Marketing is often misunderstood, for some it is just a synonym for selling to others it is about advertising and promotion. Still other people term marketing as research, finding out what customers want. Marketing is all of these and yet it is much more. Marketing is concerned with customer satisfaction and identification of marketing opportunities along with the development of firm's resources and focussing these resources upon the most appropriate opportunities (Christopher and McDonald, 1995).
World is changing fast in terms of technological advances and the effect of change is clearly evident in the field of marketing in form of increased resistance from the consumers towards the traditional form of advertising such as television or newspaper advertisement. Jim Stengel, 2004, global marketing officer of proctor and gamble summarises this change as “the traditional marketing model we all grew up with is obsolete”. This change had made marketers turn towards alternative forms of marketing (Leskovec et al, 2007), seeing the falling returns and increasing cost associated with traditional marketing campaigns, shareholders and boardroom directors began to look for alternatives of traditional marketing, and over the past few years marketers have been inventive in coming up with innovative marketing campaigns that demonstrated an enhanced return of investment, these included the mix of both new and old marketing techniques, viral marketing and buzz marketing could be considered among the new marketing techniques and word of mouth among the old marketing techniques (marsden,2006) although trade books and articles tout word of mouth as one of the next big ideas, but contrary to this it is one of the oldest marketing techniques but it is getting its due importance now. In this essay I am going to talk about word of mouth, what it is, its limitations, its positives, how maximum leverage could be drawn of it. Further this work would relate word of mouth marketing with 21 hospitality groups's marketing plan.
Arndt, 1967 describes word of mouth marketing as “oral, person to person communication between a receiver and a communicator whom the receiver perceives as non-commercial, concerning a brand, a product or a service”. In general word of mouth is a naturally occurring behaviour of consumers. It is a simple communication among consumers about products, brands and advertising. People listen to word of mouth because it is part of their normal search about products. The word of mouth publicity can definitely reduce media costs, apart from this it is a influential media, a 2004 UK survey by consultants CIA: Mediaedge of 10000 consumers found that 76% cite word of mouth as the main influence on the purchasing decisions, compared to traditional advertising which is around 15%, in US NOP research shows that 92% Americans cite word of mouth as the most preferred source of product information, in Europe advertising company Euro RSCG has found that word of mouth generates ten times more excitement about any product than television or print media euro RSCG(2001). The question which arises is why has the oldest media available to marketers-word of mouth- becoming the most important in influencing buying behaviours of consumers in an age when media formats and channels are proliferating. Paul Marsden gives five reasons for this phenomenon
1. New personal communication technology such as blogs, instant messaging, email, online review sites and websites are increasing the speed, reach and utility of word of mouth.
2. Increasing marketing literacy among buyers mean people dismissing traditional marketing campaigns as biased propaganda and turning to trusted word of mouth sources for advices.
3. Advertising clutter is making it increasingly difficult for traditional marketing campaigns to capture people's attention, to avoid market cacophony buyers are turning to word of mouth recommendations.
4. Accelerating media fragmentation is reducing media audiences; that is more channels and more media are making it harder for advertisers to reach their target audiences.
5. AD blocking technology is empowering people to avoid unwanted advertising messages.
Consumers tend to seek out and listen to word of mouth more when the purchase decision is risky, therefore managers of high involvement brands should pay extra attention to word of mouth as it can be an important factor in the purchase decision. (Rogers, 1995). Marketers of services should be very careful about the influence of word of mouth publicity. The intangibility, implicit and unpredictable nature of services motivates most consumers to seek out advice before choosing a provider (zeithaml, 1981). Some form of word of mouth management tactic should be made as a part of the marketing strategy of all service providers. (Murray, 1991). Since word of mouth is known to convey vivid novel experiences that are pleasant when positive and denigrating and complaining when negative(Anderson, 1998) this opens up the area for negative word of mouth and practically negative word of mouth work more effectively than the positive word of mouth. Negative word of mouth that spreads widely among consumers can have irreversible and lethal effects on any brands. This makes even more important to monitor word of mouth. Other problem with word of mouth is the sustainability; the final choice is the choice of the consumer which could only be won by the quality or the product and service, so word of mouth should be backed by some substantial service and product. (Zeithaml et al, 1985)
Word of mouth is a potent marketing form, and it is more potent than any marketing communication technique but this does not mean that brand managers should forget their traditional marketing communication programs, because word of mouth is connected with other formats of marketing in certain ways:
1. Advertising induces word of mouth, as one of the most influential communication theories suggests that advertising is a natural step in communications flowing from marketers to consumers.
2. Word of mouth is inherently uncontrollable by its nature, so marketers will never have the same access to it as they have to sponsored marketing communication channels.
3. Brand image has a strong moderator effect on the influence of word of mouth. It is always difficult to influence a person with word of mouth who has a prior impression about a brand.
Therefore tactics attempting to manage word of mouth should be a part and not a replacement of traditional marketing communication mixes. (Nyilasy, 2006)
Word of mouth and 21 hospitality group
21 hospitality group's growth has been largely organic, based on terry laybourne's personal image, his business instinct, his knowledge of north east and what many describe as his passion. Terry is a celebrity chef, though it is true celebrities could be made overnight but to maintain the status and increase it year by year is something which cannot be done overnight. One of the things which have made 21 hospitality group a success is the love of people, when people love something it becomes easier for word of mouth marketing, the biggest marketer for 21 hospitality group is the word of mouth publicity. Food festivals held by the 21 hospitality group gives a platform for chefs master in different types of cuisines and also for people to come and enjoy the wonderful food and festive atmosphere(festival of food and wine, 2009), such type of events market the brand among people by people. To create a buzz such promotional events are necessary but to sustain it, it should be backed by quality and in terms of quality the services of 21 hospitality group is second to none. As referred earlier word of mouth becomes more effective if it is supported by other marketing tools like print and web, 21 hospitality group is using print media to an extent (though in a different style, publishing terry's book) but a lot could be done to take the maximum leverage from word of mouth marketing technique.
Word of mouth has a strong influence on product and service perceptions which often leads to change in judgments, value ratings and the likelihood of purchase (Peterson, 1989) but it is also necessary to add here that word of mouth is more important in the final stages of the purchase process as it reassures consumers and reduces post-purchase uncertainty (Martilla, 1971). In earlier stages, customers are more likely to rely on impersonal communication (Sweeney et al, 2008) this could be provided by other marketing tools like mass media advertising which includes news paper, magazines, cinema, television and web, buzz marketing (promotion of a company or its products and services through initiatives conceived and designed to get people and media talking positively about the company) and viral marketing. The best scenario is to have connected marketing which is the umbrella term for viral, buzz and word of mouth marketing. The need of the hour is to use technological advents of the modern world and stick to some tested methods of past, the technology could be used to literate the customers about the products once the product image is formed then word of mouth should be promoted as the marketing tool for further advancement this should be backed by excellent services and exemplary quality.
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