Branding in the Digital Age: The Role of Word of Mouth

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25, and without a job was not a good place to be in. Having been laid off post our digital start-up’s acquisition by an MNC, there I was, carried away with the dot com bubble of early 2000.

This crucial turning point was also my first lesson on the importance of word of mouth. I learnt that when negative word of mouth travels at the speed of light, positive word of mouth opens a window to a world of opportunities.

Thereon began my journey of being paid to live my passion – working with a leading youth and music channel for their television and digital business, thanks to positive word of mouth.

Also Read: Top Things Angel Investors Look For In Startups Before Investing

With the rapid global evolution in this digital era, today, the brand is defined by positive or negative experiences customers obtain across multiple touch points. The digitally-empowered consumer behaves very differently and is always ahead of the brand.

Winning over digital consumers requires brands to go beyond the traditional rules of engagement. If a brand does not live up to their expectations, customers will gladly tell you and more importantly tell each other about it.

When positive word-of-mouth spreads quickly; negative word-of-mouth spreads even quicker – at the ‘speed of light’. Let me reiterate this with certain instances in the recent times.

Bollywood & Cricket

In India – Bollywood & Cricket are nothing short of religions.

The impact of social media is transforming Bollywood in an ongoing basis. The success of a movie is no longer dependent on its massive budget or even the star cast. The verdict is out on Social Media sooner than one can imagine, which is well before the first public screening.

One only needs to follow the likes of Taran Adarsh to know what the movie has to offer. There have also been social media campaigns that take our anticipation up a notch, while others have been typecast as a flop well before its release, thanks to the internet and word of mouth.

The recent ball tampering scandal of Australian Cricket’s Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft ascertains that negative news travels at the speed of light.

As soon as the cameras spotted Cameron Bancroft using a yellow object, which Cricket Australia later confirmed was a sandpaper, the entire focus of the game shifted from what was happening on the field to what was going on with the ball.

News and social media covered it extensively. The teary apology came later, however, the damage was already done. News travels fast. Period.

Social Networking Channels

Word of mouth, positive or negative not only affect individuals and industries, but also companies. Let’s take some social networking companies for instance.

Facebook users have not been too happy with the social networking site of late, in the wake of recent revelations. WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton sent out a tweet urging everyone to #DeleteFacebook. The campaign won support from the likes of Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and Space X.

Predictably, the scandal affected Facebook’s stock in a major way. In a single day, their stock dropped by 7%. That’s the power of word of mouth.

The celebrity influence of Social Media is prominent and this was once again proved when Kylie Jenner tweeted a pretty brutal takedown of Snapchat’s controversial redesign. Snapchat’s stock price apparently dipped due to this. Again – word of mouth.

Also Read: 4 Big Business Strategies that Small Businesses Can Use

In yet another scenario, earlier this year, claiming to have lost followers, Amitabh Bachchan threatened to get off Twitter. His tweet came at a time when US agencies had begun an enquiry over the proliferation of fake accounts.


The very consumer who can build your brand can end up breaking it as well. Brands need to understand the power of the digital consumer, be it a celebrity or a common man.

Even once you do establish yourself in the marketplace, the biggest challenge of digital is the inability to control the volatile nature of online conversations. People talk about your brand 24×7 online.

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