Saturday, December 09, 2006

State of the Buzz

Marketers have always understood the benefit of having positive word of mouth generated about their company. When a person raves about a new product to a neighbor or friend, the message has more credibility, and an effect on the person’s attitudes toward the product. Marketers still try to generate this more classic concept of word of mouth; however guerilla marketing and communication technology has increased the ways a buzz can be created and spread.

Guerilla marketing produces a local buzz from people interacting with the campaign. These people will spread a word of mouth through a more traditional sense, like talking to neighbors or friends. An example of this is when china maker William Ashley parked a Lamborghini on top of four tea cups outside of their Toronto store. The goal of the display is to get pedestrians walking by to tell their friends and families what they saw. The buzz is able to reach others and go even further because of the internet. E-mail, blogs, and instant messaging are just a few of the ways the internet facilitates communication. When Verizon promoted its FIOS service it used a campaign that incorporated both a local guerilla component and a viral word of mouth component on the internet. The guerilla component raised the FIOS service awareness by casting county locals for a part in a film called “FIOS Fanatics.” The buzz was spread on the internet by posting the audition videos of each person on a website. People online could then view all the auditions and vote for their favorite person. The effort to spread word of mouth continued after watching an audition because Verizon gave the viewer the opportunity to e-mail the video.

Another internet channel that marketers use to generate a buzz is the website YouTube. One video has the potential to be viewed by millions of people just from being posted on this site. Even though YouTube has millions of people viewing and posting videos from all over the world, the website is almost set up to facilitate word of mouth. Videos can be e-mailed to another person, placed directly into a blog, and are rated and commented on by viewers. A company that took advantage of YouTube’s reach interaction is Blendtec. The company posted entertaining videos of their industrial strength blender shredding random objects. The videos have almost two million views with the production expenses being the only cost to Blendtec.

Companies are also starting to realize the opportunities of generating buzz though blogs. Since blogs are a place where people share their opinions on anything, businesses sometimes get third party endorsements on products or kudos for the way they handle a public situation. However, like all word of mouth this can go the other way and people can write negative things about a company. For example several bloggers have heavily criticized the computer manufacturer Dell for its poor customer service. Since positive word of mouth is such a valued asset, companies are paying bloggers to write about their products. The online service PayPerPost.com sets up bloggers with an advertiser that gives them the criteria for what the blog should be based on. This raises some ethical questions because people who read the blog believe they are reading an objective opinion. Some blogs disclose that they are sponsored by the company but currently there is currently no uniform regulation for buying blog posts.

In order to receive positive word of mouth an advertiser does not have to pay someone to write a blog. The best way to conduct any buzz or guerilla marketing campaign is to be creative. This idea relates to Seth Godin’s purple cow concept discussed in class. It explains how people want to talk about something new, different, or creative. If someone sees a purple cow or a retail store shaped like a techno blimp they will want to send an e-mail, write a blog, or call all of their friends. Another way to increase word of mouth and to be creative is by incorporating multiple media into a promotion. For example Intel had a campaign with guerrilla marketing by having the SecondLife developer in a New York City store window, an online video game component with the developer creating the scenery in SecondLife, and the video streaming over the internet of both the developer in the store window and her character in the game.

Buzz marketing will continue to grow and be more effective as new communications technologies are developed. It will let advertisers be even more creative and allow word of mouth to be integrated into more media. Marketers are no longer passively generating word of mouth through the quality of their products but actively causing a buzz through media and creativity.

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