Written by Radmila Milenkovich
Part II How to get customers to talk about your brand? Customers’ response to EWOMM and customer advocacy techniques
In Part I of this article the eWOM types and their us by marketers has been discussed, meanwhile, laying the ground basis of understanding eWOM and its use for consumer advocacy. The paper identified a research gap in the consumers’ response to eWOMM. In other words, what is the reaction of internet users when marketers initiate advocacy with existing and potential customers through social media publications, blogs or video channels? The article identified a fit of the users’ response to eWOMM with the Cho and Cheon’s model (2004) of advertising avoidance on the internet. Moreover, the article will explore marketers’ implications for managing eWOM without causing marketing/advertising avoidance.
Since 2009 a law enforced the disclosure of paid endorsement, where there are “material connections” between marketer and endorser that would not be expected by consumers (Forrest and Cao, 2010). This action by regulators was with the aim to protect internet users from misleading or untruthful information that made a wide range of the internet audience frustrated (Forrest and Cao, 2010).
Is ewomm getting the syndrom of advertising avoidance
The following paper suggests that the Cho and Cheon’s (2004) three characteristics of perceived goal impediment, perceived ad clutter and prior negative experience can also be present in eWOMM avoidance. This has been seemingly supported by Kozinets et al. (2010) research on blog’s responses and will further be elaborated in the following paragraph.
eWOMM experiencing perceived goal disruption
To begin with, online users engage in blogs to seek information, entertainment and relationships, which can be considered as more open and trustworthy than marketing information (Kulamala et al., 2013). Therefore, marketers presence could be seen as a goal disruption as explained by Cho and Cheon (2004). Kozinets et al. (2010) analysed the users’ response to a parenting blog, when the blogger – Alicia – published mobile phone reviews. The blog received multiple negative comments. Once the blogger changed the nature of her posts and identified herself as a source of product reviews, it resulted in the end of negative comments (Kozinets et al., 2010). As a result, any content posted in a blog that it is in conflict with the nature of the blog can generate negative response due to intervening with users’ perceived goal as information or entertainment seeker (Kozinets et al., 2010).
eWOMM experiencing ad clutter
Secondly, bloggers are often described as opinion leaders that end users can associate themselves with (Kulamala et al., 2013). Marketers are generating leverage on eWOM through increasingly incorporating online influencers in their strategies through targeted users platforms, such as Instagram (200M users), YouTube (1B monthly visitors), and Twitter (28M monthly visitors) (Wong, 2014). All of the encountered above platforms are crowded with users with high number of followers, defining them as influencers, and supported by big brands such as Johnnie Walker, Maybelline, TacoBell, BMW (Wong, 2014). Therefore, these platforms can be considered as experiencing ad clutter, as defined by Cho and Choen (2004). As discussed above, when the blogger Alicia, was endorsing the phone she was considered to be a part of marketers as she was paid to blog (Kozinets et al., 2010). As a result, in the readers’ eyes she was super rich, “thinly-veiled advertisement for consumer products”, which resulted in frustrated audience (Kozinets et al., 2010, p. 77). Therefore, due to the growing number of marketers influencing opinion leaders online, the two worlds of user-generated content and marketing start to blend, resulting in seemingly perceived clutter.
eWOMM avoided due to prior negative experience
Cho and Cheon (2004) identified prior negative experience as a factor for online advertising avoidance. The following paper suggests that this is also present in eWOM influenced by marketers. Users tend to rely on the knowledge gained from previous experience when being exposed to advertising messages (Cho and Cheon, 2004). Moreover, after observing the blog of Zoe Sugg on YouTube, two type of negative response were found (Skincare chat & Natural Makeup Look – Zoella, 2014). Due to the nature of Zoe’s blog being based on advices regarding cosmetics, skin case and clothes, a large amount of negative comments were detected as a result of her tips and certain brands featuring. Some commented that they were having rushes and irritations from the recommended brand and many highlighted that they will no longer follow her blogs (Skincare chat & Natural Makeup Look – Zoella, 2014).
eWOMM experiencing moral/ethical clash
A further point of eWOMM avoidance that has not been covered by Cho and Cheon (2004) is on the basis of moral and ethical reasons, as defined by the forum or the communal norm as explored by Kozinets et al. (2010). In practice this could be seen amongst gaming video blogs, where popular YouTube bloggers are given games to review. However, marketers maintain a tight control over the reviews, minimising the negative review exposure and ensuring brand visibility (Grayson, 2014). As a result, it is believed that contracts of sponsorship influencing the blogger’s morality can be tackled with reviewing the platforms ethics and ensuring transparency between parties (Grayson, 2014).
How to stop the EWOMM Avoidance
McKensey study highlights the importance of advocacy and eWOM, as eWOM generated double the sales in comparison to paid advertising, contributing to 37% higher retention rates (Wong, 2014). Consumer advocacy becomes increasingly important, however, how can one do it without causing advertising avoidance or even irritation?
Lawer and Knox (2006) provide a suggestion of four components of consumer advocacy that could be adopted into the marketing strategy of firms.
Creating Authentic Relationships
To begin with, building a branded advocacy network of partners and stakeholders is described to be on the basis of creation of authentic relationships. These networks of partners aim at collaboration and value- exchange for the both parties (Lawer and Knox, 2006). For example, Lego has developed an online community, named Lugnet.com, where the firm can reach out to their main consumers, teenage kids, but also the grown up customer and the project developers for Lego (Petersen, 2014). Through this community, Lego has been able to strengthen their brand, generate insights, develop new designs and usability, but what is more, successfully generate organic eWOM (Petersen, 2014).
Co-creating brand community
The second component focuses on co-creating a customer and partner brand community in order to foster brand equity (Lawer and Knox, 2006). These communities give the opportunity for development of dialogue, collaboration and interaction, or in other word, an opportunity for users to share their experience with a brand (Lawer and Knox, 2006). For example, Evian created the Baby and Me app, as a follow up of their Baby and Me campaign, based on a viral video of adults and the resembling baby version of them in front of a mirror (Ankeny, 2014). The app was making a baby version of the user-uploaded pictures, which were encouraged to be shared with the #evianbabyandme. Moreover, comments with the tags were followed by the brand and further interaction was established (Ankeny, 2014).
Align brand values
Thirdly, Lawer and Knox (2006) suggested that brand management could be commenced through aligning brand values with empowered consumer value drivers. They identified three main drivers of consumer value: choice, involvement and knowledge, suggesting that these can also create a broader understanding of consumers’ needs (Lawer and Knox, 2006). For instance, Chipotle Mexican grill established a campaign regarding sustainable farming, in the form of a short film – the Scarecrow, a mobile game and social media channel profiles (Ankeny, 2014). The story represents the fight against the goliath Crow Foods and in the game the users are put in the role of fighting a battle against them (Ankeny, 2014). In this case, the popularity growth of Chipotle Mexican grill could be seen as a result of the campaign aligning the firm’s values with those of aware customers as suggested tactic by Lawer and Knox (2006) for building brand advocacy.
Ensuring Transparency and Trust
Lastly, Lawer and Knox (2006) propose that brand management should focus on consumer transparency and trust, on the way of empowering customers of becoming co-creators of value for the brand. However, a firm need to ensure that the necessary customer trust and reputation are in place before leaving its brand into the hands of the consumers (Lower and Knox, 2006).
Conclusion: How is EWOM Becoming a Part of marketing strategies and what are the consequences?
With the aim of strengthening customer advocacy, ensuring authenticity and minimising advertising avoidance firms integrate their strategies with opinion leaders in eWOM, such as bloggers. This results in various types of amplified eWOM as the first part of this article covered in depth. However, when exploring users’ reaction to amplified bloggers, the responses gathered share similarities with advertising avoidance on the internet. Due to the law regulations marketers cannot remain hidden in online spaces, it is rather the fact that eWOM is becoming another form of advertising.
Call for action
What is the effect of eWOMM, blogger sponsorships and amplified eWOM on brands online? How can brands leverage on the already existing bloggers communities of passionate users? Is payments and sponsorships the right way? The following paper suggest that further research can measure the effect of eWOM avoidance on the bloggers image and on the sponsoring brand perception.
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