Marketing Doesn't ONLY Happen Online

IStock_000004365898XSmallAccording to a recent report by the Keller Faye Group, less than 10% of word of mouth conversations happen online.

Think about that for a second. We spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about Social Media Marketing, which is — let’s face it — largely an online phenomenon.  We perform blogger monitoring/outreach, Twitter monitoring/outreach, Facebook and LinkedIn and Yahoo Answers monitoring/outreach … It all feels right.  We can measure the clicks.

Yet according to the research, which dates back to 2006, “online” is NOT where consumers are talking about brands.

90% of all conversations Americans have about products/services and brands taking place offline is a startling statistic.  The important implication for marketers is that brands cannot ignore the offline conversations people are having.  Brands cannot rely solely on online social media marketing to spark conversations.  It’s another opportunity, not the only opportunity.

What does this mean to the modern marketer, who may still be rubbing the Social Media faery dust from their weary eyes?  What makes up the OTHER 90% of the word-of-mouth opportunity?

It’s not hard to figure out.  It’s what you USED to care about: traditional media relations, direct and online mail campaigns, advertising, events, guerilla marketing, etc.

Some Social Media Marketeing zealots would have marketers believe that the online opportunity represents the New Normal.  More rational and experienced marketers understand that Social Media Marketing was only ever meant to be ADDITIVE, not a REPLACEMENT for their “traditional” approaches.

(An exciting and compelling, even transformative addition — but an addition nonetheless.)

Think about some of the brands you respect most online.  Now recount to yourself how much of their marketing you might notice in the offline world.

Chances are they are working their asses off in what they rightfully view as a “multichannel” world.

Posted on: August 26, 2010 at 8:42 am By Todd Defren
13 Responses to “Marketing Doesn't ONLY Happen Online”


  • Lindsey says:

    You hit the nail on the head with this one. It can’t be all about the new and exciting online approaches; there needs to be a balance between new and old. The “multichannel” world you mentioned is exactly what every marketer needs to cater to. Many of the brands I follow in the social media world, I didn’t know about before seeing their offline marketing aspects. The online “phenomenon” needs to have balance with the offline world.

  • I believe the researchers overlooked a critical fact about online conversations – they are rarely about brands but of beliefs. Consider that traditional media was always in the hands of advertisers and newscasters, therefore the share of voice of brands was much higher. With social media, consumers finally have a larger share of voice – why would they expend it talking about brands when they would rather talk of beliefs, emotions, lifestyles etc. The brand noise is dying down because there are more important things to talk about. It is up to brands to plug into these conversations (that are obviously not about them) and remain relevant to who they believe is their consumer base. Brands have to start aligning themselves to consumer conversations. The research agency should have tailored the research to identify the conversations that preclude / benefit brands and if brand owners are taking hold of those opportunities.

  • Scott meis says:

    “Multichannel” certainly nails it Todd. With the current level of online brand saturation rising minute-by-minute, so rises our marketing challenge to continually find new online and offline channels to connect our target audience with the right content at the right time. As others have mentioned, those trigger points are often incredibly hard to predict. Content that compels someone to churn up conversation over drinks with friends or while out at the dog park is pure gold and rare to come by. Thus, it’s a challenge for all of us to continue to push the creative boundaries for finding balance points that will move people from pure consumption to chatter. Now, all that being said, I’d love to revisit this statistic in 3-5 years and see how things have shifted. Let’s not kid ourselves, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of creative word-of-mouth potential at this point.

  • Jeff Bullas says:

    Hi Todd
    Yes, I certainly think that the social media zealots can drink to much of their own kool aid.
    Email marketing is still one of the best ways to spread word of mouth,in fact some of the top bloggers best marketing power is via their email database eg Darren Rowse, Social Media Examiner and John Chow. A survey last year actually showed that email marketing was still the preferred marketing method by CMO’s in their marketing plans for 2010.
    Integrating social media is something that I have been experimenting with to good effect.
    Yes, social media is just another channel but what I like about it is the increased acceleration, speed and reduced friction that social media brings to ‘World Of Mouth’ by the way Todd… Great Post!! Cheers Jeff

  • Renee Malove says:

    I think it’s important for marketers to understand that social media isn’t designed to be a selling platform. Not really. It’s meant to build relationships, in much the same way that the Japanese build relationships by taking potential business partners out to dinner and asking them about their families and their hobbies before deciding if they want to integrate them with their company’s assets. And just like that business dinner, the conversation is going to spill out of its “official” platform and onto the street.

    It’s easy to become wrapped up in online social media, not only because it’s new and hot but because it’s free, and therefore offers an extremely low-budget marketing platform. Here’s a thought for you, however. With mass marketing taking a slow plummet toward disaster, how would you use traditional marketing methods to create a “buzz” about upcoming products?

  • I definitely agree with the sentiment of this post, and I think the ‘social media mavens’ do put too much emphasis on online and not how it integrates with the overall strategy. That said, and you know, the great thing about online is HOW FAST WOM can spread. To Lauren’s point, a large % of people go online to read/research/educate themselves, etc. Though they aren’t proactive about sharing the information online – they do share what they learn offline.

  • JinAtSmilely says:

    A lot of information is posted online, about brands, products, or the latest pop culture phenomenon. But in my own personal experience, the things that resonate most is when my friend next to me says, “Hey, here’s a funny video I saw on Youtube, you wanna see?” Quality conversation occurs offline, for sure.

  • I wonder, though, if what they are seeing and hearing across online platforms (and seeing in stores, hearing on the streets, etc) plays into what they are talking about. I might not converse with a brand regularly online, but I definitely have my own opinions that I share via WOM to friends, family and colleagues.

    A mesh of traditional and online marketing is necessary, because you have to start thinking of the impression – but not in the traditional PR sense of reports and multipliers. It’s more of an impression of presence, and that point is the “multichannel” world approach you talked about.

    Thanks for sharing the study and your thoughts, Todd. I think it’s easy to get caught up in social media and forget how traditional is still going strong.

    Lauren Fernandez, Radian6

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