Importance of Opinion Leaders in Advertising and Marketing Strategy 

Marketers try to influence opinion leaders to use a certain product by using direct media and marketing communications and offering them benefits such as discounts, prizes, coupons and samples thereby implementing opinion leadership in marketing strategies frequently.

All these attempts are made with the aim that the opinion leaders will preferentially communicate favourable word of mouth about the marketer’s product/brand. Besides using opinion leaders in marketing strategies, another approach through which marketers make use of opinion leadership is advertising. This approach enables consumers to communicate indirectly with other consumers through social communication. Marketers of new products find this approach, especially significant as they desire to extend to the product innovators.

The significance level of opinion leadership varies from different products to target markets. Hence, the foremost step in employing opinion leaders is to establish with the help of experience, logic or research, the exact role of opinion leadership in the existing conditions.

Marketing strategies can then be formulated to employ opinion leadership to get positive results.

1) Product Sampling:

Sending a sample of a particular product to a prospective customer is called “product sampling. It can act as an effective method of developing interpersonal communications regarding the product. Therefore, the individuals who are likely to become opinion leaders should be preferred to send the samples by the marketers, rather than choosing any random sample.

2) Identifying Opinion Leaders:

A list of questions designed by marketers can help identify prospective opinion leaders. Such types of questionnaires can help identify only a limited solution to the identification problem because opinion leaders are greatly engaged in mass media, especially on different channels of media that concentrate on their areas of leadership.

3) Marketing Research:

Marketing research refers to the tests and studies related to product usage, choice of media and testing of advertising copy. Marketing research must emphasise marketing messages that are usually received understood and communicated to others by the opinion leaders instead of “representative” samples in those product groups and classes in which opinion leaders play a high-priority role.

Therefore, individuals who are most likely to be opinion leaders should be considered as samples for the marketing research and thus, it is quite crucial that these persons are exposed to, and give a positive response to the company’s marketing mix. It is indeed evident that such a marketing strategy would be foolish for those product categories or groups in which opinion leadership is not required. 

4) Advertising:

There is a dual effect of advertising on opinion leadership, i.e, to replicate and motivate. The process of stimulation or motivation includes special themes formulated in the advertisement to encourage prospective users to inquire about existing owners or someone else who owns the product, about their views about the product or existing owners to communicate about the product or brand to their friends or relatives. The company should be sure that there is a high level of contentment among customers who are already using their products or services, before employing such a campaign.

5) Retailing/Personal Selling:

Salespeople and retailers have several opportunities to make use of opinion leadership. For example, clothing and apparel stores can develop “fashion advisory boards”. Such boards would consist of probable style opinion leaders from the brand’s target audience. A store serving a teenage audience can appoint opinion leaders in the form of class officers and cheerleaders.

Another example would be restaurant managers sending special invitations, menus and 2-for-1 meal coupons to their target audience including officers in the Rotary, League of Women Voters and Junior League.

6) Negative Word of Mouth (WOM):

Research has given credibility to the fact that customers talk and share their experiences with the products, services and stores they prefer. Hence, meeting and even exceeding the desires and expectations of customers regarding the products offered by the marketer is very important. In case this does not happen. the marketers must be just and prompt in resolving the complaints of the customers as nine other customers come to know about the dissatisfaction through an unhappy customer.

Therefore, positive influence created advertisements and thus gets nullified by such a negative word of mouth.

By Arya

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