Business Growth Accelerator/Local Business Marketing/Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth: Understanding the Nine Levels (Part 3)

Harnessing the Power of Word of Mouth: Understanding the Nine Levels (Part 3)

Sunday, July 16, 2023

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Welcome back to our word-of-mouth tactics series. In our previous article, we explored strategies to expedite the purchasing decision time of your customers, leading to increased profits. Today, we delve into the nine levels of word of mouth, providing you with a valuable tool to measure the circulation of word of mouth surrounding your company, products, and services. By understanding these levels, you can identify negative or inferior word of mouth and develop effective ways to combat it.

The Nine Levels of Word of Mouth

As we delve into the nine levels of word-of-mouth marketing, it is essential to acknowledge that the negative levels can damage customer relations and lead to decreased profits. When done correctly, these levels can provide valuable insight into how customers interact with each other about your business, products, and services. It is through this understanding that business owners can identify poor or even damaging word-of-mouth and develop targeted solutions to address the issue. Furthermore, tapping into these levels is an effective way to discover customer sentiment and capitalize on the power of positive word-of-mouth to expand your customer base and increase profits.

Minus 4: Scandalous Word of Mouth

Minus 4 is the worst level of word of mouth. It indicates that your product or service has caused a scandal or significant controversy. A classic example is the recall of over-the-counter pain relievers, such as the Tylenol crisis.

The Tylenol recall crisis refers to a series of incidents in the 1980s when certain bottles of Tylenol were tampered with, resulting in several deaths. In response to the crisis, Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of Tylenol, took immediate and decisive actions to address the situation and regain public trust.

To remedy the severe negative impact on their brand's reputation, Johnson & Johnson implemented the following measures:

1. Product Recall: They swiftly and voluntarily recalled approximately 31 million bottles of Tylenol from store shelves, which amounted to over $100 million worth of product.

2. Cooperation with Authorities: Johnson & Johnson worked closely with law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, to aid in the investigation of the tampering incidents.

3. Communication and Transparency: The company maintained open and transparent communication with the public and media. They held press conferences and issued regular updates to inform the public about the situation and the steps being taken to ensure consumer safety.

4. New Packaging: Johnson & Johnson introduced tamper-evident packaging to ensure the safety of their products. They developed a triple-seal tamper-resistant packaging system, including a plastic seal, a cotton seal, and a foil seal.

5. Rebuilding Trust: The company launched an extensive advertising and public relations campaign to regain consumer trust. They emphasized their commitment to safety, highlighted the new tamper-evident packaging, and offered rebates to encourage customers to purchase Tylenol again.

These actions demonstrated Johnson & Johnson's dedication to consumer safety and their willingness to take responsibility for the crisis. As a result, the company was able to restore public confidence in Tylenol, and the brand eventually recovered its market share and reputation. The handling of the Tylenol recall crisis became a widely studied example of crisis management and corporate responsibility. Avoiding this level of negative word of mouth at all costs is essential.

Minus 3: Active Boycot

At minus 3, not only do disgruntled customers actively discourage others from purchasing your products or services, they also spend an inordinate amount of time and energy creating and passing on negative opinion and propaganda regarding your brand. This level of word-of-mouth can create long-term consequences, such as a loss of market share and customers, brand promotion and erosion of trust, and can even cause a full-scale boycott of your products and services.

Consider the situation that Bud Light is in at the time of this publication. Bud Light is facing a boycott after partnering with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Conservatives have taken to social media to protest the partnership, calling for a boycott of the beer brand. The boycott has reportedly cost Bud Light billions of dollars in lost sales.

In response to the boycott, Bud Light has not publicly commented on the controversy. However, the company has reportedly put two marketing executives on leave. It has also canceled an event in Missouri in early April, citing safety concerns for its employees.

It is unclear what Bud Light is currently doing to win back its customers. However, the company has a history of responding to boycotts by issuing public apologies and making changes to its marketing campaigns.

Here are some additional details about the boycott:

  • ​In June, sales of Bud Light were down 28 percent.
  • ​A ton of viral videos were made showing the destruction of Bud Light products
  • ​There were rumors that the entire Bud Light marketing team were terminated
  • ​Bud Light CEO has not publicly commented on controversy, or addressed their core demographic about the mistakes that were made. 
  • ​Anheuser-Busch InBev, the parent company of Bud Light, saw its share price fall by 5% in the days following the controversy. At the time of this publication share prices are down 13.4% from the April 3rd price of $66.57.

It remains to be seen how the boycott will impact Bud Light in the long term. However, the company is likely to face some challenges in winning back its customers.

If you find your company in the same situation as Bud Light. Consider righting the ship by providing helpful customer service or offering discounts or other incentives. Also, be sure to actively monitor customer sentiment and take all necessary steps to rebuild a positive customer experience with the goal of restoring trust.

Ultimately, it is essential to assess the facts and circumstances of the situation and respond in a timely, thoughtful, and transparent manner to minimize the potential for further damages.

Minus 2: Poor Reviews

Customers at this level provide poor reviews when specifically asked about your offerings. While they may not actively boycott your brand, their negative feedback can significantly impact your reputation and potential customer base.

Consider the case of THe Smile Shop. In 2016, a woman named Julie posted a negative Yelp review about The Smile Shop, a dental spa in Atlanta, Georgia. In her review, Julie accused the spa of providing substandard care. She said that she had gone to the spa for a teeth whitening treatment, but that the treatment had left her teeth feeling sensitive and sore. She also said that the staff at the spa had been rude and dismissive.

Julie's review went viral, and many other people came forward to share their own negative experiences with The Smile Shop. As a result of the negative publicity, The Smile Shop was forced to close down.

The Smile Shop's owner, Grace Chang, denied the allegations made in Julie's review. She said that Julie's teeth were already sensitive before she came to the spa, and that the teeth whitening treatment had not caused any further damage. She also said that the staff at the spa had been professional and courteous.

However, the damage had already been done. The negative publicity had caused The Smile Shop to lose its reputation, and it was no longer able to attract customers. As a result, the spa was forced to close down.

This case is a reminder of the power of online reviews. A single negative review can have a devastating impact on a business, especially if the review is shared widely. It is important for businesses to take steps to address any negative feedback that they receive, and to do so in a timely and professional manner.

Here are some tips for businesses that have received negative reviews:

  • Respond to the review promptly. The Sooner you respond to a negative review, the less damge it will do to your reputation
  • Be Polite and professional. Even if you disagree with the reviewer, it is important to be polite and professional in your response.
  • Offer to make things right. If the reviewer is willing to give you another chance, offer ot make things right. This could mean offering them a refund, a free service, or simply an apology.

By following these, tips, you can help to mitigate the damage caused by a negative reivew and protect your business's reputation.

Minus 1: Mild Dissatisfaction

Customers at this level express mild dissatisfaction with your products or services. They may not leave you a public review. Instead they may reach out to customer service to express their concerns with your product or service.

To ensure they have positive experiences, businesses should strive to address their concerns and convert this mild dissatisfaction into satisfaction. This can be done by offering discounts or additional incentives, creating a smooth customer journey and actively soliciting feedback. Doing this will help build positive relationships with customers and in turn will boost brand loyalty and minimize the risk of negative word of mouth.

Level 0: Neutral Position

This level indicates a neutral stance. Customers are using your products or services but are neither actively discussing them nor recommending them. While not inherently harmful, a neutral position should be seen as a warning sign, as it leaves room for customers to shift into negative sentiment. Focus on turning this neutral experience into a positive one to drive advocacy.

Asking for feedback with surveys can prompt a past client to give you feedback on your services. Most of the time satisfied customers won't go out of their way to praise you. It is the negative experiences that are more likely to spark a bad review.

Plus 1: General Satisfaction

At this level, customers express satisfaction with your products or services. They may actively share their positive experiences with others, but only if specifically requested. This indicates that they are content with what you are providing, but do not feel passionate enough to naturally recommend your company to others.

To make them feel more strongly about your brand, you must actively solicit their feedback and build stronger relationships with them. Offer discounts or incentives to really show your appreciation for your customers, and don't forget to follow up in the future. Doing so will ensure that your customers' satisfaction translates into advocacy and help your business grow.

Plus 2: Raving Fans

Customers at this level become enthusiastic advocates when asked about your products or services. They willingly share their positive experiences and praise your offerings. Their testimonials can significantly influence potential customers.

These customers will happily buy your merchandise and where it out and about in public. Take a stroll through a mall and notice all of the different logos that aren't clothing brands you see people wear. From auto makers to software companies. There are raving fans everywhere happy to identify with the brand and wear the logo out in public. Some are even crazy enough to get the logo tattooed on their body.

Plus 3: Proactive Advocacy

When customers reach this level, they actively go out of their way to share their positive experiences with your products, services, and company. They become passionate brand ambassadors, recommending your offerings to their friends, family, and broader networks.

These customers are perfect for your affiliate program. By rewarding their proactive advocacy with a small comissision, you will be able to grow exponentially for a far smaller cost per aquisition than traditional pay-per-click marketing.

Plus 4: The Talk of the Town

At this pinnacle level, your products or services create a positive buzz. People are talking about the excellence of your offerings, sharing their shopping experiences, and praising your exceptional customer service. Your brand becomes a topic of discussion, and business booms as a result.

Notable Plus 4 Companies:

  • Lexus
  • Harley Davidson
  • Lululemon
  • Tesla
  • Apple
  • Costco

Reflecting on Your Word-of-Mouth Position

Take a moment to assess the level of word of mouth currently surrounding your business. Understanding where you stand on this spectrum is crucial for shaping your word-of-mouth strategy. If you require assistance, do not hesitate to contact us.

To recap, we explored the nine levels of word-of-mouth marketing, providing you with a framework to evaluate the word-of-mouth marketing circulating your business. By identifying harmful levels and working to combat them, while nurturing positive levels, you can strategically shape the perception and reputation of your brand.

In our next installment, we will delve into 30 practical ways to harness the power of word of mouth. These actionable strategies will empower you to leverage the influence of word-of-mouth marketing to drive business growth and cultivate a thriving community of brand advocates. Stay tuned for valuable insights and tactics to revolutionize your word-of-mouth marketing efforts.


Hi, I'm Brandon

Owner Of BKXX Enterprises, LLC

"Meet the Driving Force Behind BKXX Enterprises: Brandon Garcia, a Dedicated Advocate for Local Service Businesses.

With a wealth of experience and a passion for community growth, Brandon leads the charge in empowering local service businesses to dominate their markets.

Through insightful strategies and proven tactics, this blog is your go-to resource for taking your local business to new heights. Join Brandon in the journey towards local market conquest!"

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