Seeded word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing campaigns are very popular
Marketers know that consumers are much more likely to trust their peers over traditional advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions. Therefore, the idea of using product samples to promote new offerings is increasingly common. In the most recent industry survey by the American Marketing Association and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, over 70 % of marketers said they have used or plan to use consumers to disseminate product-related content.
In a classic seeded WOM marketing campaign, a company sends product samples to a selected group of consumers, typically referred to as seeds, and encourages them to try the product and share the product information and their own opinions with other consumers. Seeds typically spread product-related information in the form of posts in online forums, on social media websites or as reviews on retail websites – and lots of these transmissions can be tracked by brands through online and social media monitoring.
Obvious and less obvious effects of seeded WOM campaigns
Usually companies concentrate on measuring diffusion of information about the product that has been seeded, the focal product. For example, if a campaign consisted of the Chanel brand sending new lipstick samples to seeds, then the marketing managers would typically focus on monitoring online communities related to cosmetics and collect data on how this campaign affected consumer conversations about this new Chanel lipstick only.
In our research, we demonstrate that such a narrow focus would be a mistake. Consumer conversations on products related to but different from a focal product are also likely to get affected. In other words, seeding a product can result in various spillovers. For example, seeding Chanel lipstick may lead to more or fewer conversations about other Chanel products or about lipsticks marketed by other brands. Moreover, WOM about a focal product among consumers in one segment could affect product-related or brand-related conversations among consumers in other segments. For example, while Chanel is likely to choose seeds that are expert cosmetics users, WOM generated by consumers in this segment may also affect how much folks talk about it in other consumer segments, such as more novice cosmetics users (see Figure 1). In our study (Box 1) we identified several effects: