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The Best of Word of Mouth

Winners of the 2011 WOMMY Awards represent the cutting edge of buzz and social marketing
  • November 22 2011

Each year, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association celebrates the most effective campaigns in word of mouth with the WOMMY Awards. The winning campaigns aren’t just about creating word of mouth; they’re about learning how to make word of mouth work within a marketing objective. Interestingly, 40 percent of this year’s WOMMY winners came from outside the U.S.

For 2011, three new award categories have been added: Cause Marketing Award, for best use of integrated digital marketing as a tactic to advance a cause marketing initiative; Mobile Award, for best use of mobile to generate word of mouth; and Customer Relationship Management Award, for the best customer relationship program. These join the four existing awards: Social Media Award (best use of social media as a communications medium); Introduction Award (best word-of-mouth communication program to introduce a new product or service); Measurement Award (best strategic thinking to measure the impact/success of WOM); and Momentum Award (best word-of-mouth program to juice an existing product or service).

Gold, silver and bronze honors can be awarded in each category. This year, gold awards were presented in just five of the categories. These winners are profiled below.


Wonderopolis Inspires a New Literacy Experience

When given the opportunity to create a new online literacy resource for the Verizon Foundation’s Thinkfinity educational platform, The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) believed it was time to reframe the conversation around literacy. Rather than build a website about how to encourage literacy, the idea became to create a place that nurtured the sense of wonder inside everyone. Welcome to Wonderopolis. Wonderopolis doesn’t start with answers. It starts with questions, offering kids a new “Wonder of the Day,” every day, inspired by the kinds of things that kids naturally wonder about—such as “Why are flamingos pink?” or “How hot is the sun?”

The NCFL and Brains on Fire, its agency, developed a two-phase strategy to launch Wonderopolis and grow it into a self-sustaining literacy movement. During Phase I (Oct. 2010-Sept. 2011), the primary goal was to launch the site and ignite a conversation by engaging users in two-way dialog on Wonderopolis.org and accompanying Facebook and Twitter accounts. A secondary goal was to identify “hand-raisers”—key audiences who loved the site and could become part of a Wonderopolis community. During the summer, typically a slow time for educational websites, the site was transformed into Camp What-A-Wonder, with questions such as “What does poison ivy look like?” Phase II, now in process, will translate excitement around Wonderopolis into a community that will live online and offline.

Wonderopolis.org launched in October 2010. In the first month, it attracted more than 18,500 visitors. Between January and August, 2011, the number of monthly unique visitors grew by 670 percent. Growth was fueled almost entirely by people talking about and sharing Wonderopolis with each other. As word about Wonderopolis has spread, so has the level of visitor engagement. Facebook and Twitter fans have contributed an average of 48 comments and 348 @Wonderopolis mentions, respectively, each month. Recently, Time named Wonderopolis one of 2011’s 50 Best Websites, noting that the articles are “just plain interesting, and make for addictive reading even for those of us who are, in theory, all grown up.”



Vail Resorts Goes Social on the Slopes

In 2010-11,Vail Resorts wanted to push the envelope to combine the outdoor lifestyle Rocky Mountain skiers crave with the frontier of social networks. The result: EpicMix, a one-of-a-kind online and mobile app that connects skiers with their friends and family on the mountain, allowing them to share stories and achievements without interrupting their ski day. Sounds great on paper, but how could Vail get its visitors to start sharing their experiences this way?

EpicMix builds word of mouth three ways. RFID technology embedded into season passes and lift tickets allows passive check-ins so riders can learn where they rode, when they rode and how many vertical feet they travelled. Second, by allowing riders to earn “pins” for a variety of achievements, EpicMix becomes a game to motivate and challenge riders to push themselves. The final step is sharing. EpicMix is a free web and mobile application, so users can log on or use a smartphone to access their accounts, see their stats, add friends from Facebook, create an EpicMix family, send messages and see where friends are on the mountain.

EpicMix went live in December 2010 and nearly 100,000 guests activated their account, equal to about 15 percent of the total eligible guests. Of those, 38,000 used the free EpicMix Android and iPhone app. Through automated social posts, EpicMix generated more than 35 million social impressions, helping Vail Resorts reach people around the world it never had an opportunity to touch before.



U by Kotex Creates a Social Movement

To successfully launch U by Kotex, a bold and breakthrough line of feminine protection, Kimberly-Clark (K-C) had to take on the category by being culturally disruptive and consistently innovative. And it had to make millennials understand that U by Kotex is not your mother’s menstrual protection. Thus, the “Break the Cycle” campaign was created to drive authentic and educational dialogue about women’s health.  The opportunity for K-C and Marina Maher Communications was to build a strong bond with the target through social media networks—the media they trust and use most often. The agency aligned four core digital platforms with the communication goals outlined by U by Kotex. Each played out on the branded website, in the primary social platforms and across the larger social web. “Get Real” looks at what is currently wrong in the feminine care category; “Real Answers” provides answers to questions from teen girls and young women on feminine hygiene; “Products” focuses on the U by Kotex line; and “The Mission” challenges girls to get involved and join the cause. A PR campaign included integration with the Tyra Banks Show, a media event featuring  Khloé Kardashian and “partnerships” with the 100 most influential online influencers.

The campaign has been a remarkable success story—earning the brand six and a half times more conversations online than the next closest competitor, with over 99 percent of the feedback positive or neutral. It also helped move Kotex into the top spot in terms of share of feminine care WOM among women 13 to 44. Most importantly, this successful word-of-mouth campaign has yielded impressive business results. Since the U by Kotex launch, sales of Kimberly-Clark’s adult and feminine care products have grown significantly.



Customer Love Cures Sprint’s Ills

With its primary competitors AT&T and Verizon poaching its customers, Sprint needed to find out what drove user loyalty/disloyalty to its brand. Using information garnered from the stories wireless users shared online, Sprint, EuroRSCG (its agency) and MotiveQuest discovered there were three primary reasons to stay loyal to a carrier: customer service, phone models and network coverage. Sprint felt that the best opportunity was to focus on customer service. It was the biggest driver of carrier advocacy—even ahead of models and coverage—and Sprint found itself a distant fourth behind Verizon, T- Mobile and AT&T.

Sprint’s research found that the best customer service brands do an incredible job of merging traditional person-to-person customer service with aggregating and integrating information on the web. Sprint and its agency took these insights to heart. Sprint retooled customer service programs and rewrote scripts for call centers based on the consumer expectations revealed in the research. Sprint also developed device education and engagement programs with the goal of educating customers about features and functions of their phones and services.

The research and revamped customer service offerings had wide-ranging effects. In December 2010, a Consumer Reports  satisfaction survey of carriers ranked Sprint second, and it called Sprint’s turnaround “remarkable” given the brand ranked last in the survey less than two years prior. A May 2011 report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index ranked Sprint first in terms of customer satisfaction. Most importantly churn fell from 2.78 percent in Q3 2009 to 1.81 percent in Q1 2011, an impressive 35 percent decrease and Sprint’s lowest rate ever. 



Word of Mouth Helps Dettol Clean Up in China

Reckitt Benckiser’s Dettol (Lysol in U.S.) antiseptic liquid was struggling to grow in China outside of the top 10 cities. While RB typically purchases TV ads to build its brands, it found that was too expensive in this market and opted instead for word of mouth.

Working with Advocacy WOM, Dettol discovered that in China there was limited use of antiseptic liquids beyond cleaning floors and disinfecting laundry. Moreover, many consumers were buying a large 1.2 liter bottle, which was inconvenient to lug around. Still, Chinese mothers were concerned about family health, with a high focus on preventing illness.

To encourage daily use, smaller size Dettol spray bottles were created specifically for the word-of-mouth campaign. These 100ml and 30ml versions were packaged into an “experience kit” with a leaflet showing the places consumers can kill germs using the spray. The kits, in turn, were distributed to 4,000 “influencer moms,” each of whom received one for herself and 10 others for friends. The agency also created games to engage advocates further; for example, they could earn points by completing certain “missions” and those points increased their chances of receiving kits from other brands. Meanwhile, leader boards helped the agency identify top advocates.

The results were impressive. A survey was conducted in Nanjing (where the WOM campaign occurred) and a control city. In all, 46 percent of target consumers were reached by the WOM campaign, and all brand indicators went up significantly more than in the control city. For example, between March and August, top-of-mind awareness quintupled from 5 percent to 25 percent (it remained the same in the control city), and purchase intent doubled from 21 percent to 42 percent (it went from 24 percent to 28 percent in the control). More importantly, May to July monthly shipments of Dettol in Nanjing increased 86 percent compared to the pre-campaign average.


Skiers love to talk about skiing, and Vail Resorts' EpicMix gives them a social platform to do just that.