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dinosaur_cartoon.gifMany moons ago, Jack Trout, was one of the most successful advertising guys on earth. In the current issue of Forbes, he writes that Word of Mouth is nothing new, and I absolutely agree. But he misses the point big-time because he thinks the way to control a message is with advertising. And that used to be true. In 1955.
Word of mouth has been around since people started interacting. Cave men left messages on the wall, John the Baptist was the advance man for Jesus. And of course there was Samuel Adams, P.T. Barnum and Edward Bernays. They were “influencers” who tried to get people to change their behavior in some way.
The Bad Old Days
But these WOM pioneers lived before the Internet age and the rise of citizen journalism. They practiced their craft in the old days, before people could read online customer complaint sites or see what bloggers around the globe think about an issue, or do a Google search for customers’ product reviews, complaints and ratings.
Says Trout:

“Buzz can kill you if you don’t have the right product. … 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.”

Advertising Trumps Word of Mouth. Not!
Here’s where he blows it:

“Now for the really bad news. There’s no way to control that word-of-mouth. Do I want to give up control and let consumers take over my campaign? No way. They aren’t getting paid based on how many widgets get sold. If I go to all this trouble developing a positioning strategy for my product, I want to see that message delivered.”

Word of mouth, Trout says, will help, “but you’re going to have to surround it with a lot of other effort, including, if you’ll pardon the expression, advertising. You just can’t buy mouths the way you can buy media.”
Hellooooo. Mr Trout. Have you heard of the Internet? Millions of people have turned to it for news and information because they were sick of companies trying to control the message. Have you heard of Tivo? It was invented to help consumers avoid the controlled message. Have you noticed blogs?
Trout warns, correctly, “And mouths can stop talking about you in a heartbeat once something else comes along to talk about.” Welcome to the Internet Age Mr Trout. Copyright BL Ochman