June 13, 2006
    buzz marketing - a must!

Buzz is defined by Emanuel Rosen in Anatomy of Buzz as “the aggregate of all person-to-person communication about a particular product, service, or company at any point in time”. 

Through our need to communicate and connect with each other, facilitated by the Internet, Mobile Phones, E-mail and numerous other ways, it’s become the number-one way to get information about flights, hotels, cars, music, cinema as well as countless other information we feel the need to have.

Many companies still do not see the benefits or the need to regard buzz marketing as part of their integrated media plan. These same people are however quite happy to quote the number of people who tell friends about their positive or negative experiences – is that not buzz marketing at work? It should be comforting to know that companies can actually not only control the process but use it to their advantage. Many actually do though not all are aware of it.

Companies must first understand that they are marketing & selling to communities not just to individuals – hence the efforts to become part of the consumer’s life. The Internet has supplied the tools that consumers needed to communicate and exchange information. Rosen refers to these online communities as invisible networks where network hubs are people that communicate more than the average person – also known as opinion leaders, brand ambassadors or influencers.

It’s these people that make buzz move along, or not though not everyone is aware of the fact that we not only have the capacity to continue the conversation, but perhaps more importantly and sometimes more devastating, we have the power to simply stop [full stop].

Buzz is similar to traditional media in that by having a great product, that in it self will enable buzz and probably accelerate it though nothing lasts forever. Apple products are renowned for their buzz power and the principal is there from the actual design of the product right through to the packaging. At a marketing conference where there were 500 of us, practically everyone put their hand up when asked if we had an iPod and remained with our hands in the air when asked if we still had the initial packaging – the box. However, when asked if we had kept the packaging of any other product – all hands went down. Apple produces contagious products – it’s almost as if they had a voice.

But buzz does not always move at an alarming speed and often needs stimulating. That’s why you need to be aware of the network hubs and how to reach them. Whilst through traditional media you will be transmitting the message through tv, radio and/or press, with buzz you will need to be connecting through these network hubs. They may occur accidentally but you must be aware of their presence once they come into play.

The music industry used to have reps that went out to all the nightclubs and main bars and connected with the DJs that at night connected with their public. Many thousands of hits were made on the dance floor. They substituted those reps with people who now specialize in moaning about illegal downloads and finding ways of ensuring that a CD is not compatible with all players through poorly designed security measures – some record companies even managed to sneak in a couple of illegal data collection mechanisms!

These promo tracks were offered and cultivated as seeds as part of the buzz process. I wonder how many companies that do sampling in nightclubs or hypermarkets actually think of the seeding concept when choosing the cheaper option with part time retired grand mothers or “students” through Agencies that also have had little time to think about whether consumers will want to engage with these people and not simply quest their thirst at the new bla bla bla branded orange juice stand (“umm orange juice – I thought it was lemon….”).

Microsoft has really understood the need to use buzz before they launch the product – if you have any doubts check out the Microsoft.com site and count how many trial downloads and Beta versions there are! Once they seed the beta testers (network hubs) they just need to keep watering the plants through their traditional media.

Experiential marketing has grown through the need to get consumers to go and try the products out, in turn, spreading the holy news to the followers. Most people are in fact followers and don’t want to be network hubs, either because they don’t enjoy connecting, aren’t virtual travelers (Internet), couldn’t be further from the early adopters, are not always on the look out for the newest trend or simply put, are risk averse – you won’t find them scrambling for the corporate ladder (most are probably digging in for the long haul).

Brands have always focused on telling a story and buzz is nothing more nothing less than storytelling – a thriller created through suspense with a great punch line. The consumers (audience) are gripped by the plot and its characters much like the myth created around the lime in the Corona/San Miguel/Sol etc., or the marketing gimmick of the worm in the tequila.

Viral marketing is a term that describes “buzz on asteroids” on the Internet as it is the way to propagate buzz at an alarming speed. Hotmail was the first real case study though ICQ, Messenger and numerous other products, services or campaigns have used this to accelerate buzz. These are extreme cases are there was little if any marketing involved.

The simple but most effective script that reads the address books of users simply by placing your username and password and then sending an automated e-mail to each person asking them to go check out the site, can have incredible results.

Kreedo.com is a great example of the story which was a one minute commercial that asked people whether they wanted to be part of a network – a brand democracy – where they would have the opportunity of having free access to back stage passes, new pre-launch products and never released information. This “thriller” with the consumer as the main “character” was left opened ended and using the e-mailing script generated 11 Million hits in 6 days with over 50,000 registered members. Kreedo.com was temporarily categorized by Alexa.com as one of the top 300 sites in the world. MarketingSherpa classed it as the 8th best Viral Campaign worldwide. You want more impact than that? [read more...]

Like all good things, they are milked to the end and presently less and less people react or join Hi5 time sites. If the story is a killer – hang on because you have no idea of the monster you have created! Beware of promises to answer all queries…

The invisible networks and network hubs exist primarily because one thing is always present – trust. If you break that trust, you will at best lose all credibility – at worst you could be into the most damaging consumer led campaign ever imagined with consequences as dire as bankruptcy. Like most things, you must as a company, learn to under promise and over deliver.

Posted by Nuno Machado Lopes in buzz marketing
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