OPINION: We can create a ‘talkability’ by engaging the right ten per cent

Youth marketing expert Andrew Needham says generating positive word of mouth can be done in three easy steps.

Regular readers of the PR media may be familiar with PWOM (positive word of mouth) and NWOM (negative word of mouth). But as I discovered recently during a conversation with an alarmed-looking friend, people outside the comms world tend to think these acr­onyms describe the latest smart bombs on Spooks.

However, brands are rapidly getting to grips with PWOM and NWOM. The latest TechTribe report, the influential ann­ual study of Britain’s 16- to 25-year-olds, highlights significant factors in social diffusion, and what it means for marketing and PR.

The biggest change is the confidence consumers now have in their own creativity and ability to express themselves. For brands, their lack of control over this new ord­er is worrying. How do you engage consumers so that you can stimulate more natural conversations in specific communities? More importantly, how do you do this in a credible way?

From a youth perspective, leading marketing companies like Unilever and Google have the answer to this: co-creation. They have decided it is time to stop marketing at young people, and instead market with them. And that means sticking to some imp­ortant principles.

First, to co-create with young people it is essential to identify youth adv­ocates and decide how to eng­age with them. Brands need to seek out the (approximately) ten per cent of young people who regularly upload content and write blogs. Seventeen per cent of 16- to 25-year-olds alr­eady have their own ‘brand’ as they market themselves to their friends on their social networking profiles.

The second principle inv­olves understanding what is important to young people, and what gives them a sense of identity. The TechTribe rep­ort shows a generation where creativity has huge soc­ial currency. Social standing is enhanced if you create and share content among friends. It is no longer just about music and fashion, but  every part of their lives. Getting the most out of this creativity brings us to the third key principle – the need for a structure that works online and in the real world. Unilever has shown that consumers can come up with their own ideas and product des-igns, helping to bring the product to life in the market place. This in turn creates a ‘talkability’ factor, the Holy Grail for PR companies.

Involving your consumers creates a buzz around your brand and generates PWOM. Web users will enthuse for days on their Facebook pages about how brilliant their experience has been.


Andrew Needham
(l) is the founding partner of youth marketing agency Face Group

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