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The Right Way to Buy Word-of-Mouth

Published by Engagement Labs June 11, 2019

The Right Way to Buy Word-of-Mouth - MRI/TotalSocial Fusion

The notion of “buying” word-of mouth through online influencers has gotten a bad name lately, given concerns about the reliability of information circulating on social media, and the honesty and integrity of paid influencers.

A better way is to put your brand’s message in front of everyday influencers, the people who are naturally curious about brands and products, and who are eager to share the things they learn with friends, family, and co-workers.  A new data fusion is making it possible to identify the media audiences and demographic segments that are most likely to spread the word about your brand, thus super-charging and amplifying your message through everyday consumer influencers.

Marketers seeking to grow their sales need to tap on the power of offline consumer conversations. Analytics by Engagement Labs published this year in the MIT Sloan Management Review finds that billions of dollars in consumer spending each year are related to word-of-mouth conversations about brands. Indeed, 10% of consumer purchases are driven by word-of-mouth, slightly more than what conversation in social media motivate.

Engagement Labs is partnering with MRI-Simmons, the leading provider of insights on the American consumer—to link consumer word-of-mouth and influence data from its TotalSocial platform to MRI’s definitive Survey of the American Consumer, a leading database for supporting brand marketers and media planners. With the new MRI/TotalSocial Fusion there is now a new, innovative way plan a data-driven campaign for social amplification via word-of-mouth.

Consider the following retail example.  If you are a brand targeting young adults, aged 18-24, and choosing a retail partner, you would have a hard time knowing whether to spend money on shelf space and displays at Walmart, Target, or Amazon, based on shopping behavior alone.  It turns out, 18-to-24-year-olds are slightly less likely than the average adults to shop or visit Walmart or Target, or to shop with Amazon, and none of the three has an advantage over the other.

 Retailer Behavior Among Consumers 18-24

But if you looked at conversation behavior available from the MRI/TotalSocial Fusion, you would see that Target stands out among young consumers in a big way.  Young adults are 57% more likely than average adults to talk about Target stores, a strong indicator of enthusiasm for Target as a place to shop—and to learn about, and talk about, brands and products.  They are the strongest of the three if you are   introducing youth-targeted products and brands.

With MRI-Simmons data fused to TotalSocial word-of-mouth data, there are powerful, unique media planning opportunities as well. In the automotive category, there can be a very big difference between the people buying cars, and the people talking about them and advising others on what to buy.  There may be a significant opportunity to affordably reach auto “talkers” in places other advertisers aren’t looking.

In the table below we are showing the top eight of 83 cable networks based on automobile buying.  These are the cable channels with the highest percentage of people who leased or purchased a car in the past year.  They include a lot of sports channels like NHL Network, Golf Channel, MLB Network, ESPN Classic, and NBC Sports. They also include business and news channels like Fox Business and Fox News. 

Cable channels with the highest percentage of people who leased or purchased a car in the past year

Next to each of those channels we are showing the “word-of-mouth rank” for the same 83 cable networks for which the MRI/TotalSocial Fusion provides an estimate of the number of automobile conversations per week.  You’ll notice that only one network—Nick at Nite—has a strong rank both for auto purchasing and auto advocacy (#7 for purchase, #5 for word-of-mouth).  Every other network that reaches a lot of buyers fall short in terms of the volume of automotive conversations. 

Which networks are best for reaching automotive conversations?  Generally, they are networks that reach younger, less affluent, but more influential types of people. 

In the table below, the top channel for reaching people who talk often about car brands is VH1 followed by Adult Swim, FreeForm, and Smithsonian.  All of these are channels that marketers would be well advised to look at again as targets for auto advertising, particularly if they have a goal of getting the word about something new and exciting. These audiences can add significantly to the reach of a commercial through conversation.

Top channels for reaching people who talk often about car brands

In the Engagement Labs analysis recently published in the MIT Sloan Management Review, we found that 25% of the impact of advertising on sales comes as a result of its ability to stimulate a conversation which in turn leads to a purchase.  That makes sense because those conversations often contain a level of persuasion that friends enjoy but advertising rarely matches. 

The MRI/TotalSocial Fusion makes it possible for brand marketers to increase social amplification and persuasion through new and innovating ways of targeting the right consumers in the right places, and media channel selection.

Get more information about the MRI/TotalSocial Fusion at or request a briefing below.

For MRI/TotalSocial Fusion briefing  Click here.