What's WOM With This Picture?

While chatting about upcoming events with a fellow marketing maven and social media manager over lunch the other day, the topic of word-of-mouth vs. viral marketing found its way into the conversation. My friend mentioned that her firm “doesn’t really do word-of-mouth marketing, right now they’re into viral marketing.”

At first I thought I might have missed something somewhere because I was under the impression that WOM kind of is viral marketing. After some post-lunch research, I came across some very helpful definitions on the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Website.

Turns out, I was right. Kind of. According to WOMMA, viral marketing is WOM marketing. Check out the following definitions:

Word of mouth: The act of consumers providing information to other consumers.

Word of mouth marketing: Giving people a reason to talk about your products and services, and making it easier for that conversation to take place. It is the art and science of building active, mutually beneficial consumer-to-consumer and consumer-to-marketer communications. Read more about word of mouth marketing.

Viral Marketing: Creating entertaining or informative messages that are designed to be passed along in an exponential fashion, often electronically or by email.

While the key word is “exponential,” meaning the marketing message is communicated broader and faster, it is still done by giving people an interesting enough message to spread via consumer-to-consumer and consumer-to-marketer communication.

When we plan events for clients and need to generate buzz, such as our What To Wear Fashion Show at Mockingbird Station, I’ve found that viral marketing seems to be born from WOM. Going back to my lunchtime conversation, I think it would have been more correct for my friend to have said her firm “does WOM marketing, specifically viral marketing” rather than separating the two. Am I wrong?