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Word Of Mouth Marketing Study

You know that old joke: the motivational speaker leads an audience in call-and-response, shouting, "Repeat after me, 'I am an individual!'" and the crowd dutifully chants back as one, "I am an individual!"? Word-of-mouth-marketing reminds me of that ironic joke. I have an image of WOM marketers huddled around the conference table, engineering "spontaneous" consumer-driven marketing and scripting "authentic" communication. Seth Godin has it 100% right: you get buzz from being remarkable, not by trying to force buzz. So I found it curious when Godin used BzzAgent to promote Small Is The New Big. When I asked Seth about this choice during Q&A at his Shop.org talk, his reponse was along the lines of "sometimes you have to pay." Godin offers a different response recounting this exchange in his recent blog post (I think) praising pyramid schemes, where he (I think) compares paying for word-of-mouth to prostitution. And TechCrunch reports on a set of PayPerPost-like startups based on paying folks to make product endorsements on their blogs, often without full disclosure. I enjoyed a long lunch last week with Todd Tweedy of WordSpreadsQuickly and BoldMouth. Todd described how the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMA) is still in a bit of a spin due to Edelman's involvement in the fake WalMartingAcrossAmerica blog. I have two questions. One: can Word Of Mouth Marketing be done well and done honestly? And two: will marketers destroy the WOM concept by flooding the space with paid shills (just as spammers have nearly destroyed email)? Todd Tweedy claims yes, WOM can be done honestly, and yes, WOM can survive a tragedy of the commons death. To learn more, I look forward to digging into Todd's word-of-mouth research study this week.
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