Wildfire – People who Ignite Brands
Marketer’s all have one thing in common – they want their brands to grow as fast as possible. In recent years, there has been an explosion of new and innovative media types and alternatives to exploit the new connectivity people have though SMS, e-mail and the Internet. Some of these ideas are spreading well beyond personal electronic connectivity and a number of new terms have been coined: network marketing, viral marketing, brand ambassadors – the list is growing. These all amount to various forms of “influence marketing”. Up until now, this arena has grown in a rather haphazard way.
“Wildfire marketing” brings these ideas together by embracing a wider concept that acknowledges that we are social beings who influence each other in a myriad of ways, not only by the networks that we all have but by being the particular type of person that we are. This goes beyond the traditional word-of-mouth thinking by looking explicitly at our roles in our networks, our levels of self-esteem and our recognition and respect in those networks. It considers the non-verbal cues we transmit, by looking at our overall state of mind and our optimism about our future.
The Wildfire IndexTM and segmentation model provides a scientific and measurable platform for a marketer’s Wildfire marketing strategy and enables marketer’s to identify those individuals who can ignite their brand.
“The way we think about brands is old. Modern people have evolved beyond the passive consumerism of the mass media age to the active consumerism of the global information age. Young consumers are not defined by the mass media marketing of their parents – they are defined by their experience of complex networks, from their sophisticated mastery of modern technology to their heightened levels of awareness through global media.
In this connected age, the small internet website is as powerful as the massive global media company. Entire nations are swayed by small groups and new ideas spread around the world like wildfire.”
This fascinating study, conducted by the UCT Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing, in conjunction with Research Surveys (Pty) Ltd, found that 17 percent of the population (24 percent in metropolitan areas) can be classified as “Igniters” – people who can have a radical effect (either positive or negative) on a brand. This is one of the findings from the recent study of 3 500 adults across South Africa which investigated people’s overall levels of well-being and social interactions and the impact of these factors on brands and advertising strategies. The study has led to the development of an innovative new Wildfire IndexTM and segmentation model.
Wildfire marketing builds on many related theories such as Diffusion Theory which goes back to Elliot Everett Rogers’ “Diffusion of Innovations and Word of Mouth Marketing”, set out in detail by George Silverman in “Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing”. In the last few years, these applications have been fanned by five main factors:
1. The growth of the Internet creating wide interpersonal networks and speedy global transmission.
2. Widespread interest from marketers and advertisers in books such as Malcolm Gladwell’s influential book, The Tipping Point.
3. Fragmentation of the media and the segmentation of the mass market.
4. The identification and observation of what is ‘cool’ and the interest in youth markets.
5. The apparent decline in the effectiveness of traditional advertising in the first world.
Two types of Wildfire marketing can be identified. The first is organic word of mouth marketing, which encompasses brand advocates who are generally people who are happy with a product and have a natural desire to share their support and enthusiasm for it. Marketer’s can support this organic process by ensuring customer satisfaction by improving the product quality and usability and by responding quickly and decisively to concerns and criticisms. Opening the channels for dialogue and listening to people is also an effective tool for earning customer loyalty. The second type is amplified word of mouth where marketers launch campaigns designed to encourage or accelerate word of mouth marketing in existing or new communities.
In order to bring the concept to life, take Joe and Tim as an example. They are both males aged 25-34 who are employed at an agency and earn the same salary. They live in similar areas and fall into the same LSM category: often we identify them as the same type of consumer and market to them as one.
But, if we take a closer look at them, they are worlds apart in their thinking! Joe is a copywriter. He is driven, competitive, ambitious and positive about the future. He does not earn a large salary but he still manages to wear the latest trendy clothes, has an iPod, goes to all the trendy clubs and has a wide circle of friends. His colleagues in the agency watch and emulate him and he seems effortlessly to influence those in his circle Tim works for the same agency but he is ambivalent about future prospects and is a worrier by nature. Even though he earns the same as Joe, he is cautious about what he spends his money on and is more conservative in his choices. He has a few good friends and not nearly the same amount of influence over others as Joe. He is a follower rather than a leader. In summary, Joe has high levels of optimism and a large network over which he has a strong influence. Tim, on the other hand, has lower levels of optimism and a smaller network over which he has limited influence
Professor John Simpson – Director of the UCT Unilever Institute and Head of the School of Management Studies at UCT, and Neil Higgs – Director for strategic development at Research Surveys (Pty) Ltd