The new media marks a shift from the unidirectional nature of communication in the past. Today, consumers, not marketers, generate the vast majority of content about products and services. Their words are more persuasive than advertising. Amplified on social media, consumer opinions, reviews, advice, rants or complaints can become viral and spread — possibly yielding enormous gains or possibly causing immense damage.
These extraordinary opportunities and threats led to the inception of buzz marketing.
At the onset, a hum is created when something attracts attention initially from a small, core group of people. These individuals talk to their friends and acquaintances, who in turn tell their peers. Word spreads in this manner until enough tongues are wagging to constitute a “buzz”.
Marketers try to create word-of-mouth or catalyse the buzz through various techniques called buzz marketing or influencer marketing. It is a form of advocacy or product endorsement on social media by individuals who have a significant following and influence over their audience. It may also involve product placement.
The commonly used approach is to enlist influential consumers, including analysts and bloggers, and allow them to “discover” the product in the hope that they will pass positive endorsement on to their peers. In this way, marketers seek to expose consumers to their brands.
For instance, as far back as 2003, Tremor, P&G’s word-of-mouth marketing firm (now a separate company), recruited more than 250,000 teenage girls and 650,000 mothers in the United States who were identified as “connectors” or “influencers”. These individuals had social networks that were 5 to 6 times larger than the average person’s, and they had a strong tendency to share ideas within those networks.
The Forbes video in Exhibit 19.13 is a short documentary on today’s influencers describing their characteristics and their social influence.
In addition to generating beneficial buzz, marketers need to protect their brand and corporate reputation from harmful buzz. They do so through their representatives and brand ambassadors who step into conversations at internet forums and blogs, to speak on behalf of the brand and the organization.
Effective influencer marketing requires keeping messages simple, relevant, credible, and newsworthy. Brands should ensure that their brand ambassadors are well-informed and can articulate their messages with clarity. Additionally, it is essential to listen to the buzz and glean insights from it while measuring its impact and applying what is learned to improve buzz marketing efforts.
Considering the importance of influencer marketing, it comes as no surprise that companies are devoting considerable resources to buzz marketing, with some spending much more on advocacy than on conventional media.
While influencer marketing has become widely accepted, it has also faced criticism for being potentially deceptive, particularly if influencers do not disclose their relationship with the brand.
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