Procter & Gamble is in the business of turning out consumer products by the barrelful. But the company has another, very different line of business as well. It offers up the services of hundreds of thousands of moms and teenagers as word-of-mouth marketers—for its own product divisions and those of other organizations as well.

Donna Wetherell, of Columbus, Ohio, is one of those “mom connectors,” as they’re called. She’s employed at a customer service call center, where she’s known as “the coupon lady.” That’s because she’s always passing out P&G coupons and sharing news of new products with her 300 coworkers. They enjoy her visits, too.

All of us like to chat about the goods we buy and use. Each week, the average person mentions specific brands ...

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