09.DupontCircle.WDC.27mar09

It isn’t surprising to hear that the average American consumer mentions specific brand names 60 times per week in conversations. In personal relationships, people talk most often and most convincingly about topics that they are passionate and knowledgeable about.. This should come as no surprise to anyone. Since customers care about the products and services they purchase, they have an innate desire to talk to other people about these. What is surprising is where they’re doing the talking. According to a study out from the Keller Fayer Group, less than 10% of all word of mouth marketing is taking place online.

Digital marketers hot for Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare will no doubt question this stat. However, Keller Fay stats dating back to 2006 have consistently shown word of mouth conversations disproportionately happen offline in face-to-face and voice-to-voice settings. 90% of all conversations Americans have about products/services and brands taking place offline is a startling statistic.

For marketers this study flies in the face of “conventional thinking.” If the tech pundits are wrong and the the Internet isn’t the platform for word of mouth marketing that they say it is, how do we evaluate the performance of our word of mouth marketing?

If nearly 90% of word of mouth marketing takes place face to face, like when a friend recommends a product or service to another over lunch, we don’t have the benefit of immediately seeing click-thru’s and hits in our web server logs. Just because online links, updates and mentions are easy to track and measure doesn’t mean that they’re nearly as important as the much less measurable offline conversations. Digital marketing is becoming the easy part of the marketing equation.

Perhaps the best application of this study is this advice to marketers: stop worrying so much about how and when customers conversations occur, and start giving them quality products and services that are interesting to talk about.

Photo by Elvert Barnes.