Ads are hot but word-of-mouth is hotter

Updated on Sep 15, 2008 10:19 PM IST

What would you buy? A brand which you recall with all its funny ads and good-looking models, or one that your friend recommends as a great product? Anita Sharan finds out.

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HT Image
Hindustan Times | ByAnita Sharan, Mumbai

What would you buy? A brand which you recall with all its funny ads and good-looking models, or one that your friend recommends as a great product?

The answer is often the latter, but strangely, it takes some telling for marketing experts to realise and act on that suitably. A recent study by Zenith Optimedia finds that functional features and benefits are key to generating recommendations, while brand reputation is important in some categories.

Attractive advertising is rated low on importance in advocacy — which is a technical expression for what you and I often call ‘word-of-mouth’ in his book, ‘Ultimate Question,’ loyalty expert Fred Reichheld says that advocacy is the most powerful marketing tool.

“The trust factor is highest when you, as a consumer, get product endorsements from people you know,” says Saunak Ghosh, group head, strategic resource division, Zenith Optimedia, the Publicis Group media buying agency. The agency recently conducted an in-depth advocacy survey across Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, covering a sample of 1,600 consumers in the top two socio-economic categories (SEC A and SEC B), in the age band of 21-45 years, to study the increasing importance of advocacy in India.

Other ‘touchpoint’ studies ZenithOptimedia had already conducted did point to this trend. The study covered 11 product categories - chocolates, tea, coffee, shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, computers, DVD players, refrigerators, TVs and airconditioners – and more than 100 brands.

Fast moving consumer goods (FMCGs) are recommended mostly by shopkeepers, while consumer durables are recommended mostly by friends and family. The incidences of recommendations are higher for durables than for FMCGs.

“Our study confirms that advocacy is important as an ROI (return on investment) metric,” says Ghosh. “And advocacy is driven by brand reputation, experience and communication” - though not necessarily in that order. According to the study’s findings, brand reputation plays an important role, but product experience is a more significant driver in advocacy.

However, the study finds that leader brands (with strong reputations) garner higher advocacy.

The study also finds that brand communication, while an important advocacy driver, trails product experience.

However,consumers who recommend brands draw their language of advocacy from advertising messages. For example, in the case of shampoos, “makes hair silky” or “gives hair shine” or “effective dandruff control” are advocacy lines directly drawn from advertising.

It is not for nothing that they call advertisers the ‘hidden persuaders.’

In the case of toothpastes, on a five-point scale, “removes bad breath” and “fights against cavity and tooth decay” top the list, though “attractive advertising” is way down the list.

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