try to convince you to switch? It can be intimidating to say the least. Their WOM advertising means almost nothing for major marketshare. However, get an average person to switch to a Mac or Linux and have them extol its virtues to others and you have a better chance of successful WOM advertising. Not everyone has the time it takes to be a heavy loyalists and are too willing to switch to a better alternative so its the mindshare of the light loyalists that is the important piece to the puzzle.
However, like I said at the beginning, gaining that mindshare is not something you can really strategize for. To say it just happens would be silly of me, but also to say you can plan on it would be just as silly. Again it just goes back to offering a quality product that makes people want to talk about it.