Marketing is oft times related to networking. It is easy to see just why this happens. Over the years, it has been consistently shown that the fastest way news and information travels are by utilizing these networks. The exponential rate by which this travels is something that marketers are always trying to take advantage of. It is this phenomenon that the article entitled, The First Word in Marketing, tries to discuss.
Using the research of Wharton marketing professors, Raghuram Iyengar and Christophe Van den Bulte, it was found that the main challenge in exploiting these networking hubs is finding the proper “seeding points”. They argued that it is not simply about disseminating the information through a single person but ensuring that the person is able to effectively and efficiently carry out or transmit the information in the network. According to their findings, the most important person in the hub is not the person with the most number of friends but rather the person who was a crucial link between networks. It does not matter so much that the person knows many other people but rather that the person has a certain influence over key members of the networks so as to allow for the information to be transmitted. They proved this by showing their study on pharmaceutical products.
The “contagion” that the authors cite is the driving force behind the word of mouth system. It shows that past marketing strategies may be outdated in that they are not able to effectively identify the seeders properly. Finding and identifying the leaders in these groups is integral to the effectiveness of the marketing strategy. This places relevance on the distribution channels and channel efficiency because while these things exist it is still important to find a seeder who is able to utilize these channels effectively.
Perhaps the most important point of this article comes from the fact that is has tackled a previous accepted theory regarding the spread of information and influence through these networking channels; that leaders too can be affected by social influence. The relevance of this finding comes from the fact that it was thought that self-reported opinion leaders were the quicker at influencing others. As the research shows, however, sociometric leaders were also effective. In fact, they were so effective that it proved that word of mouth is an effective tool that can influence even self-reported opinion leaders as well as their followers.
The implications of this study expand the basic knowledge of marketing. Its shows that the key to establishing and utilizing the distribution and marketing channels lies in being able to identify the key points where the information will be spread fastest. It reinforces the theory that seeders are the keys to being able to market a product through word of mouth. Additionally, it also means that merchants, agents and brokers must be able to properly identify who these leaders are.
However, one problem here is that there is no showing that this type of effectiveness will also apply to other networks. In the pharmaceutical industry, there are recognized leaders and also influential people. This makes is easier to identify effective seeders. In other industries, however, such as the automotive industry, it makes it more difficult to identify who these people are because of the fact that the qualifications are easier or at least not too stringent. The influence factor has always been critical but perhaps the requirements are not as general as the study suggests.