No matter how much smart technology companies create, word-of-mouth remains the most effective form of marketing available. It drives an estimated $6 trillion in annual sales, five times more than paid advertising. Plus, 83 percent of consumers have said they trust a friend’s recommendation over an advertisement. The trouble with word-of-mouth marketing historically was that it doesn’t scale easily, but now there’s something marketers can do about that. They call it buzz marketing.

In buzz marketing, the goal is to maximize publicity in order to spread information about a business’s products or services through events, experiences, social media or influencer marketing. In fact, marketing strategists often use influencers to promote these products in order to get their large following to jump on board with the buzz.

Buzz marketing campaigns happen most often by leaving the customer waiting for information. Their curiosity causes them to follow along, get excited and become invested.

An Overview of Buzz Marketing

Ana Gottner at Disruptive Advertising defined buzz marketing by saying, “Buzz marketing campaigns are designed to get people talking about your brand and what you’re doing. You don’t just want shares on your recent blog post – you want people saying ‘. . . you need to read this’ to their friends.” In a way, buzz marketing is the next evolution of content marketing. It takes the information you create and puts it in the mouths of the most credible marketers out there, your current customers. Through fun activities, teasing headlines and outrageous behaviors, companies start generating buzz.

Buzz marketing can be as simple as encouraging diners in a restaurant to tell their friends about an amazing promotion or a fantastic cooking display, or it can be as complex as generating worldwide trending conversation around a global brand. Although buzz marketing is a form of both viral and word-of-mouth marketing, it’s a distinct technique that includes a trigger phrase, mascot or image – usually something theatrical or over-the-top – that customers and the public can reference when talking. The trigger can be imaginative, suspenseful, funny or provocative. Anything that focuses on people over products and responses over features can get customers buzzing.

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How to Effectively Use Buzz Marketing Campaigns

“If you want to generate buzz,” said content marketing guru Neil Patel, “you need to give people something to talk about.”

Effective content marketing makes use of different tactics such as the unique, secret, humorous or inspirational. Consider these examples of buzz marketing:

  • The unique. When a company creates a truly unique ad or tagline, it gets the public talking. KFC is known for their unique marketing techniques, including the launch of a “finger lickin’ good” edible nail polish in Hong Kong, a fried chicken-scented candle and a Colonel Sanders pool float designed to hold a bucket of chicken in one hand and a drink in the other.
  • The secret. Everyone loves a secret, so let them in on it. Theatre companies sell tickets to “secret” early performances before the opening night. In the UK, the Disappearing Dining Club has built an entire business around taking people to secret eating joints for the night.
  • The humorous. Visit Dubai employed an influencer, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, to create a series of comical vignettes in which he gives his personal tour of Dubai. According to Nathan Resnick at TNW, “Every scene highlights a feature of visiting Dubai, but they play out more like a Ferris Bueller romp than a promotional video.”
  • The inspirational. Thai Life, an insurance company in Thailand, created a series of commercials described as “tear-jerkingly brilliant” and “will make you bawl like a baby.” The commercials packed a gut-level power punch of emotion that had the whole world talking.

Social Media and Buzz Marketing

When some marketers hear the term buzz marketing, they immediately think of social media. That’s part of it, but true buzz marketing gets people talking face-to-face, too. By using buzz marketing techniques, marketers pull online conversations offline and move in-person conversations to social media. This move creates a vortex of conversation involving more and more people across multiple channels on the internet and in real life.

While social media didn’t create buzz marketing, it did create an every-person’s megaphone that can amplify an effective campaign. Many brands launch new buzz marketing campaigns with paid Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn ads. Others rely on their organic reach through committed customers who will engage and share worthy content. In either case, generating lots of comments, shares and likes is key to a good ROI.

Wendy’s snarky-but-fun Twitter feed often gets attention when they release another zinger at critics or competitors. After Wendy’s got into a “Tweet war” with IHOP when the pancake house publicly flirted with changing its name to IHOB, it drew attention to both restaurants’ already buzzing content.

Influencers with thousands, or even millions, of social media followers can prove their marketing mettle by leading the social media charge. For instance, Mercedes Benz cooperated with Loki the Wolfdog, the Instagram sensation, in their video ad. Many smaller brands have successfully used contests, memes, short-form videos and niche influencers to generate buzz within their defined target audiences

Buzz marketing is just one element of a new world of public relations, advertising and marketing. Tomorrow’s marketing executives need to know more than established theory; they also need to be conversant with the latest trends in digital customer generation. At St. Ambrose University, our online business administration degree and online MBA help students get grounded in unchanging principles while exploring new ideas in one of our four concentrations:

  1. Human Resources Management
  2. International Management
  3. Leadership
  4. Marketing Management

You’ll master business concepts and trends, hone your leadership and communication skills, and be fully prepared to take the next step in your career.

At SAU, our competitive tuition means you will get a deep and relevant education at an affordable price, and 90 percent of our 2016-17 undergraduates were employed in their field, attending graduate school, or contributing to their communities as volunteers within six months of graduating. Learn more about our online programs now.