Why successful branding still happens offline

Face-to-face conversations about brands communicate higher credibility than online conversations, brand experts say

May 24, 2012

Ed Keller and Brad Fay, writing at The Wall Street Journal‘s Speakeasy blog:

It has been said that online social media is “word of mouth on steroids.” Key to that argument is a belief that online conversations will spread to hundreds or thousands of people (and maybe more) with the click of a mouse. But while that is theoretically possible, it is not the way online sharing usually works. Most links that are shared reach only 5-10 people. And the huge legions of Facebook fans, it turns out, are not so actively engaged with the brands they once “liked.” Fewer than 1% of brand fans on Facebook have any type of active involvement, bringing those huge numbers back down to earth.

Meanwhile, our research finds that 90% of word-of-mouth conversations about brands take place offline, primarily face-to-face, in people’s homes and offices, in restaurants and stores, really anywhere people congregate. These conversations bring with them greater credibility, a greater desire to share with others, and a great likelihood to purchase the products being discussed than conversations that take place online.

“Keller and Fay’s commentary reminds us, again, of the importance of multichannel donor communications,” says Rick Dunham, President+CEO of Dunham+Company.

“Our latest research finds that donors are more than three times likelier to give online in response to a direct mail appeal than an emailed appeal. It also finds that social media rarely motivates the key donor demographic of ages 40+.”

“Nonprofits must focus on developing and cultivating integrated online and offline communication channels so that donors will be moved to engage in meaningful conversations about the organization’s work.”