Buzz Marketing is not a new marketing technique for getting the word out about your product or service. Simply put, buzz marketing is the practice of having volunteers try what you are selling, then having them create a “buzz” about it by chatting about their experience with the people they interact with in their daily lives. With the addition of the internet and social media, creating exciting buzz campaigns can be sensational or engaging.
This type of marketing is a word-of-mouth technique on steroids, and sometimes great campaigns go viral and the buzz-maker’s opinions become very influential. According to University of Pennsylvania’s Marketing Professor Jerry Wind, “People recognize the power of word-of-mouth in convincing, influencing, affecting consumer behavior, since it has more credibility than traditional advertising. But, it’s a fairly recent development for companies to try to create a structure around the practice, to harness and direct the way that word-of-mouth spreads — and to attempt to measure its effect on sales once the ‘campaign’ is complete”.
When depending on people to engage with potential consumers by talking about, posting opinions about or blogging for companies to influence purchasing behaviors, ethics may become an issue for some. The Ford Focus Buzz Marketing campaign discussed as a fine example of buzz marketing included giving volunteers a “free” Ford Focus for 6 months in exchange for the promise to engage with potential consumers. I believe that Ford walked a fine line between what is ethical and not with their Focus campaign.
According to Automotive News, “the 2014 Fiesta campaign will recruit 100 people in May and give them a new Fiesta for a year to create digital content about the vehicle, including tweets, blogs, photos and videos to be shared via social media. Ford calls these people influencers. But this time, the influencers — not Ford’s ad agency, WPP’s Team Detroit — will generate all ideas and content used in traditional advertising”. This strategy depends on the belief that consumer behavior is shaped and influenced by peers and other consumers.
What was the result of this campaign? According to Gearoid McKendrick at UCD Dublin, the campaign received 6.5 million YouTube views, 6,500 follower on Twitter and 3 million Twitter impressions. There were 540,000 views on Flickr, over 15,000 fans on Facebook and almost 1 million Google search results for ‘The Fiesta Movement’. 27,000 blog posts were created and pre –launch awareness of the Fiesta rose to 37% among 16 – 24 year-olds. Most importantly Ford received 50,000 requests for information about the Fiesta in the first 6 days of sale. 97% of these leads did not own a Ford car. Very impactful!
With these tactics in mind, one of the best buzz marketing campaigns out there today is the Syfy channel’s Igniters campaign. This oft-laughed-at, science-fiction-based television channel has grown and expanded into a massive imagination based interactive conglomerate. Syfy now includes all manner of engagement: Interactive TV programming, interactive websites, mobile apps, videos, games, blogs, social media sites which pushes the limits of imagination, science, tech, art & design and creativity. The Igniters campaign seeks and finds early adopters, influencers and the coolest of the coolest fans of Syfy who they all igniters.
According to the Syfy website, in conjunction with marketing firm PSFK, in order to become an Igniter, one must be passionate in three areas:
- FINDING THE NEW: Insatiable need to constantly be in-the-know about the latest and greatest everything, from nutrition and diet to electronics
- DOING THE NEXT: Must-have mentality drives them to try, do and buy the next big thing such as new stores, styles, drinks and food
- SHOWING THE REST: Vocal in telling everyone about their latest finds. Because they’re at the forefront, people listen to what they have to say, whether it’s financial matters to car buying
People who are chosen to be Syfy Igniters are not paid promoters, but influential advocates for the Syfy brand. According to the Syfy Igniters website, Syfy hopes that “by opening doors to new ideas, and opening eyes to thrilling new perspectives, Igniters will make the unbelievable…believable”.
Igniters influence viewer/consumer behavior by posting opinions, promoting programming ideas, sparking trends, blogging and engaging with other Syfy fans. Since its debut in 2012, Syfy reports that Igniter’s “insatiable need to be in the know and to tell others about it” has created an undeniable buzz within the Syfy community and beyond. This direct engagement solidifies the relationship between brand and consumer, and today the campaign is strong and vibrant, just like the Igniters. An effective buzz marketing campaign indeed.
Of course, ethics should always play a part in who influences who and how. Since this campaign does not monetarily compensate their Igniters, and it is the pure joy of the power of influence that drives these brand advocates, opinions and ideas should be looked at from that point of view. Brand advocates do not usually post anything negative, so the people engaging with Igniters should keep that in mind. Is the Syfy Igniters campaign ethical? Yes, I believe it is, as long as there is full disclosure on who they are and what their objectives are, everyone involved will be happy.