While most brands can benefit greatly from focusing on increasing word of mouth activity, there are a few situations when it just doesn’t make much sense to spend lots of time and money on.
When selling commodities
Let’s face it: few people are talking to their friends about which brand of toothpaste they use. Unless it’s one with very special, niche features, most products are simply too similar and too “boring” to be discussed. No matter how fun or exciting the product is made out to be in commercials, and no matter how popular it is or how well it sells, there’s just not going to be much word of mouth activity around it.
Sadly, the one time a brand like this may see a ton of word of mouth activity is when/if they make a mistake or do something bad. Then people will start talking, but it will probably not results in more products sold.
When selling mostly through direct marketing
A great example here is products that are sold through infomercials. These companies aren’t at all focused on word of mouth marketing – they want sales and they want them now. In fact, many of them would probably prefer it if people didn’t discuss their products, especially if it’s a low-quality product being sold at a high price.
Of course, word of mouth may still prove valuable to them if they sell a useful, high-quality product, but it’s never going to be something they focus actively on increasing. One thing that’s interesting about infomercial products though, is that sometimes the actual product (or presentation) will be so strange/funny/unique that word of mouth activity will increase just from that. Those are quite rare, however.
When selling high-end (or very expensive) products
While a few well-off people might buy a private jet based on word of mouth, it’s generally not something that the companies that make them focus on stimulating. They’re not going to introduce a referral program to get people talking about them on Facebook, because that simply wouldn’t make sense (and that’s probably not even where most of their customers are).
When selling products or services that are in extremely high demand
Think “rental apartments in a crowded city”. People would do almost anything to get a nice, affordable apartment in major cities, and the companies that rent them out are probably not too worried about increasing word of mouth activity. In fact, they rarely have to care about marketing at all – customers will just magically appear whenever they need them!
These are just a few examples of situations where word of mouth isn’t something that should be prioritized. It is important to note, however, that just about every business in the world could benefit from increased word of mouth activity, even if they’re not actively focusing on it. Sometimes it’s just a direct result from selling a great product/service. And, as always, there are exceptions in every industry, and every business is different. There might one day be a company that sells toothpaste based only on word of mouth marketing – you never know!