Marketing is an industry that continuously intersects with day-to-day life. After all it is a reflection of our lives – our habits, our desires, and our relationships.
And there’s no better example of that complex entanglement than in the word of mouth that circulates among friends and within communities.
Pick a product or a brand or an experience and people are talking about it. And the power of that chatter is something every company wishes they could harness to their benefit.
Last week I experienced the power of word of mouth first hand. I was getting my hair cut at Craig’s, an institution of sorts in our small town. Craig’s shop is an oasis from my daily stress, and the haircut comes with a lot of warm and friendly conversation.
It just so happens that Craig had been a shareholder of the First National Bank of Litchfield, which was recently taken over by Union Savings Bank (headquartered in Danbury). Like so many other locals that had long affiliations with First National, Craig accepted the reality of the merger, but with some sadness.
Two weeks ago the conversion of computer systems – from the First National system to the Union Savings system – occurred. If you had a business account at First National it’s likely that features of your account changed as a result of the conversion. I can say first hand that those changes can be irritating and time-consuming to a business owner.
I was no sooner in the door at Craig’s when he stridently announced to me: “I’m switching to a bank where I count!” His reference was to Litchfield Bancorp, and the new positioning that we created for them last year: Every Customer Counts. At first I thought that Craig was just flattering me by recognizing our work. But in fact, he proceeded to tell me how he no longer felt as though he “counted” at First National (now Union), and was ready to take all of his business to Litchfield Bancorp, where he was sure that he would count. “How was he sure?” I asked him. I hoped that his perceptions ran deeper than an advertising tag line. And in fact they did. Every Customer Counts was to him, simply an expression of what he already thought about Litchfield Bancorp, and what he had been hearing for years in conversations with his salon customers.
While we were chatting, another customer at the next station piped in, angrily disparaging the changes that were forced on her as a result of First National’s takeover.
It struck me then what a pivotal role Craig has in influencing each of these bank brands. He is one of many ‘centers of influence’ in a small town where word of mouth is the marketing trump card. The power of the conversation happening at Craig’s salon, replicated many times over among the salon regulars, can truly impact gains and losses for the local banks. In this round the winner is Litchfield Bancorp: their message resonated with the community (and was in fact based on research), creating precious positive buzz. If they are successful at the point of sale, Craig may become an enthusiastic evangelist for the Litchfield Bancorp brand.