A weird title to be sure, but it will make sense by the time you get to the end of this post.
First, Google has introduced an interesting application of crowdsourcing, Google Image Labeler. Given the size of Google's passionate user base, all Google images could effectively be labeled in only two months. This is a controversial initiative, with comments from sophisticated Internet users like Ryan W. who says,
"After about 2 days, when the novelty wears off, why would users do this? Especially enough users to label google’s entire image index of billions of images? No incentive."
to Orli Yakuel who counters,
"Ryan, It’s like asking why people writing in wikipedia, for example.
This is what we do when we spending so much hours on the Net, we’re either consume or provide information and knowledge FOR FREE."
My vote is that this will work for Google (and it's users). Why? Because Google's user base actually cares about Google. When you use a service every day and get value from it, you become loyal to it. Not everyone can get their customers to work for them, and many fail trying, but Google is one of those rare companies whose business was built
entirely by word-of-mouth (when was the last time you saw Google advertise their service anywhere?). Out of modern businesses, Starbucks can also make that kind of claim. Like Starbucks did with their stores, Google plowed millions that could have been spent on advertising on creating the world's best product for their category. The foundation of word-of-mouth success is a great product. You will hear this in almost every presentation at any WOMMA conference.
For more information on the power of crowdsourcing,
check out my May blog post on the topic.
And that leads me to discuss a bad product, the movie "Snakes on a Plane". Although this movie has the
widest distribution of any movie currently showing and had Web buzz galore, it has pretty much been a flop, only grossing $26 million to date. Why? Well, there a range of opinions on this topic. First, let's look back at history and look at what the word-of-mouth pundits predicted:
And it goes on and on. I could easily provide you with a list of 50 such articles, but why bother.
There are many predictions on why the movie bombed, including
the fear of snakes, the film studios still don't get the Internet, and the fact that the movie is dumb. But the most plausible reason I found was in a discussion forum where JR wrote,
"A well-deserved end to this ill-conceived experiment in mass internet-marketing and over saturation TV-spot advertising. Word of mouth still counts. Real word of mouth… and despite the studio's best efforts and big bux, most people can still distinguish genuine word of mouth from studio-purchased word of mouth, even if it is being broadcast by bloggers."
At the end of the day, "Snakes on a Plane" may have
faired better than it otherwise would have as a bad product. But no one should call this piece of trash a hit. "Snakes on a Plane" was viral online because people knew it would suck – it was fun to make fun of. At a low production cost, the movie will be profitable, which is more than you could probably say if it didn't have some buzz. But if it had been a great movie, it literally could have been in the top-20 grossing movies of all time. Because everyone knew about it (and, therefore, knew it met their low expectations when the initial reviews came in post release).
I am modifying the old adage, "there is no such thing as bad PR", to "there may be no such thing as bad PR when you have a great product".
And, to close, let's talk about word-of-mouth when you have a great product. A few weeks ago,
Starbucks had to pull an email promotion because it went viral immediately due to the ease of email forwarding and the attractiveness of the promotion. Now that, my friends, is the power of real word-of-mouth!
Update: Caribou Coffee is honoring the voided Starbucks' coupons. I'm not sure if I view this as a brilliant or desperate move by a company that is worth 6% of Starbucks (on a market cap basis). I guess it all depends on whether or not Caribou Coffee has a great product (and that doesn't just mean the coffee, I'm also talking about the ambiance of the store).