Feeding Your Word-of-Mouth? Why the Age-Old Buzz Building Tool Needs a Non-Traditional Nudge


Case Study: Ford “Bold Moves”

Earlier this year, Ford unveiled a new ad campaign titled “Bold Moves.” It can be characterized as “brand journalism”, as it provides a multimedia view into the company’s history, challenges facing the U.S. automotive industry, and plans for the future.

The campaign includes a destination website (www.FordBoldMoves.com), and the video and audio components are also available free at YouTube and in the iTunes podcast directory. New content is released regularly, and consumers cannot predict what is next — there is no programming guide for the release of the Bold Moves documentary.

RSS Feeds as a Retention Tool

Ford has made it easy for the target audience to be notified of new content releases by making RSS feeds available on the homepage of the Bold Moves web site. A click on the “Feeds” link takes a user to an easy-to-use subscription page, where a subscription can be completed with many of the popular feed readers with the click of a button.

Like its counterparts in the media publisher business, Ford — as an advertiser-turned-publisher – is interested in analytics around its distributed content. Relevant metrics include subscriptions, reach, and content interaction. The company uses established feed management service to gain insight into how the subscriber base is changing over time, and to measure engagement level.

In addition, the feed management service provides Ford with interactive features that can be added to the feed content to generate pass-along activity, and to allow a user to add the content to popular social bookmarking services, for example.

RSS Feeds as a Seeding Tool

Many commercial content publishers, and the majority of the bloggers, in digital media are making their content available via syndicated RSS feeds. As more online content gets distributed in smaller pieces, and as consumers gain more control over their content choices, it provides an opportunity for WOM marketers to ride shotgun with their seeding efforts.

The increase in RSS adoption has allowed ad networks to reach a sizable audience through ad insertions into feeds. FeedBurner, the market leading feed management service, reaches millions of unique subscribers each month, and is managing hundreds of millions of monthly ad impressions. As a result, a marketer like Ford can use a feed-based media network to reach end users who already have a predilection for syndicated content. What better place to attract feed subscribers than by advertising in third-party feeds?

Further, audience surveys suggest that feed subscribers index high, vs. the online population, for influence and opinion leadership. In its audience surveys of feed subscribers, FeedBurner found that 57% of respondents say that “other people ask me for product recommendations”, and that 58% are a “trusted source of technical advice.”

To support the Bold Moves campaign, Ford is placing ads in feeds that are designed to build the subscriber base. Like the media placement, the messaging is non-traditional. The ad unit contains the familiar orange RSS “subscribe” icon, and users are two clicks away from subscribing directly to the campaigns’ feed.

WOM and Feeds

Word of Mouth marketing campaigns will undoubtedly push the creative envelope, and show amazing diversity in their approach to reaching influencers and inspiring pass-along. An item in the November 16th issue of The Wall Street Journal describes a spoof micro-site developed by HarperCollins to promote Michael Crichton’s newest novel, “Next”, due out on November 28th. It includes video clips and fake stories involving a mythical biotech company, and the multimedia content is distributed in the usual places.

But is that enough to get maximum effectiveness in an increasingly crowded WOM landscape? WOM marketers will need to make media investments in some non-traditional places – such as on blogs or in RSS feeds — in order to reach the influencers, and use feeds to retain attention.


  1. […] In a pretty generic Adotas article about WOM marketing, Brent Hill writes, “WOM marketers usually begin by identifying the people that are most likely to talk about a product or service – the influencers – and making them aware of new features, benefits, or selling points. If successful, this “seeding” effort initiates a viral marketing phase, in which the influencers share their opinions and experiences with others.” […]


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