Featured image: Why Word of Mouth is More Important Than Paid Media

Why Word of Mouth is More Important Than Paid Media

Posted in:

LeagueSide welcomes guest writer Michael Gladstone who discusses the influential power of word-of-mouth marketing, the data that validates word of mouth marketing as a useful tool, and the best tactics available to bring your brand’s word of mouth marketing to life.

Why Word of Mouth?

“Word of mouth is everything.”

Have you ever heard anyone say that? Conceptually, it’s true. If you could get one person talking about your quick service restaurant (QSR), who then tells another person, who then tells another person, and so on, you’d have a huge network of potential customers aware of your business, and it wouldn’t have cost you a dime.

The reality of the situation is that QSR advertisers spend billions of dollars trying to persuade consumers to buy their products, when the most powerful selling vehicle, especially for a restaurant brand, is a simple recommendation from a close friend or family member. Let’s take a closer look into why these recommendations carry so much credibility.


Powerful Validation

The statistics citing the power of WOM marketing are startling:

  • 92% of consumers value referrals from friends or family members more than any other type of marketing
  • According to a landmark study in 2014, WOM drives 13 percent of all consumer sales
  • One offline WOM conversation is more powerful than five paid media impressions

These findings illustrate that WOM is an essential and powerful component of a business’s success. With that said, it can be challenging to get customers talking about your business. Often times, consumers prefer to talk about their favorite TV shows, last night’s sports games, and their vacation plans. For a business to enter that conversation, it needs to do something memorable. Let’s discuss three tiers of tactics to integrate WOM into your QSR’s marketing repertoire:

1. Focus on Delivering a Great Customer Experience

Creating memorable experiences can start with small changes to your current business operations that help put your customers first:

  • Assist every customer and be consistent. Treating customers with respect and an upbeat attitude in addition to providing excellent service will not only keep them coming back but also help them in becoming the biggest advocates for your business. Chick-fil-A founder, Truett Cathy, insisted that all employees respond to a “thank you” from customers with “my pleasure”. The policy was developed after the founder’s visit to a Ritz Carlton and became part of the chain’s model to treat customers like they are in a luxury establishment. Implementing small changes to your everyday interactions ensure that your customers know you go the extra mile.
  • Keep your customers informed and on the inside. Make your customers feel like close friends by informing them of new items before everyone else and supporting their community and the things they care about. By giving them an exclusive look into your inner workings, consumers are tied to your brand in a very specific way that can turn them into your brand’s best advocates.

2. Use Non-Traditional, Grassroots Tactics

As your ambition grows, you can take on bigger, more unconventional tactics to utilize the power of WOM. Today, WOM marketing campaigns rarely mean generating only in-person recommendations. Brands can amplify their WOM efforts through various tactics including:

The famous burger bar knocks it out of the park with their delicious shakes!

Online influencer programs

  • The influx of experience and lifestyle marketing has made influencers the next step forward in hyper specific marketing. Followers note the influencers brands for home decor, clothes and food. NYC burger chain Black Tap partners with popular social media food influencers on Instagram to reach specific demographics. These curated influencers post pictures of their unique milkshakes (see above) to their engaged and food-loving audiences, and help draw crowds to Black Tap restaurants.

Referral programs

  • Referral programs are personal endorsements that companies wouldn’t normally have accessible to them. Therefore they are a great way to encourage current customers to share their passion for your brand. GrubHub, a leading online and mobile food-ordering company, encourages users to refer their friends with exclusive referral discounts that allow users to receive up to 20 discounts over the course of the promotion campaign.


  • Whether out at community events or inside stores, sampling is a low-cost way to attract interest in your menu offerings. Providing free samples has the subtle benefit of letting people know you believe so much in your food that you’re willing to let it speak for itself. Jamba Juice samples products in multiple communities through youth sports sponsorships. By partnering with various leagues, Jamba Juice is able to grow its brand and its customer base while simultaneously giving back to communities throughout the United States.

Jamba Juice has created long-lasting relationships by sampling at youth sports leagues!

Social media community building

  • Fast-casual sandwich chain Panera Bread extends its brand experience into its Instagram account, where fans can find beautiful imagery of its bread, salads and soups. The page also provides customers with updates on the company’s community outreach efforts and serves as the perfect platform for customer testimonials that capture the brand’s spirit and sense of community.

3. Create Memorable Campaigns

Truly ambitious companies create memorable campaigns that elicit passion and action from customers. And while creating a viral message is difficult, Wharton professor Jonah Berger may have the answer. In his masterful book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, he lays out six STEPPS for making a message spread like wildfire:

  • Social currency: Give people information or access that, when they tell others about it, makes them feel smart, in-the-know, or special.
  • Triggers: Keeping a brand top-of-mind will lead customers to talk about it more.
  • Emotion: People are more likely to share something that is emotional. Adversity and anything with children are topics that often elicit emotion.
  • Public: The more publicly visible something is, the more likely it is to be shared.
  • Practical value: Relevant content that can be readily used by recipients is more likely to be shared.
  • Stories: Messages packaged as stories have more potential to be spread.

Starbucks provides a festive, artistic twist during the holiday season.

Examples of viral initiatives in the QSR space are plentiful and confirm that viral marketing, as elusive as it may seem, is a function of these six variables at work. Starbucks, the premier leader in all things coffee, encourages consumers to share their experiences on social media featuring Starbucks-branded cups. For instance, the company added holiday-themed cups to their stores dating back to 1997. Since the initial date, they have included cups featuring customer’s artwork, winter designs and the infamous red holiday cup campaign in 2015. Campaigns that elicit emotional reactions and make a lasting impact on consumers are the ones that provide fuel to a brand’s WOM marketing strategy.


What’s Next?

WOM is a powerful marketing vehicle, on its own and as a complement to other marketing channels. By putting your customers first, using non traditional but effective tactics, and creating campaigns that make a lasting impact, you can give your QSR the best possible chance to be a part of the everyday trusted conversations between family and friends.

Share this post

Reach families with TeamSnap for brands