But, I think (dare I say it) they've both overreacted. I don't think Jack is saying that Word of Mouth (WOM) is totally bad, he's just saying it's a tool. One with a double edge.
Here's what he says is the good news: "What's different today is people have many more ways to communicate. Instead of just verbal we now have digital communications."
His take on the bad news: "No product in memory got as much buzz and PR as the Segway gyroscopic scooter. The problem is that most of the buzz was negative...You've got to have a product or service people want to talk about in a positive way, and there aren't many of these around."
Then again, I ignored the bad talk about the Segway because I was fascinated by it. So maybe I'm just not easily influenced by comments that go against what I think. I suspect others may be that way as well. Which is interesting to consider in this conversation.
John (Brand Autopsy) argues: "In today’s multi-channel, multi-dimensional environment, marketers cannot begin to place marketing messages everywhere consumers are. The costs do so are way too prohibitive. WE NEED HELP. WE NEED TO ENLIST THE HELP OF CONSUMERS TO HELP US. The game has changed from when and where marketing messages are delivered to HOW and WHY marketing messages are delivered."
John's right, but I don't think Jack said that help from consumers was all bad. What he did stress was that how the product was positioned was important. That the messages that consumers spread need direction and to be informed. And that putting all your eggs in one basket is a bad idea.
John further says: "My beef with Trout’s take on WOM is that Trout wants to control every aspect of every consumer conversation about a product."
What Jack stressed was that marketers have a responsibility to ensure that the positioning and messaging helps evolve the conversation. Now, I might give in on this one to John and George for consumer goods, but as far as B2B complex sales goes, the consumer needs help. Knowledge transfer needs to occur for enough understanding to form the conversations about complex products.
The point that might be missing from Jack's column is about how the actual conversations or interactions with the products are initiated. The positioning is not the only important aspect of marketing. I believe he's onto something with directing user interaction, to ensure understanding is gained by the user to the point that their propensity to start conversations about it jumpstarts.
Now, George Silverman's post, has some great stuff in it. I agree with a lot of it. I just think his reaction to Jack's column may have been a bit over-the-top.
George makes a good point: "No, the next big thing is not WOM. It is Decision Simplification in the Age of Overload: Making it easy for the customer to find a solution to a problem (or desire or need), sort through the BS, try successfully and use your product pleasurably. WOM contributes to Decision Simplification more than anything else. That's why it will continue to be -- as it always has been -- the most powerful force in the marketplace."
Interesting conversation. I think the right answer is a combination and interestingly, I don't think any one of these influential people is totally at odds with the other, if you really look at what they're saying. I think they're just saying it differently. As George points out, many of Jack's comments actually acknowledged the value of WOM.
How are you getting your products to your customers?