How often have you heard marketing people swear by the adage that ‘word of mouth’ is the best form of advertising there is? Some even go so far as to claim that it’s so valuable an asset that you can’t put a value on it. “Priceless” they cry, “Priceless!”. I’ll bet you have probably even professed it yourself – I know I have on more than one occasion. And it’s funny how some advertising generates word of mouth which, of course, isn’t always favorable. Take for example, a recent billboard campaign for treating erectile dysfunction. “Do it longer” was the simple headline. It generated heaps of talk, particularly amongst the wowser brigade who attempted, unsuccessfully, to have it withdrawn. I don’t have any figures as to its success or otherwise. It’s still around though, unashamedly in your face and, as Oscar Wilde so wittily observed, any publicity is good publicity. I don’t disagree with him though I would prefer the good stuff.
Today, word of mouth advertising has received a massive dose of adrenalin. It’s called the Internet and its going gangbusters. It’s opened a vast storehouse of information on literally any subject under the sun. Social media like Facebook and Twitter have made word of mouth – the expression of opinions good or bad, warts and all – as simple as falling off a log.
With the phenomenal growth of easy to use, versatile devices like Apple’s iPad, more and more people are using this magical invention than the less convenient laptops and desktop computers to shop online. More than that, it make it possible for the users to easily comment, to praise or to criticize their experience. It’s an extremely potent source of “word of mouth” recommendation or otherwise, made anonymously.
The portability, the use it anywhere form must play a large part in its popularity. There’s plenty of evidence that it’s happening here too. In Australia, 7.4 million tablets were sold last year and Deloittes estimate that, by 2016, 11 million Australians will have one. In America, the magazine Adweek reports that four years from now 50 million tablet devices will be sold annually in the United States – that’s a mighty one third of US adults will own a tablet by 2016.
Whatever else it does, this means that more and more companies will turn to the iPad and similar devices to streamline their operations. It doesn’t take much imagination to see what huge benefits will stem from this hand-held revolution. No more expensive, woefully unwieldy printed catalogues. That’s just the beginning because for business, you will be able to take your whole office with you wherever you go.
Does that make the iPad a ‘virtual office’ ? It’s certainly looking that way. A hairdressing salon keeps a couple of iPads for waiting customers to use. Sure as hell beats out of date magazines with half their pages torn out. Qantas is replacing its in flight entertainment system with an iPad for each passenger. Building site foremen are using the iPad to keep track of operations without having to resort to the site office all the time. Art gallery owners are using their iPads to show paintings on offer. Doctors are keeping patient records and even X-rays on the iPad. Architects are showing 3D drawings to clients. And sales people everywhere thrive on the iPad because, as a business tool, the iPad has no peer.
Next time you’re in a store that sells the iPad, watch a while as people play with it. You will be left with no doubt about the outcome. It’s love at first sight.