How Would You Use WON?

The granddaddy of all polls — the Harris — has come up with a new method for measuring brand recognition. It's called word-of-network (WON℠), as opposed to word-of-mouth (WOM), and it's a fascinating idea.

WON is WOM on steroids. According to a Harris Interactive press release, WON “offers quantitative categorization of comments about brands based on their positive, negative, or neutral sentiments. WON also controls for volume of conversation around a brand and provides clients with a means to predict brand performance. “

Harris is discussing WON in the context of holiday shopping. Shoppers are increasingly using social media to research products before hitting the stores. No surprise there. But Harris has figured out — and I happen to agree — that social media create as much misinformation as they do information. There's a lot of “noise.”

For example, every few days a morning talk show will host some poor soul who has posted something on YouTube. There is invariably an outcry about the posting — people weigh in on whether they think the video is “real” or not. The person who posted the video then goes on national television to explain what really happened in the video. If we're lucky, their 15 minutes of fame is over.

Harris says WON helps filter out the noise. They don't explain how, but they do explain the value of filtering. Any individual that's unhappy with a brand or product can post negative comments. It's not always clear that the experience is a one-time situation or a problem that repeats itself over and over. The Harris release quotes Jeni Lee Chapman, Executive VP, Brand and Communications Consulting at Harris Interactive:

    “There is a practical advantage when your 'friends' are members of your panel. We can uncover a wealth of information about the commentators that is largely unavailable from traditional social media monitoring programs, which by their nature can only yield the most superficial information at best—and, at worst, present a distorted picture of what is happening in the real world. Our research indicates that a more comprehensive metric, like WON, can provide an early-warning signal of a brand's real time word-of-mouth.”

Take this one step further and you have an application for WON in the supply chain. Take a set of buyers — say, customers that order 10,000 Brand X DRAMs on a regular basis — and measure their experience. Do they get what they order on time in the right quantity? Or did something go wrong? If so, where did it go wrong, and how can the company correct it?

The same data is currently compiled through customer surveys, which take a lot of time and effort. Instead of asking people to fill out surveys, the data on social networks is already out there. All you have to do is figure out how to filter it, and you've struck gold.

It's clearly not as simple as that, or Harris would tell us how it is done. But it's an intriguing idea, and I'd like to know if businesses are using similar methods in the supply chain. If so, is the information helpful? Does it aid in forecasting? Let us know.

12 comments on “How Would You Use WON?

  1. bolaji ojo
    December 6, 2011

    Barbara, I don't know if Harris is right or wrong but I know I wouldn't mind a high-frequency, high-velocity WON (Word of Network.) There have been times when all I could do after getting ticked off by some company is simply wag my finger at them and then go lick my wound somewhere. Recently, an insurance company (that shall for now remain unnamed) sent me a form letter refusing to repair my car because it claimed I must have been at fault for the incident.

    Here's what the company said: “Our initial investigation has determined that you may be negligent and therefore responsible for our damages.” My car was parked in a designated and public parking spot. Some guy reversed into it with a big truck he had rented from a leasing company and the police report made it clear he backed into my vehicle. How could I have been “responsible” for their damages when the truck didn't even have a scratch andmy car wasn't even running at the time. I needed a WON at that moment and would have used it to blacklist the company.

    The story didn't end there, though. The insurance company representative apologized on the phone and said the letter I received was a “form-letter” they mail out automatically. (Incredible, isn't it?) They've sent someone to appraise the damage to my vehicle and will make the repairs. If I had had and had used my WON, I probably could be facing the insurance company's WON in court for defamation or some such term their Network of Lawyers (NOL) would slap on me.

    Moral of the story? Before you use your WON make sure it's bigger, better and badder than your opponent's WON.

  2. Adeniji Kayode
    December 6, 2011

    Good post, I feel WON may not be as easy as that but could be an effective tool for companies to handle their feedback or their performance(s) from the consumers' angle for self evaluation which should lead to a better performance .

  3. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 6, 2011

    Bolaji–although I'm LOL I feel your pain. Maybe the solution would be a third-party WON or an outsourced WON (OWON). That way you could protect your identity from the NOL and still benefit from the WON. On a more serious note, been there, done that. If changing your insurance company is an option, there's always that…there's nothing like a competing bid to get a company's attention 

  4. _hm
    December 6, 2011

    WON offers many advantages. One advantage is one has to make his own judgement. It also offers very candid opinions and many situations are very akin to reader's and he can take quick and known decision.

    When I purchase from Costco online, I look for four or five star product and read all reviews. If negative reviews does not effect my requirement, and if it is four to five star, I purchase the product or service. They are generally very reliable.


  5. DataCrunch
    December 6, 2011

    I can see these rating systems getting abused, perhaps by competitors of a specific company or product providing negative reviews and ratings while company insiders, perhaps providing positive reviews.  There seems to be too much room for manipulation of the results.

  6. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 7, 2011

    @Dave–the more I think about it, the more I can see how results could be manipulated. I'm going to dig deeper on how Harris “filters” its results.

  7. _hm
    December 7, 2011

    I do not agree with idea of manipulation. Many of vendors are large multinational compnaies. They may not be interested in manipulation. Also, if one gets caught, the cost in court is too high. Sometime your product wins, other time you have to learn from comments and improve your product.

  8. DataCrunch
    December 7, 2011

    Here is an interesting article published in Scientific American that I came across, titled: Manipulation of the Crowd: How Trustworthy Are Online Ratings?

  9. _hm
    December 7, 2011

    I read it. But to me it looks like uttelry preposterous article! I have not yet deceived or dissapointed by WON.

  10. prabhakar_deosthali
    December 8, 2011

    In my opinion , the analysis based upon WON needs to be formalised the way the WOM ssurveys are.

    In WOM the surveying companies choose their audience very carefully based upon their profile, interests, lifestyle, income group and so.

    Since on WON many of the identities may be virtual, their backgorunds not known- The results may not be as reliable as they would from a WOM.

  11. jbond
    December 9, 2011

    There seems to be a lot of gray area and space for manipulating the results. I would also be curious to see the numbers involved in these polls. I very irritated with these polls that politicians or the media use and then you see that it was a segment of a few hundred people in a certain area. Those types of polls don't give a realistic view.

  12. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 12, 2011

    Readers–it's difficult to see how results could avoid manipulation. Companies have already figured out how to stack SEO in their favor. I'll keep digging–it's a interesting discussion.

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