Today’s post to the Social Business blog by Rich Harris on ZDNet has a fascinating headline:
Will advertising lose the war against word of mouth?
While this question may entail “a consummation/Devoutly to be wished,” Harris’ supporting argument has at least one questionable proposition:
59% of Americans believe offline word of mouth is highly credible, 49% believe online is.
Is this really true? My guess is that the answer to this question is the rabbinical one:
In other words it depends on just whose mouth is the source, whether that source is offline or online. Thus, my neighbor may spend as lot of time reading Consumer Reports; but, if he has never driven a car, I would be unlikely to hold a conversation about the best car for me to buy. My guess is that there is an analogy to this assertion for just about anything I would be thinking about buying.
This does not negate Harris’ assertion that most people recognize that any advertising source is suspect. However, that is a trivial conclusion to draw once you accept the premise that any communicative action has a motive, since you are unlikely to share the motive of the advertiser. Nevertheless, identifying motive is never easy, even in the most conducive of settings. Thus, however effective word-of-mouth may be, the question of finding a reliable and authoritative “mouth” is still with us and not easily solved.