Word (of Mouth) Up: what Soup’s TalkTrack Study has to tell us about the simple and compelling truth about conversations and brands

Marketing_interview the power of word of mouth, cartoon from xkcd

the lovely Sharyn and Michele from word of mouth marketing agency Soup came in to Kent Street Towers yesterday to share the results from their TalkTrack research into word of mouth in Australia.  the study, which was conducted in partnership with Mindshare, ING, Foxtel and LG, consisted of a diary and quant with almost 3,000 Australians aged 16-69, who between them over the month-long course of the study had 30,000 branded conversations.  the report makes for fascinating reading…

turns out that the average Australian has 67.8 branded conversations per week, which equates to 1.2 billion conversations (or impacts if you like) across the Australia population every week.  this however is on average, 'influencers' – those people who are more passionate, knowledgeable and who tend to have more networks of connections – have 140 brand-centric conversations per week.

Telstra is the most talked about brand, but not necessarily positively – that title goes to Apple, which enjoys 1.7% of all positive brand-centric conversations.  in fact Australians are generally overwhelmingly positive about brands…  61% of all branded conversations are positive, whilst only 9% are negative.

but it's when you look at where conversations are had and what instigates them that it gets really interesting.  of all the conversations in the study, the vast majority were conducted face to face…  82% of the conversations we have about brands we have with real people in the real world.  this compared to only 7% online, which had fewer conversations than even over the phone (at 10%).

Mode of conversations Brand conversations overwhelmingly happen face to face; Source: Soup's TalkTrack study – for more information contact Sharyn Smith via here

there's a big flashing 'proceed with caution' here – because whilst we're all of us going about measuring with gusto branded conversations, turns out that in most cases (as most trackers are online-based) we're doing it with a sample of 7% of all conversations.  skews and distortions are therefore almost inevitable.

the other big news is that the research provides hard evidence as to what actually sparks conversations.  overwhelmingly it is customer or personal experiences with a brand or it's products and services that get's us talking.  compare this to media or marketing efforts – which people attribute to 49% of the brand-centric conversations they have.

Conversation drivers Experiences with brands, products and services cause more conversations than media or advertising; Source: Soup's TalkTrack study – for more information contact Sharyn Smith via here

it's here that online plays an interesting role…  it just outperforms TV in terms of it's ability to spark conversations.  Nielsen report that FY up to June '10, 28% of media money was invested in TV, versus 15% online – so online more than punching above it's weight in it's ability to get us talking.

proof, if it were ever needed, that – unless a brand has a very good reason otherwise – the best role for advertising is to amplify innovative products and services from a brand.  the best ad in the world, all things being equal, won't start as many conversations than an investment in relevant and engaging products and services.

I've talked about planning for transactions on these pages before.  I firmly believe that advertisers should invest in marketing to their existing customers via the creation of collateral – products and services – that add value to their lives.  the role of bought media is then best aligned to what it does best: amplify what a brand is doing with and for it's existing customers to a broader audience…

and now, thanks to the research described above, we have another crucial bit of evidence to prove how this model of approaching comms planning works: it sparks conversations which create intention to buy or try (33%) or consider (25%) a product.

kudos to Soup for commissioning this research.  research that proves that it's not he who shouts loudest that builds the biggest and best brands and businesses, but rather he who gives the most people the most compelling reason to talk about that brand or business.  and in the evolution of media and communications, this simple but compelling truth should be a game-changer for any brand and business brave enough to do it.  whether we do, is entirely down to us.

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