Blackshaw’s Word-of-Mouth Maneuvers

NEW YORK Consumer studies consistently find that good word of mouth is one of the most influential drivers for moving products off the shelf. In his new book, Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000, Pete Blackshaw presents the case that WOM has become an even more critical issue for marketers in the digital age.

The book, Blackshaw’s first, was published earlier this month by Doubleday. “It’s really a narrative about consumer loyalty,” said Blackshaw, evp, strategic services, Nielsen Online. “It can pay huge dividends to a brand.”

In the digital world, consumers now have far greater control over how word of mouth spreads about brands because of the proliferation of blogs, social networks, chat rooms, message boards, IMs and Twitter, among others.

Blackshaw refers to those forms of communications as “consumer-generated media,” which for better or worse can have a major impact on brands.

With consumers in control of so many diverse channels, Blackshaw believes marketers must redouble their efforts to achieve credibility. “Consumers find out very quickly today if a company is overstretching brand claims, or whether they have the service layer they say they have — or even whether the product actually works,” he said. “It’s important to stay credible.”

It is also critical that marketers listen closely to what consumers have to say, said Blackshaw: “They need to absorb and internalize what their customers tell them or say about them. If they do, they will be in a better position to create and distribute effective marketing messages.”

In the 1990s, Blackshaw was a co-leader of the first interactive marketing team at Procter & Gamble. He left in 1999 to start a consumer-oriented Web site called Planetfeedback, which a few years later merged with Intelliseek, a search-based technology firm that monitored millions of conversations on Internet message boards. The company was in turn acquired by the Nielsen Co., the parent of Adweek. It was bundled with BuzzMetrics and Trendum to create what is now Nielsen Online.