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Trust Us: Word-of-Mouth Marketing Stands the Test of Time

Credit: Ben White on Unsplash

So – have you heard about the latest and greatest in… word-of-mouth marketing? It remains to be great and you just have to believe us.

Think about the last time you tried a new restaurant. Perhaps you heard about it on the good faith from a trusted pal. Whether you enjoyed your dinner or not, good ‘ole word-of-mouth still got you in the door and at the table eating mozzarella sticks (or guacamole… or hopefully something else yummy?).

As a refresher, word-of-mouth marketing is the spread of an idea, event or recommendation from one person to another. In our age of social media and digital mechanisms, targeted efforts and an excellent plan can turn this age-old strategy into a fantastic asset for your business.

Back to Basics

Two main factors drive word-of-mouth: social currency and triggers. Social currency refers to the exclusivity of an idea or product, like being available for a limited time. Triggers are a social mechanism that remind us about a brand or product, even when we don’t see advertising. Think back to your friend telling you about that yummy plate of mozzarella sticks. While you may not have been hungry for them, you trusted your pal and were triggered with the memory of their recommendation when you felt hungry.

Word-of-mouth strategies aren’t easy and cannot be implemented successfully with “turn-key” tactics; word-of-mouth requires an air of creativity and uniqueness to create organic buzz. Exclusivity, creativity and engagement can help send your plan on the way to success.

Success in Exclusivity

Beloved West Coast burger chain In-N-Out has long been known for its secret menu. The menu started as whispers of delicious customizations, including Protein Style (swapping the bun with lettuce) and the 4×4 (four stacked burger patties). The rumblings of a “secret menu” quickly turned into well-known options of ordering at the restaurant, prompting In-N-Out to publish their “not-so-secret-menu” online and on their app. By encouraging customization in their menu, In-N-Out was able to foster the secret menu rumors while staying true to their brand.

Coffee-giant Starbucks has also been successful in the realm of secret menus, putting creations like the “Dragon Drink” and various Frappuccinos on the official menu. While Starbucks often promotes these specialty drinks on social media, the real word-of-mouth magic happens off the web.

Imagine hearing someone’s order in front of you in line, and you then ask the barista about that drink. If it sounds appealing to you, you’re likely to order it as well. You then tell your friend later about a fun drink you tried today, and they are likely to trust your recommendation. Thus, you have now joined the conversation (and given Starbucks quite a bit of free marketing).

No beef: IHOP Generated the Buzz

Social media and digital marketing have vastly changed word-of-mouth strategies, allowing companies to capitalize on the open-discussion format. Restaurant chain IHOP took full advantage of social media to create organic buzz surrounding items on their menu.

In 2018, IHOP “changed” its name to IHOB (International House of Burgers) to promote its Ultimate Steakburgers. According to Adweek, in the first 10 days following the announcement, there were 1.2 million tweets, 25,000 stories and 41 billion earned impressions about the name change. The restaurant reported four times more burgers sold in the first three weeks after the announcement.

What made IHOP’s campaign successful beyond the social media hype was simple: people talked about it. Sure, not all of the conversation was positive, but the end result was massive publicity and higher sales.

Regular consumers, who may not have necessarily been loyal to the brand, turned into marketers as they verbalized their sorrows or excitement in the name change. All-in-all, it was a word-of-mouth marketing mission accomplished.

Paired with a great idea to generate buzz, our team can help your story become the talk of the town. Ready to spread the word? Give us a call at 702.739.9933 or email us at

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I have worked with The Firm Public Relations & Marketing for more than 10 years and they are more than just business partners, they function like an extension of my marketing department. Their strategic expertise extends beyond traditional public relations initiatives. They produce tactical programs with dedication and proficiency that earn tangible results.

Lisa SantwerVice President, Marketing & CommunicationsComprehensive Cancer Centers