Marketing Planet

What’s left to buzz?

Buzz is far from new; it’s almost as ancient and the buzzing of the bees itself. Its recent hype or revival back in 2001 was mainly due to the internet potential and the need for new ideas. As always when new ideas appear, there are no rules in the beginning and all types of behaviour seems appropriate. Three years later we can notice that buzz is still alive and has entered a stage of stability.

Recall on buzz

In order to make buzz work for you it is important to understand its functioning. Buzz means that an influent person for your target group talks about your product in a positive way and encourages buying it. Buzzing around is in fact nothing more than word-to-mouth communication. Whether it is based on an encounter, an out of nowhere discussion, showing the product, they can all be part of buzz marketing and are carefully planned and organised.

The goal for a marketing team is to seek out the trendsetters in each community and subtly push them into talking up their brand to their friends and admirers [1]. A good buzz campaign can make a product become the center of interest - a mass phenomenon, where it would elsewhere be doomed to remain a niche product.

Buzz is used as seen above in encounters: the trendsetter meets at a party, in a shop, after school etc.; in chat rooms: launching a rumor or informing about the latest hot product; but also by being cited in articles published in the press; or by being a leader of opinion that discusses about it during an general interview, etc. Internet enhances the effect by integrating possibilities to “tell a friend†and like wise services.

The news operates as a virus, propaging itself automatically by word of mouth the as much people as possible among the network of each one informed previously.

Some rules for effective buzz

Even today buzz marketing is still valid and a good solution for your marketing and sales increase. Nevertheless, some general ideas persist that buzz can not be of any good:

  • Only fashionable and high-tech products are likely to work with buzz marketing
  • Buzz happens automatically, you cannot manage it
  • Buzz requires an investment
  • Buzz is only possible for big companies
  • It was a trend some years ago, there is no way it will work today, and people have enough of it.

These ideas are not false. One can even manage a buzz for tires and that is really not a fashionable product. Various small companies have developed all their marketing by buzz and the Blair Witch Project is a full proof of buzz: there was no budget for promotion but became a real success. On the other hand, one should not think that buzz is easy.

To have buzz working for you there are some rules that should not be ignored:

  • Buzz needs to be very well prepared, in every detail
  • You will need to find the most adequate trendsetter for your product
  • If your target thinks he is being mislead he will not "bite" at all.
  • Your product needs to be of good quality
  • Buzz can help to inform about complicated products but make sure that the message is clear and understood. A message too long or not clear will become an
  • Buzz can be an outcome in markets like alcohol and tobacco where communication is restricted.
  • In markets where traditionally marketing is “not done†buzz can help and influence subtly. Ex: pharmaceutical industry.
  • Your message needs to be credible and in line with your overall image and marketing / communication campaigns.
  • Buzz can help there where the mass marketing is not having an effect on your target.

Buzz works even better when combined with regular communication and marketing activities, it will reinforce the effect. Do not mistake buzz with genuine communication campaigns: the buzz is supposed to look spontaneous, not managed / nor interfered by the company itself.

Difficulties in buzz marketing

The difficulty with buzz is that it is not very measurable. You – being the company - are supposed not to be visible behind the buzz so you don’t easily manage the outcome. The "snowball effect" is hard to measure and the quality of the message can decrease as the information is transmitted.

One of the risks is also the negative image you can encounter: buzz can be in your advantage as it can as well be in your disadvantage. How about negative publicity that is spread out by your competitor? We all know that negative publicity goes much quicker. Besides, as seen above, the message needs to be credible. If you target thinks he is being lied upon, or reckons it is not credible, he will rather react in a negative way. Since you don’t manage you can not easily interfere.

Another difficulty lies in your "trendsetter". As mentioned he/she needs to be someone with real influence. However if they are too influent they are easily contacted by other brands too and might loose interest quickly with the result that they give their object to someone else and damage or "spoil" your effort.

Make buzz marketing work for you!

Besides the rules listed above, the buzz also needs to operate in a special way. The success of your buzz campaign depends a lot on the influence your "trendsetter has in an established network and how you manage to "buzz" him your product. Make your trendsetter feel like discussing about your product. Bear in mind that you cannot just give him your product and tell him to do his talking.

Once more psychology enters the game. Give your trendsetter something to talk about. If you as your company want to make them buy your product, you will have to encourage them to it: capture their attention, their interest. Your trendsetter is the first to be convinced. If he feels that he has something interesting to tell and become more important by doing so, there is no doubt he will be telling it. Nobody wants to talk about something boring nor hear something boring! Even trendsetters want to be the center of interest.

Even if your product may look boring, you will have to turn it interesting, make people laugh about your product, turn it into something surprising or make people see that even important people want to use it.

The rule for success in buzz: Encourage people to talk about your product, make them want it and have them not forget it.


[1As described in the Business Week article from July 30th 2001