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“Give people an experience and they will tell their friends about it,” Martin Oetting

“Give people an experience and they will tell their friends about it,” Martin Oetting

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Since 2000, Martin has dealt with word-of-mouth, viral marketing, and how to make advertising and communication more efficient by tapping into informal communication among customers.

He leads the agency Trnd, an online community whose members choose the projects they want to participate in.  He just landed in Spain and we interviewed him during the Rethink conference in Barcelona.

Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tool. How to get people to talk about your brand?
There is a number of methods but the most important thing is to think “how do we make our product something important to talk about”.  This may sounds boring but in the future, marketing and product development will work even closer together to ensure that their products have something worth talking about to other people.

A very simple way but not always possible is by putting an external network effect into the product, making it more useful. For example, the Nike+ system with the ipod enables you to track your runs and share them online. There is nothing much to talk about running shoes but adding this feature makes running a whole experience that can be shared. The running device becomes a talking device.

Another way is via relationships. When companies begin to listen to people and tell them that their opinion counts, these people feel proud and will be more  willing to be  involved in your product. The more involved they are, the more they will talk about it… Make them feel important and get them involved.

Same application for events: when you organise an event, the same thought process applies and relationships can help you design, get attendance and drive the message across.

So involvement is key to get participation which, in turn, generates word-of-mouth?
Yes. Imagine a company recruiting people for a research group. At the end, they give them $50 and tell them “this is important, don´t tell anyone”… On the other hand, imagine a marketing manager who talks to 50 persons, tells them that if they like the product, they can talk to their friends about it. And leave their email so the company can keep them posted about the product. Then a few months later, the company writes to them and tells them what they did with what these people had told them. The effect? These people will tell a lot of people about their involvement in your product.

In events, when you make the effort to put something together for people to come, you should take some mileage out of it. Get your customers to help design the event, define the content, and reward them with a real event with their inputs. They will definitely come and be proud of the event.

But how do you get people to remember or talk about your event or product? And especially to get them to say the things you want them to say?
This is one of the challenges of advertising, which can be a waste of money as no one knows if the concept will work beforehand. And if it works, you have to know what it does to your brand. Advertising can generate word-of-mouth, i.e. get people talking but they could be talking about what a funny story it is, rather than about your product.

Today, people don´t talk about their products anymore. I was in a workshop of a shampoo company and asked the product manager what the product does better than the competitors´. She goes on and on about product positioning, packaging… until I got her to tell me what the product does: “it makes your hair softer”… That´s it! Product experience is key to word-of-mouth. We should talk about the experience that people can communicate to their friends. Give them an experience and people will talk about it.

Events should have a focus about what they mean to communicate. If there is nothing worth saying and you invent something, it won´t be convincing. It won´t be shown in the decoration; the event experience won´t transmit your message. If you don´t know what to talk about, others won´t either.

You speak about open platforms which engage consumers, get their opinions. What do you do when something bad is posted?
Firstly, companies don´t control what people think about their products. People make their conclusions through the experience they had with the product. Brand managers have to understand that their brands or products don´t exist unless they exist in the minds of the consumers. So, it´s good if someone is talking about your product.

Secondly, when someone says something bad about the product, get someone from the company to contact this person and find out what´s wrong and try to solve it. Don´t take out the post, reply to it. If you take it down, people will think that the company is scared.

Products need to deliver what they promise, and work on their relationships with their fans.  Work with them, get them on board and they will be in the marketplace for you.

Like brand ambassadors?
Yes, make them talk to others about you.

You say every brand has fans. How do you get fans?
I think if a brand does not have any fans, then there is nothing about them. There are people for everything: some like to talk about cars, technology gadgets, things their mothers gave them… It´s in our genes to talk about products and brands. Say, you have a call centre and people call to talk about your product, even though it is for a complaint… if they bother to call, wait on the queue and then give you their opinion, then they are your fan.

About events, I have a company who asked me what they should do for their fifth anniversary. I told them to invite those customers who called them most often and complained the most: invite them and thank them. They won´t believe what they are receiving but they will think that this is the coolest company ever!

Keep an open eye… this is what we try to do. We give people the chance to interact with brands, be part of marketing rather than have marketing thrown at them. If a campaign is interesting to them, then they write in and say “let me in” and will be talking about their involvement.

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