Harnessing the Power of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

August 18, 2015 by

Recently, I found myself on a trip for work that took me across the U.S. During the plane ride, I met an Army sergeant who was about to retire in a year and was working on his own small business. He told me that his business idea—a mobile phone app—was going to start out servicing his hometown area. He already had the programmers working on the app and he already had a target audience in mind, but he wanted to know more about how to market it during the product’s launch.

This immediately reminded me of the final paper I wrote for IMC 612 (Audience Insight).  For that paper, I chose to write about the power of electronic word-of-mouth marketing (e-WOMM) and how to use it to launch new products.

As many of us know, a significant number of new products fail. This could be due to a variety of factors such as a poorly designed product or a poorly designed marketing program.  However, if a product is designed well, meets the needs of the target audience, and is in demand, then a business needs to effectively break through the clutter and communicate the product/brand information to the target audience.

As I discovered when writing that final paper, word-of-mouth (WOM) is an effective tool to communicate this product information to the target audience. WOM involves consumers sharing information amongst each other whenever they are happy or dissatisfied with a product. Typically, traditional WOM refers to consumers physically talking to each other to share the information. e-WOM specifically involves consumers sharing this same information via the Internet through e-mail and social media. Businesses can benefit from this WOM because:

  1. Consumers perceive this WOM information as more credible when it comes from other consumers (as opposed to advertising which comes from the business)
  2. WOM (especially e-WOM) incurs very little monetary expense
  3. WOM leads to effective targeting because consumers will more likely share the product information with friends, family, and other acquaintances who have similar interests
  4. Through e-WOM specifically, information can be quickly spread to a large group of people

After discussing these points with the man on the plane, I told him how he could generate and manage e-WOM. First, I told him to become very familiar with the social media platforms that his target audience uses. Each social media platform is capable of different things, and each platform attracts a different crowd. Next, I told him to use these social media platforms (and other internet tools):

  1. To give his consumers something to talk about (i.e. good content)
  2. To create communities within his target audience and to connect them
  3. To work with influential groups/people that would interest his target audience
  4. To create advocate programs
  5. To study consumer feedback
  6. To engage consumers in open conversation
  7. To involve consumers in marketing projects

Then, after pointing out how to generate and manage e-WOMM, I talked about when the best time was to use WOMM tactics. When I was putting together that final paper for IMC 612, I discovered that using e-WOMM prior to the launch of a product was much more effective at enhancing product awareness and increasing the adoption of new products than using e-WOMM after the launch of a product or not using it at all.

Prior to the connectivity and speed of the Internet, conducting WOMM before a product launch was not as feasible. In fact, traditionally what would happen was that a product would be released, consumers would purchase it, and then consumers would talk about it. Now, however, the Internet has allowed businesses to efficiently share information about the product prior to its release and consumers can start having conversations with each other about it. In fact, consumers don’t even have to be on the same continent anymore to have these conversations!

Finally, I pointed out to the man on the plane that WOMM should not be the only marketing communications tool utilized for his product launch. It is very effective, but it should be incorporated with other marketing tools.

Creating Content on the Go

August 3, 2015 by

Enlight

As marketers, we are often responsible for creating new content that is visually appealing. I recently stumbled upon an app called Enlight that allows users to edit photos on their iPhone or iPad. Enlight has several attractive features that you can find in other apps, but combines them into one easy to use app. I like to think of it as PhotoShop for your phone. While the app does cost $3.99 in the app store, it is well worth the cost! This app is great for people who work with social media and those who work on the creative side of marketing. Some of the features include:

  • Filters
  • Adding decals and text to photos
  • An “Insta Fit” feature for those photos that won’t normally fit
  • Frames and collages
  • Paint and drawing effects
  • Reshaping effects to alter the image and create some abstract art
  • Cropping, refitting, and adjusting the exposure, colors, and clarity

Here are a few examples of work from the Enlight website:

Enlight DecalsEnlight Painting Enlight Cropping

Those are just some of the features available with Enlight. This app really comes in handy when you’re traveling for work or don’t have access to a computer and need to create a new photo to use for a post or advertisement. I definitely recommend it for all you Instagram lovers out there! Whether your job requires you to work with graphics and design or if you just love to share and edit photos, Enlight is a great tool you should add to your app collection!

Learning from failure

July 29, 2015 by

I’ll be 50 years young in the fall and am in my second year of the program. Starting back to school was a pretty daunting idea for me. It’s been several years since I’ve had to study and write papers so I wasn’t sure I could actually do it. I challenged myself to work hard and try to finish the program with a 4.0 or as close as I could come to it. So far, I’m on track to do just that; however, the course I just completed (my 7th) not only served as a great learning experience about IMC, it also served as a learning experience for dealing with potential failure.

I’ve typically done well throughout all of my classes. My goal is always to get full points for the weekly discussion questions and not having many points taken off for the weekly papers as well as the final papers. In the class I just finished, however, I had a major blow when I received a grade of 4 out of 15 on one of my weekly papers. I was truly devastated because this wasn’t what I was used to and wasn’t what I expected out of myself. I even cried when I got the grade and was embarrassed to tell anyone. I felt like I had failed myself and let the people who support me down. Not necessarily because of the grade, but because I had made a major mistake when writing the paper. I didn’t pay close enough attention to what I was doing and was hurrying to get my paper written. I was tired, a bit overwhelmed and just wanted to get it out of the way. I chose the wrong type of research paper to discuss resulting in the low score.

I talked to the professor about how disappointed I was in myself and got some great encouragement. I also talked to some of my support system and, after a couple days, realized it wasn’t the end of the world. I needed to just take a step back and a couple days off from school work so I could get back on track. I hadn’t really taken a total break from studying and school in over a year and I was just burned out. Luckily this happened on a week when there wasn’t a paper due on Monday so it was a little bit easier to do, so I took the entire weekend off from school. I didn’t read or write anything for two days other than checking the discussion board to see if I needed to respond to any classmates from the weekly discussion responses.

Why am I sharing this experience? I have a feeling that most of us who are in this program are overachievers and put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do well. I am definitely one of those people. What I learned with this (and hope you can too) is that sometimes we need to give ourselves a break. We need to step back, take a break and let our minds and bodies catch up with where we are. Getting a low score on something isn’t the end of the world in this program. It’s the way we learn about the program and about ourselves. It’s definitely a wake-up call that maybe you need to change something, whether that be how you’re doing your research, needing to ask more questions of the professor about what they expect or want, or just taking a little breather from school. Be sure to listen to yourself during this process and know when you need to take that step back. It will make you a better student and give you better insight on what to do or not to do next. By the way, I learned from my mistake and was still able to get an “A” in the class.

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5 Tips for a Successful Fall Semester

July 27, 2015 by

I hope you are all enjoying your summer and getting excited about the upcoming fall semester!  At the risk of appearing to rush into the 2015-2016 school year, I wanted to share a few tips to start thinking about to ensure success this fall.

1.  Order your textbooks early

There’s nothing worse than waiting on your textbook to arrive while your first assignment’s due date is looming (okay, there are several worse things that can happen, but just thinking about this does make me sweat).  Avoid the stress by ordering your textbooks early using your preferred method, and thank yourself when it arrives prior to the first day of class.

*Hint: the deadline to use financial aid for course books is August 4! Details on STAR.

2.  Explore eCampus

Once your courses have been made available on eCampus, take some time to browse the course content, messages from your professors, and posted resources.  Then, read the syllabus.  And after that, read it again.  Familiarize yourself with the intended learning outcomes, assignment schedule, and grading process, and take time to brainstorm what you will be able to bring to the conversation.  Entering a class with a firm understanding of the course structure is a sure-fire way to begin the semester on the right foot.

3. Create a schedule

Life is a balancing act, and some elements hold more weight than others.  Juggling work, school, family life, etc. will require some prioritization and much organization.  A new year is a new opportunity to approach the semester with a plan.  Consider all due dates listed for each course and develop a cadence that suits your lifestyle.  Leave room for flexibility and the inevitable fact that things come up, but do your best to commit to your plan.

4.  Set goals

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”  -Tony Robbins

I don’t think I need to stress the importance of this one.  Setting goals is crucial in attaining success.  This semester, decide what you want to get out of the courses you’re taking.  Write these goals down, or perhaps even mention them in your introductory discussion post.  Documenting goals is the surest way to keep yourself accountable for them. Whether it’s to achieve a particular grade, apply concepts to your current work, or bring meaningful insight to the table, be sure that your goals meet the SMART criteria:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Time-bound

5.  Make connections

During the first week of class, be sure to carefully read through your peers’ introductions and draw any connections you can, and share enough about yourself to give others the opportunity to do the same.  Finding common ground with those you’ll be working with for nine weeks is an excellent way to lay a solid foundation for future discussions.  Thoughtfully drawing back to references made in the introductory forum will surely enhance the conversation and pave the way for networking beyond the confines of the [virtual] classroom.  Apply this same concept with your professors, as they continue to be excellent resources long after the semester’s end.

What advice do you have for easing into a new semester?  Share your tips here!

A Few Final Tips for the WVU IMC Program

July 15, 2015 by

kat shanahan wvu imc reed college of media

 

I feel like I’m forgetting something. I keep reaching for my computer thinking that I have copy to write, an ad to design, or a budget to adjust. The reality is that I’m not missing anything. My final IMC campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is uploaded and in the mail.

I’d be lying if I told you submitting the campaign was all sunshine and puppies. I needed a reality check after I submitted it because I was worried that someone was going to steal the mailbox…yes…the entire mailbox. Putting everything you have into a campaign for roughly nine weeks takes a toll on you. I’m still working on processing the fact that I’m actually done, but as I reflect on my 3 years (90 weeks of class) in the program I wanted to share what I learned.

  1. Plan, but don’t over plan. I LOVE to plan.  I’m the kind of person that enjoys planning their free time. When I started the program I went through and planned out my entire schedule. I picked and scheduled all of my classes including my electives. While planning my academic future was beneficial, as I moved through the program my areas of interest changed. As I learned more about different areas of IMC I wished I could go back and change some of my electives. I will say it’s a good idea take your electives when they’re offered (because they’re not offered every term), but keep in mind that your interests may change over the course of the program.
  2. Remember why you’re doing this. Prior to enrolling in the WVU IMC program I told a friend of mine that I would never get a master’s degree. As I started to change my mind I looked at the WVU IMC curriculum and my mouth started watering. I fell in love with the content and immediately made connections between what I was doing at work and what was being offered in classes. I started this program because I wanted to grow as a professional. I didn’t start the program to earn As in all of my classes. It can be easy to get wrapped up in grades and making sure you get a 10/10 on discussion posts, but that’s not why we are here. Think back to your undergraduate days. Do you remember every single assignment in which you didn’t earn the grade you wanted? You’ll forget about grades, but you won’t forget about putting in the work and getting everything you can out of your time in the program.
  3. Get to know your professors: When I met Prof. Sader for the first time at INTEGRATE 2015 he told me that I worried too much. He was 100% correct. He also told me that he was there to be a mentor for me and not just give me a grade. He encouraged me to reach out with questions or problems. Professors actually want to help you grow as a professional. I didn’t take advantage of that enough while I was in the program. They want to get to know you and help you learn everything you can. Take advantage of that because you may not be able to find those resources elsewhere.
  4. Go to INTEGRATE! This is a big one. My entire graduate experience changed when I went to INTEGRATE. The second I stepped on campus I felt like a Mountaineer. You can’t get that feeling unless you visit campus. INTEGRATE is a fantastic conference. You get to meet classmates, build relationships, and talk to professors and program administrators, while hearing from amazing industry professionals. The first year I went I traveled by myself and knew no one in the program. Now, I’m in a book club with WVU IMC alumni and get to talk marketing with them every month. You never know who you’ll get to meet and connect with, so take advantage of it!
  5. Fill out course evaluations. I know this sounds like a plug on behalf of the program, but I promise you it’s not. My life motto is that I can’t complain about things I have the power to change but decide not to. So I either stop complaining or step up and do something about it. We have the power to implement positive change in the program, but change cannot happen if we don’t use the right channels.
  6. Develop your voice and personal brand. I’ve already shared my thoughts on personal branding, so I won’t bore you with that again. But, I will say that this is the time to experiment with your voice and your style. Use this as an opportunity show your style in a professional way.
  7. Develop and trust your process. In the program you’ll write roughly 99 discussion posts, 400 responses, 70 papers and 1 enormous campaign. Start to develop and trust your writing process. This took me a long time to develop and I’m still working on it. But here’s what I know
    1. I need to spit out a first draft before doing anything else (The Ugly First Draft if you’re an Ann Handley fan, which you should be.)
    2. I need to re-read things the next day
    3. Most of the time, I get a second opinion
    4. I need to cut myself off – If allowed, I will read and read and read until the absolute last minute. At some point, I need to stop overanalyzing and hit submit

I’m sure if I sat here long enough I could come up with 100 more things to keep in mind, but that I think it’s time to wrap things up.  If you’ve made it this far I want to say thank you. Thank you for reading my thoughts over the past few years and thank you for sharing yours. To all of you in the program – best of luck. You can absolutely do this and you will be a stronger marketer for it. Reach out to alumni if you need anything, we are nerdy marketers who love to connect with students in the program.

All the best,

Kat

Take Time for Yourself

July 14, 2015 by

Hi everyone. It’s hard to believe summer is here and flying by! It’s also hard to believe that I’m almost at the end of my 7th course in the IMC program. Last night I realized just how much I’m looking forward to the break in between summer and fall sessions and that’s what this post is about.

Working a full-time job, having a home and family can sometimes be daunting and takes a lot of time and energy. Add a master’s program with its reading, research and writing papers to that mix and it can become overwhelming at times. One thing I’ve learned (and it took me about 3 classes) was that you need to set aside some time for yourself each week.

I typically take one evening off through the week and one day on the weekends from reading or writing. I might check the discussion board and write a quick response to a classmate or see if the professor has posted anything in the main area, but those two times a week are set aside to do other things, such as visiting with family, paying bills (not relaxing), and watching TV, going to bed early, whatever it is that makes me happy.

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Saturdays are my day off from doing more than checking the discussion board and writing quick responses. I typically try to do that while I’m having my morning coffee so the rest of my day can be spent doing other things. For me, working around the house or going for a ride on the motorcycle or four wheeling are the things I fill my Saturday with. It’s just enough of a break in the week that I can get my head back into studying on Sunday afternoons/evenings and then starting the next week’s assignments.

The other thing that I have found by doing this is it makes it easier for my family and friends. I’m fortunate to have a great support group, but people know when I’m available and when I’m not. Obviously, if there is an emergency and someone needs me, I would go, but otherwise, everyone knows if they want to plan something fun for us then the days to do it are Wednesday evenings and Saturdays.

When I first started the program, I spent every available moment outside of working and before going to bed at night reading and researching for class assignments. I felt that if I took any time to do something fun, I was going to let myself down in the program. What I have found is that by taking the evening in the week and the day on the weekends has actually made me more focused on assignments and I am enjoying the entire process more. I know everyone is different and will find their own way of going through the program, but my routine is something I have found makes it work better for me.

Understanding Consumer Habits

July 9, 2015 by

One of my reoccurring goals is to read two books every month—one book that will help me professionally and one book that will entertain me. This last month I read a book called Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products by Nir Eyal. This book was extremely applicable to marketing, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts on it.

hookcyclebook

As marketing students, we know that consumer habits can be a huge competitive advantage. Habits are acquired behavior patterns and are formed by performing an action on a frequent, regular basis. Since they are done so often, habits sometimes become automatic and don’t require much thought. Many companies—especially those selling products with short re-purchase cycles—attempt to get consumers to form a positive habit or a regular routine with one of their products.

…So, what formula are the successful companies using to build habits and routines with their customers?

The book Hooked covers the 4 main steps of building habits with consumers. The author calls these steps the “Hook Cycle”: trigger, action, reward, and investment. A consumer must go through these steps multiple times in order to form a habit. A trigger can be any external or internal que that motivates a consumer to buy/try a product or service. An action is what behavior the company wants the consumer to do—this can range from simply clicking a “Find Out More!” button to actually buying or using the product.  Once a consumer performs the action, a reward of some sort is expected—such as a positive experience. Then after the reward, a consumer may choose to invest more time or money into the product or service.  If a consumer begins to invest, it increases the odds that the consumer will go through another round of the “Hook Cycle.” The book goes into great detail to explain these steps—it’s definitely a good read! (Also, I wanted to explain that consumers must positivity benefit from going through the Hook Cycle and building a habit—otherwise, this could become more of an addiction and could be considered unethical. Remember the main objective should aim at building positive, trusting, and engaging relationships with customers).

hookcycle

I feel that this information is very applicable to marketing. A marketing campaign for a product or service should be designed with these steps in mind. For example, marketing efforts are extremely applicable during the trigger phase. Marketing tools such as advertisements, commercials, free samples/trials, and social media posts can create triggers, which are especially important if it is new product that is being introduced. These exposures of the product are external cues and need to be designed to motivate and/or remind people to try or use the product.

Another aspect where marketing could be integrated into the cycle is the reward phase. Brand positioning and marketing efforts should communicate what the reward is: social status, a fun experience, saving money, decreasing boredom, etc. Marketers should know their customers well enough to know what types of rewards will be useful and relevant….Do you have any other examples of how marketing efforts could be integrated into this “Hook Cycle?”

Hello from the City that Never Sleeps

July 2, 2015 by

Hello everyone!

Hope everyone is having an amazing week so far. We are a few weeks away from the end of the first summer session, the 4th of July holiday is coming up and overall summer is officially upon us. Time for some good R&R, and vacation time with family and friends. I personally am looking forward to spending the 4th of July weekend with friends in Lake Tahoe. I hear its really beautiful down there, and this would be my first time in San Francisco so I’m looking forward to the experience.

Before I go any further, let me introduce myself. My name is Yvonne Unubun, I live in New York and work in digital marketing at an ad agency called Razorfish, as an account manager. I have a Bachelor’s in Communications from City University of New York’s City College with a concentration in advertising and public relations. In my downtime, which is scarce these days with school, you can find me catching up on some of my favorite TV shows – Nashville, HTGAWM, Grey’s Anatomy, or exploring New York City and the many attractions and fun things it has to offer all year around.

YUnubun_USOpen    YUnubun_BrooklynBridge

Top – bottom: US Open, Walking the Brooklyn Bridge on a sunny summer day.

I am currently in my third class of the IMC program and so far I’ve taken Introduction to IMC, Brand Equity Management and right now I’m taking market research and analysis. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I began the program in January of this year. I had originally taken one class at a different IMC program here in New York, but seeing as the program was in a 100% classroom setting it was really tough having to leave work early to commute to class, and then begin the journey back home. Three classes in I have to say although convenient in the sense of not having to physically be in a classroom, online learning is serious business. Between the weekly readings recommended by the professors, reading chapters from the assigned text, weekly discussion posts/responses, and weekly assignments there’s a lot to keep you on your toes throughout the week. However with time you are able to figure out a routine that works for you and your schedule.

As a student ambassador, I look forward to sharing my experiences throughout the program with you all. Also, I’ll be sharing interesting articles, industry news, outstanding marketing campaigns or fun facts about brands, and companies. Feel free to reach out with any questions or suggestions of what you would like for me to blog about.

You can reach me at Yvonne.Unubun@gmail.com.

Cheers from Cleveland

July 2, 2015 by

Hi, everyone! My name is Rachael Moses, and I am a new student ambassador/blogger for the IMC program.  I am currently taking my 4th and 5th classes of the program, and I’m so excited to begin sharing my experiences.

To start, I’ll share a bit about me.  I grew up in Lewis Center, Ohio, a town not far from Columbus, where much of my family still lives.  I am an avid yogi, frequent traveler, outdoor enthusiast, amateur runner, and mom to Steve the one-eyed cat.  I am actually in the process of becoming a yoga teacher and training for my first marathon (wish me luck)!

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I studied marketing and psychology at The Ohio State University and graduated with a BSBA in May of 2013.  While I was in school, I studied abroad in London, was active in the American Marketing Association, worked at The Apple Store, and went to every single OSU football game I possibly could.  I was lucky to have been able to take a semester off to travel Europe with my best friend; in eight weeks we made it to sixteen countries, and I haven’t been able to stand still since!  I also managed to sneak in a few internships while I was in school, and one led me to where I am today.

After graduation (and a quick cross-country road trip), I moved to Cleveland to work for American Greetings as a Marketing Analyst.  I’ve been here for two years now, and am currently an associate on the Target Strategic Account Management team.  In this role, I manage the planning and execution of Mother’s Day and Christmas cards in Target stores nationwide.  I’ve been so fortunate to work for such a creative company so early in my career. And I’ll tell ya, this city does not get enough credit.  I’ve had an incredible experience relocating to Cleveland, and having LeBron up here definitely doesn’t hurt!

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Since taking my very first marketing class in high school, I have been enthralled by the subject.  Around the same time, I also developed an enormous interest in the study of psychology, and was fascinated by the thought of these two fields intersecting.  I couldn’t get enough of books like Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and Why We Buy by Paco Underhill.  Consumer behavior quickly became my focus, and I’ve been passionate about the study ever since.  This interest led me to study these topic in college, where I received an impeccable education that prepared me very well for the business world.  But now I’m ready to really make a splash.  I discovered quickly that I yearned to further my education, but in all honesty an MBA never called to me.  Researching alternatives is what led me to the IMC program, and the rest, as they say, is history.  I took IMC 610 this past January, and have thoroughly enjoyed my experience thus far.  The knowledge I have gained has already allowed me to stand out amongst my peers in the workplace and make meaningful contributions to the business.  This program has already opened up several exciting opportunities for me, and I am so grateful to have found it.

I am thrilled to be a representative of the IMC student body, and I welcome any and all questions, comments, anecdotes or anything else you’d like to share. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Alright y’all – let’s do this!

Hello from the Hills of West Virginia

June 24, 2015 by

Hi everyone, my name is Pam Shriver and I’m currently in my 7th class in the IMC program. It’s my pleasure to be chosen as a student ambassador for the program.

To tell you a little about myself, I grew up in a small town in WV called Wadestown. The town itself has 11 houses in it (10 now because they tore one down!). My family owns a 244 acre farm and after having been gone for 23 years I now own a house on the farm and live there with my 2 dogs — a Great Dane named Diesel and a Yorkie named Bella. My boyfriend lives with us on weekends and is slowly moving in. My mom, brother and his wife and 101 year old grandma all live in their own houses on the farm as well. We raise beef cattle and my brother owns a farm supply business. I have a nephew who is married and has one son.

I graduated from Shepherd University (College back then) in 1997 with a Bachelors in Political Science. I worked in a variety of different jobs and owned a couple businesses during my 20 year marriage. When that ended a few years ago and I needed to go back into the work force, I was honored to work with the Alzheimer’s Association of WV and now with WVU Healthcare. My current position is as a Public Relations Specialist for Rosenbaum Family House (a home-away-from-home for adult patients and their families) and Volunteer Services. I love my job. Every day is different and I get to make a difference in people’s lives which is a great feeling.

I started the IMC program in 2014 and look forward to graduating in May of 2016. I wasn’t sure about the program when I started but the more classes I’ve taken, the more I am enjoying the process. I like that each class is structured the same but also very different. Even though you aren’t able to sit and talk across a table with fellow classmates or your professor the interaction you are able to have with each other is easy, beneficial and makes you feel like you really know each other. Our professors are all “in the business” and are able to help us with whatever we may need. The feedback they give on our assignments is thorough and well thought out which helps making the next assignment easier.

Studying in a totally online course is definitely a challenge but it’s well worth it. The benefits I’ve already seen in my current job are immense. I wouldn’t trade this program for a classroom setting. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have and definitely will help in any way I can. Feel free to contact me here or via my personal email. I look forward to hearing from you!

Pam


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