Buzz Marketing is a type of word-of-mouth marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing is when businesses, products, services, or events are promoted in written or oral form via happy customers who tell others about their positive experience. Word-of-mouth marketing is considered to be a more credible source of advertising because the recipient is hearing the information from someone who is not perceived to be out for a profit. Furthermore, the person making the recommendation has their reputation on the line for making the suggestion.
Consumers are more likely to trust someone that they know and like than they are to trust media that has selfish interests. When specifically talking about buzz marketing, as opposed to the more broad word-of-mouth marketing, it is described as an interaction of consumers and customers (users) of a product, service, business, or event, that increases the strength of the marketing message. This can create excitement, anticipation, positive association, etc, which is called “buzz”. The buzz is both the marketing by the company and the reaction by the customers and potential customers.
Some examples of successful buzz marketing campaigns would be the hype surrounding the Ford Fiesta cars, Harry Potter movies, Twilight movies, Dexter television series, Volkswagen’s new beattle cars, the Blair Witch Project movies, and the beanie babies bean stuffed animals. For the Ford Fiesta cars, Ford gave 100 consumers a Ford Fiesta car to drive for 6 months. They were asked to complete different missions every month including delivering Meals on Wheels, taking treats to the National Guard, wrestling alligators, going to elope, etc.
The participants then started sharing their adventures on social media sites such as YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Ustream, etc. This experiment was an enormous success. Ford got 6 and a half million views on YouTube and 50,000 information requests. Most of the requests came from non-Ford owners. Ford spent a very small amount of money on this campaign compared to how much a typical TV campaign would have cost. The beanie babies were another good buzz marketing campaign.
People became crazed with collecting the stuffed animals because Ty Warner Inc. (the creator) created a false sense of scarcity. They purposely “retired” certain animals to make them valuable. They also would not sell them in large toy stores. They made people think that they were scarce and that they would be valuable into the future. Kids were going crazy making their parents buy them. Even many adults became beanie baby collectors. Ty didn’t even have to do traditional advertising. They were able to rely on word-of-mouth.
They even tried to keep new animal releases secretive and wanted to not advertise so that people would think that they were “underground”. Ty Warner did such an incredible job of buzz marketing that he was able to make himself a billionaire just off of selling stuffed toys. Ty created an empire worth $6 billion dollars. He did this during the 1990’s. This was before social media had started. It is likely that if this was done today that social media would have helped him to make a lot more money.
The Blair Witch Project movie ended up being very successful due to buzz marketing as well. People who went to see the movie thought that they were going to see a documentary about a true story. When moviegoers were viewing the movie they were genuinely scarred because they thought it was real. Obviously successful buzz marketing is much cheaper and more effective than traditional advertising. It can be done for as little as no money. But its effect can be massive. It can also backfire.
It is impossible to know for sure how consumers will run with your initial buzz marketing idea. You can create a story and a buzz, but there is no way to know for sure that consumers will turn that into a positive buzz or that it won’t just fizzle out quickly. In order to attempt to create a buzz you need to start a compelling story. This story needs to have elements such as taboo, unusual, outrageous, salacious, interesting, secretive remarkable and/or hilarious. This story then needs to create a conversation.
The conversation needs to engage consumers and make them keep the story alive. The bottom line in buzz marketing is that it can be very effective. A company with an unlimited advertising budget has the option of reaching every single consumer in America. But that only amounts to 300 million impressions. An impression does not necessarily lead to a sale. A successful buzz marketing campaign does much more than have impressions, it gets peoples’ interest. A sensational story makes a potentially boring product a compelling item that consumers want to buy.
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