The Word of Mouth Cycle
There is a progression where influencers stop influencing once there’s no one left to influence. Or, when brand, group, or product no longer is unique and/or ‘ownable’ to the early influencers. It’s sort of like gossip. It’s not fun to gossip if it’s possible everyone knows. And it’s really fun to gossip when it’s ‘juicy’ stuff…a huge story!
Such seems to be the case with word of mouth for a product or other subject. Influencers, who are sort of hunter / gatherers, ferret out the latest product or news. When it’s really good, or something worth their passion, they share it with others. The more excellent products and/or in a higher passion category…the higher frequency and reach of word of mouth.
Along the way, the next group of people tells someone (you can call them early majority if you’d like) and they tell the mainstream, and so on. By this time, the influencers have moved on. It’s no longer interesting.
As a diagram it looks like this:
In the beginning, there are few people talking (low distribution). The sources are few but the passion (frequency and reach) is high. As time goes on – and I’m not sure if there’s a chasm here – distribution gets to a point the influencers no longer carry an interest. This could be due to the ‘old gossip’ factor or that the way they saw the subject in the beginning is different than the way they see it now that’s it’s shared with the mainstream (or worse, late majority and laggards!). The product or subject has become homogenized.
There are several reasons for the homogenization along the way – not the least of which is commoditization of the product.
What’s a company, person, organization to do? Reinvent. You can reinvent product, you can reinvent image, you can reinvent interaction and process. Reinvent something that is visible, tangible and interesting to the customer. Think of Seth Godin’s Purple Cow concept – and apply that not just to product, but to the way you do business.
Case in point: Madonna.
Not my favorite singer, but she figured out the secret formula to longevity. Her fans, or new fans, ‘found her’ each time she reinvented herself…restarting the interest and word of mouth cycle.
Case in point: Cereals
This principle is relevant to everything. Companies, products, relationships, hobbies, advertising, work out routine, job, personal ‘brand’, etc. People crave things that are new and excellent. That’s what people what people want to experience. And it’s what they want to talk about. So then, change needs to occur to benefit from the word of mouth cycle. The tricky part is deciding what to change to what!