1000heads: Word of Mouth Optimisation

I screamed at the TV this weekend. Twice.

Here’s why:

They did it. They finally did it.

After imploring them just over a month ago (and then watching Ikea getting in on the act), Homebase finally went and decorated a (very) public place, Carlisle Train Station to be precise, with all their latest furnishings.

Good job.

Photo via 28Gywn

According to some of the photos that can be found on flickr (which I can’t show you, as they’re not under Creative Commons but we’ll come back to this later), Homebase shot the ad above on February 10th. A mere two days after our post recommending they do so.

Just call us 1000-psychic-heads…

Joking aside, it’s good to see this kind of friendly disruption. Interruptive yes, but not combative. It looks like it was all rather enjoyable and fun and it would also seem that Homebase aren’t just stopping there either.

According to their latest promotion ‘Transforming the Nation‘ Carlisle Station won’t be the only place in the UK to get such a makeover. You too can get your community involved and nominate a public space near you to get ‘the Homebase makeover’.

While we applaud the over-arching theme and campaign mechanic (disrupting schemas and getting local community involvement; breadth and depth), we still can’t help but think that there are a few missed opportunities here.

Scott Gould recently spoke at the WOM Espresso about SPREADABILITY vs REACH and in doing so touched upon the key point of GUIDANCE vs GOVERNANCE.

This sign, posted by the Homebase film crew at Carlisle station reminded me of just that:

Photo via 28Gwyn

I’ve worked in television, I know that the above ‘waiver’ is a legality box that must be ticked. However, there are ways and means, surely? Why not have two signs? One with all the legal spiel on it and another…

Oh I don’t know, maybe one like this one:

So I’d like to give a gentle nudge in the direction of the content creators out there – and I don’t just mean those Flickr fanatics or YouTube aficionados, I mean content creators in their purest form: those that create conversation, those that will get to work and actively seek out their friends and peers to amaze and share with them what they have seen.

At the time of writing there are 139 photos on Flickr tagged with ‘Carlisle’ and ‘Homebase’ but only FIVE that are actually licensed under Creative Commons and are therefore spreadable.

Yes, this may have happened already. Of course it did. But there really is no harm in lending a guiding hand along the way.

Homebase shot a TV commercial that happened to take place in a train station.

What else could they have done?
Off the top of our ‘Heads:

  • Where’s the digital component?
  • Have we invited any bloggers along? (Trainspotters? Home Decorators?)
  • Should we invite the local staff along to meet and greet?
  • Is there a twitter feed or a hashtag for this?
  • Could we blog the progress of the build?
  • Should we set up a Facebook page: ‘My town was Homebase’d’
  • What about Easter Eggs? Can we make it more than just a sofa?
  • Is this driven by insights? i.e.: are the products on show there for their popularity?

Here at 1000heads we call this (and a whole lot more) ‘WOM Optimisation’, as in – what are the word of mouth triggers that we can put in place to make this event/activity/content as shareable as possible?

Next time you’re attempting anything like this, take a moment and think:

What can I do to to make this really spreadable?

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Author: James Whatley

Experienced advertising and communications strategist working in brand, games, and entertainment. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x

11 thoughts on “1000heads: Word of Mouth Optimisation”

  1. Some form of competition where if you travel on the day of filming (ticket needed as proof) you could win a home makeover, maybe with them filming it?

    p.s. Homebase are more than welcome to decorate my house and film it…*cough*

  2. Thanks for dropping by Sian and thank you for the extra info too.
    Were you invited to the station yourself or did you receive a press release in the mail?

    Always interested in these kinds of engagements.



    Sian Reply:

    Bit of both really. I got a press release about the train station, but I was invited to Crystal Palace to see the makeover as it happened. I couldn’t make it, but the offer was there. Think they did a bus stop in Bristol too.

    They’ve been running a competition to makeover an area of your community:


    Shortlist for the project goes live on the 18th of next month. I’ve seen the community angle be used by interiors and home companies before (by MyDeco, I think), it works well. Perhaps more importantly, the community angle they’ve chosen hits the whole of Homebase’s target audience, possibly more than a Twitter hashtag would.

  3. Kick ass post – naturally.

    I love your idea here. On one hand, there is the legal (governance) side, but this doesn't mean they can't *also* be about guidance, and people making it their own.

    I was reading this sentence from Authenticity by Pine and Gilmore last night: “The crucial component of 'social' comes from letting consumers construct a part of the product. If consumers do, they consider it to be real, valuable, and have vested interest”

    Bang on.

  4. I think this is an interesting example of how Homebase invited people, but didn't actually make the message Spreadable.

    The fact that James (who recommended this whole thing) didn't hear about it tells us that they are still trying Reach tactics

    Sian Reply:

    That's true to an extent, but as an interiors writer, I *did* hear about it. I hit Homebase's target audience, and that's who they want to reach out to.

    Making something spreadable is great, but if it's not reaching the right people, there's not much point. I do think Homebase and their agency Mindshare could have expanded on what they were doing, but they hit the right people, and got into communities – exactly what they wanted to do.

    I'm inclined to think that James predicted something that was already in the pipeline – I got wind of this not long after the original post, I don't think the Carlisle Sation could have been turned around that quickly. Just good timing, I reckon.

    James Whatley Reply:

    Siany I *totally* agree that I just happened to predict something already in the pipeline. Of course. There's no way they could've turned it around *that* quickly… hence the 'psychic heads' comment above..

    I guess what I'm saying is, instead of just sending out PR about something that's already happened, I would've liked to have seen a group of fans/trainspotters/style leaders invited to the grand unveiling, given free reign to wander around & enjoy and most of all – given the opportunity to share and share alike.

    It's not just about visiting a dressed up venue. It's about building relationships, community and long term interest. If, for example, we'd asked 30 different style-leaders (like yourself) to a coffee morning at the station, not only would you have had a lovely day out – but you would have also made a whole host of new connections *all* facilitated by Homebase.

    It's about thinking just that little bit further..

    Finally, it's really important to remember that we're not bashing Homebase here, they have done some AWESOME work. We just wanted to point out some quick wins for next time.. in the spirit of helpfulness 🙂

    James Whatley Reply:

    I'm not sure I buy into 'I didn't hear about it, so therefore it wasn't done properly', I certainly didn't say that and wouldn't say it either.

    But, I do see your point.

    Scott Gould Reply:

    True – I am exaggerating 🙂

  5. Regarding Flickr & Creative Commons, I used to have all my photos set to CC but then I found that many people abused my non-commercial share & share alike by putting my photos up on commercial sites with no attribution.

    Some were most likely mistakes by folks who did not understand CC, attribution and the internet in general, some were outright choices to ignore attribution and non-commercial CC. Unfortunately because of the latter, I am not putting up any photos at Facebook and very few at Flickr.

    I would love to revert my Flickr photos to CC, but I do allow for a 'work-around' in that all my Flickr photos are available to be blogged by other Flickr members (via the Blog This button above the photo).


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