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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

How Do You Create Buzz?

Mark Hughes, CEO of Buzz Marketing, author of "BuzzMarketing" and former VP of Marketing for Ebay's Half.com, is mesmerizing! He knows how to tell a story, both in person and via his book. He just exudes buzz!

I met Mark at a May 2006 Columbia Business School Alumni Club of NYC event during which he shared with us the essential elements of buzz marketing. Here follow some of those words of wisdom!

The goal of buzz marketing is to generate such a level of word-of-mouth discussion about your brand [or product or store] that talking about your brand becomes entertaining and fun. Traditional advertising doesn't do that. For example, Reckitt Benckiser owns the Lysol brand and does plenty of traditional advertising. But what generated considerable Lysol buzz was their sponsorship of the New Jersey Turnpike bathrooms [note to self: include in 2007 Bathroom Blogfest!], which has led to an incredible number of consumer reactions, lots of postive feedback, constructive and involved comments [i.e., all consumer interactions with the brand]. That's buzz!

The biggest issue with traditional marketing is that TRUST in consumer advertising is down 41% in the past 3 years. Add to that clutter, and a power shift to consumers driven by the internet and it's no surprise that - as shown by a Euro RSCG Study titled "Wired & Wireless: High-Tech Capitals Now and Next" - word-of-mouth is 10x more effective than TV or print. And additional research from Ogilvy & Mather says that consumers are 6x more likely to read an article than an ad. This tells us that content matters to the consumer.

Whereas traditional advertising represents a one way model [i.e., push], word-of-mouth is a two way dialog which leads to discussion which then becomes content. The brand ENABLES the discussion; and consumers make the difference in creating the discussion.

Buzz works when a marketer does the following,
- Gives consumers a GREAT story [that's the root of the buzz].
- Puts the brand 2nd [in other words, if the story is sufficiently buzz-worthy, the brand will benefit. If the brand is the story, you haven't given consumers a great enough story].
- Follows the 6 secrets:
  • Push buttons [there are 6 possible buttons]
  • Capture media
  • Advertise for attention
  • Climb Buzz Everest
  • Demand creativity
  • Police your product
We routinely talk about the unusual, the outrageous, the taboo, the hilarious, the remarkable and secrets. We don't talk about the boring. What we talk about is rooted in EMOTION. To create buzz, it's critical to fit your story into what people want to talk about.

Example - Half.com used the back of fortune cookie fortunes to advertise. The news media picked up the story because it was so unusual, and sales increased 6x. [Half.com was able to track redemption based on codes on the fortunes.] To capture media, consider that the 5 most frequently written news stories are:
1. David & Goliath [e.g., Ben & Jerry vs. Hagen Daazs]
2. Outrageous & unusual [e.g., Half.com renamed the town of Half, Oregon to Half.com, Oregon]
3. Controversy [e.g., John McEnroe, the bad boy of tennis, was much more memorable than Pete Sampras]
4. Hot in Media Already: media frenzy and piggy back
5. Celebrities

Examples: Brokeback Mountain - the gay cowboy movie. Banned at one movie theater in December; at that point, box office numbers doubled and movie netted out 134% better than the competition [Geisha and Producers]. This is similar to the controversy around Passion of Christ.

Advertising is NOT about impressions. It's about connecting with the consumer and gaining their undivided attention. Word-of-mouth does that.

Go where no brand has gone before. For example - Rit Dye. It was nowhere in the marketplace until it connected with some young kids interested in creating a fashion statement [tie-dye]. they asked the company to donate some t-shirts for a concert [Woodstock] where the concept got so much visibility [Janis Joplin and others were on-stage wearing tie-dye shirts] that the designer Halston became interested, and then fashion editors started promoting it. The brand had no money to do conventional advertising, but through buzz achieved more than was ever possible through traditional means.

Show your warts; be personal, not corporate. The consumer mood has changed and consumers no longer trust corporations. It's much more important to be yourself and create a personal connection with your brand. For example, the Pepsi Challenge used real footage; it showed that footage even when Coke was chosen over Pepsi! This was real and consumers connected. Think of the company websites you've visited that show real pictures of employees and how much more connected and trusting you feel toward that company.

The key research stat you need to track: "would you go out of your way to recommend your product/brand to a friend?" [this goes back to Fred Reichheld's book on the Ultimate Question - see Good Tea. Nice House.] Don't ever underestimate the power of negative word-of-mouth either [see I Can't Get No Satisfaction]! Hughes gives the example of a VW with a piece of paper taped to the back window saying "don't buy this car; it's a lemon". Don't you think consumers will take that sign seriously? It's really important to have a GREAT product and to monitor its greatness relentlessly.

Hughes reminded the group that talk [word-of-mouth, buzz, ...] works because an audio stimulus stays in the brain 5x longer than a visual one before it starts to fade. That's amazingly powerful!

His 3 KEY TAKEAWAYS are to be personal, not corporate, put your brand 2nd!, and GIVE them a story because the story is the currency.

The book [see Recommended Reading/Business Trends] is definitely worth reading.

You can learn more about Mark Hughes and Buzz Marketing at iMediaConnections via a four part series titled Integrated Direct Marketing. Part I and Part II capture Mark's comments about Buzz Marketing. Also, consider this excellent article on Marketing Profs titled How to Manage and Measure the Word of Mouth Revolution by Justin Kirby from 2/28/2006 which refers to the Euro RSCG Study above.

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