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Tremor looks to shake up entertainment marketing with its word-of-mouth might

Harnassing the word-of-mouth power of its network of teen connectors from across the U.S., Proctor and Gamble's Tremor marketing unit is breaking into the entertainment world to help studios build buzz for upcoming movie releases. The ink is still drying on a representation deal with talent agency CAA, but Tremor's VP of business development Steve Knox believes his unit's services are a perfect fit with Hollywood interests.
October 1, 2002

Harnassing the word-of-mouth power of its network of teen connectors from across the U.S., Proctor and Gamble’s Tremor marketing unit is breaking into the entertainment world to help studios build buzz for upcoming movie releases. The ink is still drying on a representation deal with talent agency CAA, but Tremor’s VP of business development Steve Knox believes his unit’s services are a perfect fit with Hollywood interests.

‘Word of mouth advocacy is really the gold standard of effective advertising,’ says Knox. ‘There isn’t a TV commercial or a print ad that can beat a friend recommending a movie or a type of cosmetic.’ This strong claim is supported by U.S. consulting firm McKinsey & Co., which reported in May 2001 that 67% of consumer goods sales are directly influenced by word-of-mouth.

Tremor launched two years ago on the heels of a lengthy in-house research project that identified two primary problems with word-of-mouth advertising: scalability and predictability. Using Proctor and Gamble’s consumer research tools, Tremor came up with a system for unearthing teen connectors – the word-of-mouth catalysts that are characterized by their wide social networks and their propensity for talking about new ideas – in every state by analyzing their consumption habits.

Tremor has now amassed 20,000 teens between the ages of 13 and 18, with a heavy skew towards the 15-plus sweet spot since, according to Knox, ‘old always influences young in the teen space.’ Because females tend to be more communicative than males by nature, the group is also split along gender lines in a 60/40 girl/boy ratio.

Tremor teens are not paid. Rather, the unit appeals to their connector nature by offering them both access to cool new concepts before anyone else and the opportunity to influence product and brand development. Tremor gets in touch with its connectors on-line and via the U.S. postal service, an extremely popular delivery method by virtue of its novelty; since they don’t pay bills, teens don’t tend to get a lot of mail.

The Tremor network has racked up some pretty impressive test results in the field since its launch. Last spring, for example, the unit ran a campaign for the launch of a new Cover Girl lipstick called Outlast that saw it send a product sample and 10 promo cards pushing an on-line offer for a trial-size sample to 400 teen girl connectors in Providence, Rhode Island. ‘We learned that 90% of these girls referred nine other kids on average, which is a stunning number considering that they were only given 10 cards to hand out,’ says Knox. ‘But the most powerful result is that we achieved a 14% volume lift versus matched-store control testing.’

No stranger to TV, Tremor also helped a U.S. net (which Knox declined to name) up its teen girl ratings for a new series from 5.6 to 15.2.

Knox admits that there are a tremendous number of competing marketing agencies that offer street team services to clients, but Tremor has two key advantages that set it apart: ‘We’re national in scope, and we have the capability to predict in advance whether something will buzz in the marketplace.’

For each client, Tremor pretests between four and eight word-of-mouth concepts with a subset of its connectors to see which ones get teens talking the most. The top one or two are then put into play with the larger network of teens.

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