Word of Mouth » Archive

You’ve heard that humans tend to be most attracted to symmetry, right? I was reminded of this last night watching The Office, as Oscar argued his case for why Hilary Swank was, in fact, attractive (but not hot). Oscar presented a segmented diagram of Swank’s symmetrical face, and explained she demonstrated “the scientific standard of koinophilia: features that are a composite average of many features.”

I admit to being attracted to symmetry, and that is exactly why I started Blabbermouth. I’ll explain…

I began my courtship of marketing at an advertising agency, practicing public relations. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: traditional marketing can be and often is effective; it just doesn’t turn me on. I’m simply not attracted to it because of its lack of symmetry.

Traditional marketing (take advertising or PR, for example) is asymmetrical: the marketer is marketing AT the consumer. This provides plenty of opportunity to influence and persuade, but no opportunity to listen or adjust.

Word of Mouth marketing, when done right, is symmetry at its best. Instead of marketing AT, we get to market WITH our consumers. This is risky for some, because it means letting go of control of the message. You have to have a lot of confidence in your product or service to do that.  This is also why I can only take clients with products I believe in. I can’t let go of the message if I think it will make you (in turn, me) look bad. So, if you become my client (and I hope there are a few of you), you should know that I’m a big fan of your work. 

If you have the luxury of letting go, the rewards are immeasurable. You get to not only start a dialogue, but to participate in it. You get to listen and respond; you can defend and define your product when it’s misunderstood or improve it when you learn from a consumer how it could be better. That’s symmetrical marketing, a give and a take; and not only is that attractive, it’s hot.

Theatre companies have been harnessing the power of Word of Mouth for centuries. Most theatre-goers are familiar with the curtain speech that sounds a little like, “If you liked what you saw here tonight, please tell your friends… If you didn’t like it, tell them you saw Cats.” See, they get the most basic principal of WOM that a lot of businesses look past: It’s free and easy to ask your loyalists to tell their friends about you.

However, there is a dilemma to posing that ask during the curtain speech of a limited run theatre production – it may be too late to gain any traction. Childsplay, an Arizona theatre company for young audiences, is trying to get a step ahead of the problem.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Childsplay’s “Friends & Family” night for its upcoming production of Busytown. They gathered about thirty Childsplay loyalists to their Tempe rehearsal hall to meet with actors, designers, the choreographer, the music director, and the director. They were given a WAY behind the scenes peek in to the production weeks before opening night. But, most importantly, they were given the opportunity to be a part of Busytown through their early participation.

Childsplay understands that without their audiences there would be no reason to show up for work. So, instead of waiting for the lights to come up to include them, they give them ownership from the start. That’s what Word of Mouth is all about. If you give me a sense of ownership of your product, then I have a vested interest in your success. That gives me extra motivation to spread the word for you.

By giving the audiences a sneak peek of Busytown, Childsplay gave these audience members ownership of the production. They got to ask questions, get to know the play, and are now armed with information to share with their friends with enough time to build some momentum. They even got to learn one of the dance numbers.

And, of course, the curtain speech happened… but long before the curtain went up. Rosemary Walsh, Childsplay’s Marketing Director and all-around wonderful human being, made it very clear that we had invited them there for a reason. She told them that without their help, there is no Childsplay and asked them to spread the word and hand out free passes for the show. These Childsplay evangelists were ready and willing to help. All she had to do was ask.

 If you’re interested in attending a future “Friends & Family” event at Childsplay, let me know and I’ll put Rosemary in touch with you. You can also become a Facebook fan of Childsplay.

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