Buzz Off, and Please Make It Viral

beeThere are a lot of terms in this new world of marketing that I really hate.  I’ve written before about how I believe that nothing is really “viral.”  I work in an industry where I get calls out of the blue asking me how much it would cost for us to do a viral video for brand X.  Or how can we stop the “blog chatter” around some bad news (this is usually involving a blog with millions of readers).  Or how do we generate some early “buzz” around an announcement that no one really cares about.

Ben McConnell tackled the issue of word-of-mouth vs buzz quite adeptly in a recent blog post.  He defined “word-of-mouth” as follows:

Word of mouth is a byproduct of a remarkable culture. It’s how companies like 37 Signals, Discovery Education, and The Container Store grow and flourish. Their companies are organized around a well-defined purpose and strong values, which may not be for everyone, but they’re important enough to a significant group of people.

Subsequently, he describes “buzz” quite differently:

Buzz is the result of word-of-mouth marketing. Its results are typically short-term. Gimmicks are common, and examples abound.

I would take it one step further.

Word-of-mouth is an actual marketing behavior, like executing a call to action.  It’s a marketing conversion that can be measured.

Buzz is the perception of word-of-mouth activity.  You can manufacture buzz, much like McConnell shows in his post, but it doesn’t have to be real.  While buzz can be the result of widespread word-of-mouth activity, it can also be created in a void by PR and advertising.  How often does a film having “Oscar buzz” actually result in an Oscar?  There’s often no delivering on the buzz promise, which is a pretty good sign that it’s been manufactured.

It will be a good day for all marketers when terms like “viral” and “buzz” are put to bed and we can finally focus on measurable behaviors that actually support quality brand values.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]