Buzz Marketing Success and Failure
Buzz Marketing, also known as word-of-mouth advertising or viral marketing, is an effective and relatively low-cost way to get your company name, product or service talked about — noticed — in your market.
If you can generate buzz it’s a great addition to your overall marketing plan. It’s important enough that buzz marketing was the featured topic of ACTON Marketing’s 2008 Best Practices symposium.
The lean definition of buzz marketing: It gets people talking about your stuff.
I suppose many readers already know the buzz marketing basics, so rather than take the chance of boring you, yet still defining the method for everyone else, I’ll give you a couple of examples. One worked successfully while the other was a failure. Yes, failure is always an option.
First, the example of successful buzz marketing. In 2008, Unilever set up a storefront operation in Kodiak, Alaska, where it gave away bottles of its Vaseline Clinical Therapy lotion. To get a free bottle, town residents only had to pinpoint which of their fellow townspeople recommended the product. Unilever used the information to map the social network in the town for use in marketing studies and planning.
Unilever’s ad agency shot documentary-style footage that was edited into online vignettes and TV spots. The story was picked up and reported by U.S. and international media. Unilever succeeded in gathering valuable data about buzz that will be important for future marketing, it won over new customers, and it generated positive media attention (free advertising).
When it works, buzz marketing makes the marketing team look like heroes, but then there’s the other side.
In 2007, two men hired by an advertising agency to promote a Cartoon Network show planted blinking-light boxes on bridges and buildings in Boston to generate buzz. Startled pedestrians called in bomb reports to the police. The guerrilla marketing resulted in bad press for the network and for parent company Turner Broadcasting. Besides a flurry of apologies, there was a $2 million fine for the companies involved. The two perpetrators’ charges were eventually dropped, but they were sentenced to community service and a formal apology. All the buzz generated was negative.
Now, how can your financial institution generate positive buzz in your community? That’s an answer that comes only from you based on your market, resources, and creativity. Obviously, if your company and employees are involved in a community project, you want to alert the media so you get press coverage. And remember, you want to get the public talking, not just the media.
Does buzz marketing work? Well, I just mentioned Unilever and Turner Broadcasting to you because of their projects. That fits the definition of buzz marketing.
You can find books and other resources that tell you more about buzz marketing and they can give you ideas for your own buzz plans. Buzz is another facet of marketing you should try.