Cockahoop Collection

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During the last several decades of the 20th century, it was hard to watch TV without seeing famous faces appear during the commercial breaks, such as those of Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, or Muhammad Ali. The list seemed endless.

While brands have often turned to celebrities to support their message and promote their image in advertisements, they have also always been eager to generate positive word of mouth from regular individuals. The notion that people respond more positively to things that have been endorsed by friends and family has a lengthy heritage in the psychological literature.3 Informally, companies have long known that when customers had a positive experience and spoke to others about it, their businesses grew. The growth of word-of-mouth marketing, however, is said to have formally started in the 1970s, thanks to a psychologist named George Silverman, who realized while conducting focus groups with physicians that the positive opinions of one doctor helped change the opinions of the others.

It is inherently difficult for brands to force consumers to talk about them positively, so some of the best examples have occurred when the company did little to create the buzz (at least initially). Companies such as Apple, Starbucks, and Zappos have all grown their businesses, in part, by getting their satisfied customers to not only remain loyal to them but also speak favorably about them to others.

A common way to analyze the many media options available to brands is to subdivide them into paid, owned, and earned. Paid media refer to the channels where an advertiser buys space or time to place the message, such as television, radio, magazines, newspapers, outdoor billboards, and digital media. Owned media include the diverse channels that the brand owns outright (such as its website), along with those where it can pay to get an ownership right, such as sponsorship or content integration. Earned media offer brands opportunities to earn the trust of the consumer, whether through social media liking and sharing or through the more traditional route of word of mouth (i.e., discussing a brand with friends and family).

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