WommNext2014The WOMMnext conference, sponsored by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), focused on what’s next in WOM. It had four tracks that concentrated on: new research, new platforms, new disciplines and new content. Because I was asked to introduce several topics, I went to sessions that I may not have chosen on my own. This turned out to be a great tangent and introduced some emerging ideas and practices that I might have missed.

One of my favorite things to do at conferences is to curate terms that capture my imagination. Following are a few from this year’s confab.

Brand Boring: This was a phrase thrown out by one of the attendees during Cara Posey’s brainstorming session on “what’s next for thought leadership”. The point was that expert content can be a bit dry and that B2B consumers are people too. They want to be engaged and transfixed by truly breakthrough content and inspired by a unique POV. If a company’s thought leadership content does not live up to that, it is deemed “brand boring.”

Pop-up Thought Leadership. I loved this phrase. It refers to a once-in-a-row piece of content that may be differentiating and contains new thinking and a well-developed POV, but it is not part of a more sustained approach to thought leadership. The use of this phrase led to a mini-debate around the question: is it thought leadership if it’s “launch and leave” as opposed to ongoing development and amplification of new thoughts and ideas around a specified topic? The session didn’t solve this, but I think it’s worth more discussion.

#Hashtag Economy. This phrase which first surfaced in 2011 and I think may have been coined by Brian Solis of Altimeter. It was used by Amber Quist of Spredfast during her presentation on a study co-sponsored by her group with the CMO Club. According to Solis, in the social economy, the hashtag is an indicator of value in the Twitter information exchange. Each hashtag represents revolving markets with varying lifespans determined by the significance of the conversation and the continuously fleeting demand. Some last only minutes while others last hours or days.

Quist used the term in relationship to the pepsi.com website which is almost entirely UGC. Each topic is almost a microsite that is very story-specific. Topics may be very short in duration or longer lasting; very similar to the hashtag economy.

Long Tail of Influence. Another great session was presented by Jeremy Lyons of Sony and Ran Shaul or Pursway. They essentially debunked the idea that influencers have to be celebrities. Instead they focus on finding real people who are the “go-to” folk in personal networks. They use big data to overlay common points of relationships such as people who may have gone to school together, traveled to same city at same time, ate in same restaurants on same nights, etc. This leads to the identification of people who have real relationships with each other. The premise is that each of us has 5-15 “real” friends that have a high degree of influence on each other and impact each other’s purchasing habits. Finding these “cells” for your products builds the long tail of influence vs. ignition through celebrity. The methodology was based on the algorithms used by the Israeli army to find terror cells. (Shaul was a former intelligence officer). Extremely fascinating, but slightly creepy! I’m definitely motivated to learn more.

Disclosure. I know, not a very “next term” but it is one that sparked a lot of tweets at the session that I moderated about Native Advertising. At the core of the debate is whether or not sponsored content, that is fully labeled as such, is an “ethical” form of marketing. It was an interesting part of the panel discussion because WOMMA is the industry leader in WOMM ethics and compliance. The panel consisted of Marty Collins of Seattle Girl, Dana Shank from Kraft Foods, Monika Ratner from Horizon Media and me, Kathy Baughman of ComBlu. The panelists were all extremely knowledgeable about the topic and talked about how they label content and/or guide their brands and clients to be fully FTC compliant. This debate will rage for a while, but I think eventually the industry will get it right. Where do you stand on the “native” debate?

The conference was interesting and the content fairly high level. Hope to continue the discussion at WOMMA’s annual Summit, which will be in Beverly Hills this November. Hope to see you there.

Cheryl Treleaven

Cheryl Treleaven


Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.

Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.

Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.