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Everybody can be an expert in the field of… recommendation

An interview with Matylda Szymalska, Chairman of the Board of Streetcom, for the magazine Gaga.
What is about the phenomenon or rather a tool called referral marketing? Is Streetcom the only company in Poland engaged in this field of activity?

Referral marketing derives from a wider sphere of marketing activities called the word-on-mouth marketing.
Streetcom is the first agency in Europe and surely it is the biggest and the most experienced company in Poland engaged in referral marketing.
A key advantage of our agency is that Streetcom is a community of almost 300,000 consumers ready to take part in marketing campaigns for various products. I can say with a full conviction that there is no other big marketing agency on the Polish market, which would be at the same time such a big and tested community. Until now, we have organised a few hundred campaigns for various industries, and our clients include the biggest international companies, like Nestle or Procter & Gamble.
What does the community of Experts look like? Who are they? Are they extraordinary people?
The community of Streetcom experts are consumers. Everybody can become an Expert and take part in a campaign of those products which interest him or her most. We skilfully select a perfect group of people for each campaign. They become ambassadors of a given brand. They receive free products to test and some samples for their friends. Then, they give us their opinions. This is what a typical campaign looks like based on so called  “product seeding” when a full value product goes in the hands of a consumer. More and more often, our activities also take place online. The majority of the Streetcom community are women because it is them who make purchase decisions, they are most active and they like to talk about products. A very active group are mums, who very often pay attention whether they offer their children tested products recommended by other mothers. It also happens that women recommend even articles designed for men. For who can advise better her beloved man, for example on such a matter as fragrance? Every campaign is different.
What is the power of referral marketing?
Nowadays, people are looking for the best products, listening to opinions of their relatives and friends. Advertisements are not reliable for us any more. Surely, they are not an oracle. The society has become more aware and at the same time everybody tries to find the best offer in a crowd of them. And such is the idea of our activities – to look for, recommend, compare and advise each other. Besides, we communicate most willingly with the people we know and trust. 96% of the respondents taking part in the survey by Streetcom in July 2012 considered their friends’ opinions as the most reliable. A half of the respondents exchange their opinions about products every day, and as many as 93% of women asked familiar mothers for their opinions before buying the first cosmetics for children. 94% declared to have recommended a product to a friend during the previous month. Recommendation of tested products is both the oldest and most reliable form of promotion. People have always recommended good services, places and products to each other. Today, we have the Internet, social media and mobile devices. They enable us to get in touch quickly and send information, but what can replace a face to face talk? At present, we conduct campaigns online and in the real world because this way people communicate. We build websites. We combine all tools, the virtual and real world, but we still deal with real people and their friends, not with anonymous “logins”. This constitutes our uniqueness and strength.
What products do the Streetcom Experts get for testing?
In fact, it would be easier to ask what products have not been recommended? In the previous campaigns, there were products from fast moving consumer goods, like cosmetics, cleaning products, baby nappies, food, toys and food for children, but there were also banking services, websites, electronic gadgets, and even household appliances or cat food. I think there are no restrictions in products but every time a campaign has to be considered in a different way. We will willingly face new experiences, we do not see any limits.
How are the participants of a campaign chosen?
A proper selection of people for a campaign is one of the most important elements. The analyse is based on questionnaires, which are filled in during registration to the Streetcom system. Thanks to them, we know a detailed profile of an Expert, demographic and sociological data, interests and shopping preferences. Of course, all the data is legally protected and processed anonymously. We are particularly concerned by reliability of the recommendations, that is why they can not be paid, they simply must be honest. The prohibition of paying for recommendations is one of the most important ethical principles set by WOMMA, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, which Streetcom Poland belongs to.

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