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If, when you hear the word “buzz,” you think of a beehive of activity, that’s a fair description of what happens with successful buzz marketing. Buzz marketing is when brands and marketers stimulate anticipation and excitement among consumers about a product or service through word-of-mouth communication.

Buzz marketers often use social media and influencers to start the conversations. They also employ especially creative content and live promotions and events to grab attention. The idea behind buzz marketing is to have the campaign be so unique and hard to resist that it goes viral and gets maximum exposure.

Buzz marketing is different from other types of marketing, like direct mail marketing, because it targets specific groups of people in certain places. It does this both online and in person, with the goal of quickly generating interest. Instead of the message stopping with the initial recipient, the idea is for it to keep getting passed along, spread fast and inspire immediate action.

Who Uses Buzz Marketing?

Companies ranging from Dunkin’ Donuts and Domino’s Pizza to Unilever and Spotify use buzz marketing. Domino’s blended buzz marketing with community marketing when the pizza chain created its “Paving for Pizza” campaign. It committed to fixing potholes in cities where customers nominated roads for repair. The idea behind the campaign was that potholes were examples of the various culprits behind pizzas getting messed up during delivery.

Buzz marketing isn’t something that’s limited to big companies, though. For instance, imagine a new bakery in a small town is giving away free cookies on opening day and promoting it on social media. This will likely create a buzz in the community, both online and in actual face-to-face conversations. Although it’s on a relatively small scale, it’s still a perfectly good example of buzz marketing.

Who’s the Target Audience for Buzz Marketing?

After you’ve researched different consumer types and their needs, the target audience for buzz marketing is the group that’s most likely to buy your product or service. They’ll also be the most apt to respond to your brand’s buzz marketing campaign.

Your target market might be anyone from college students to retirees and from fitness enthusiasts to cat owners, or a mixture of different groups. Take a quick look at the many different types of social media influencers and groups online. This can give you an idea of just how many kinds of markets are out there for your brand to potentially target.

The Benefits of Buzz Marketing

The many advantages of buzz marketing spring from its viral nature and include:

Speed: Buzz marketing grows interest and brand awareness quickly due to its attention-getting nature and ability to generate social media shares.

Consumers Doing the Work: Once you’ve kicked off the campaign, when buzz marketing is done right, consumers will pretty much do the heavy lifting from there. They’ll talk about the promotion and share content about it, generating the buzz.

Cost-effectiveness: Buzz marketing is cost-effective compared to many other types of marketing. Its relatively low cost can help you get a better ROI.

Out-of-the-Box Campaigns: Buzz marketing gives your brand the opportunity to stand out by thinking outside the box and have fun by creating memorable campaigns. For example, KFC wanted to promote the brand and its “Finger Lickin’ Good” tagline in Hong Kong. The fast food chain created two flavors of edible nail polish to generate buzz.

Brand Awareness, Engagement, Leads, Conversions and Brand Image: Say a consumer who’s never purchased a certain brand before or even heard of it sees a viral post on social media about a buzz-marketing event. The event is a contest to win one of the brand’s products, and it grabs the consumer’s interest. That means the buzz marketing has created brand awareness.

When the consumer attends the event, they have the opportunity to try out the product. They’re surprised at the range of cool items the brand offers. In that way, buzz marketing has helped to update the brand’s image. Buzz marketing also allows your brand to update its image with imaginative promotions. Brands that have more conservative or under-the-radar images can make a big splash with unexpectedly edgy buzz-marketing campaigns.

If the consumer registers to enter the contest, providing their contact information, the buzz marketing has generated a lead. If the consumer later decides to buy the product based on their experience at the event, the buzz marketing has created a conversion.

The Downfalls of Buzz Marketing

It’s important to remember that no type of marketing comes without potential negatives. With buzz marketing, keep the following considerations in mind:

Losing Control of the Message’s Reach: Because consumers are in control of the message with buzz marketing, as it gets further away from the original, brands can lose control over reach. It could end up reaching a bigger audience than you’re prepared to handle. This could be a problem if the amount of product you have in stock can’t meet the demand the buzz marketing has created.

Unrealistic Consumer Expectations: Buzz marketing can raise unrealistic expectations among consumers when it’s handled poorly. Perhaps the product doesn’t live up to its promise. At that point, a negative narrative can hijack the buzz and paint your brand in an unflattering light. The takeaway is to refrain from over-promoting or hyping the campaign or the product too much.

Limited Control Over Timing: When you buy advertising, you know your product will be promoted and can schedule your ad buys for certain dates and/or times. However, with buzz marketing, you’re relying on consumers to spread the word. You don’t have any control over where or when they choose to do so. You can decide when to start the campaign whenever you want. You and any influencers you might partner with will post your content, but after that, it’s out of your hands.

Limited Control Over Content: You have limited control over the content that your audience shares, so it could contain errors that end up hurting your brand. For example, say you’re giving away free T-shirts during your new sporting goods store’s opening week. Somehow those who are sharing your message get it wrong. Customers could show up after the limited giveaway period expecting free T-shirts and then become upset that they’re no longer available. You could lose customers, as they might begin to view your company as untrustworthy.

Competition With Deeper Pockets: A competitor with a larger budget can come along and create a bigger buzz that drowns out your campaign with a long-term media blitz. Don’t rely on one buzz marketing promotion to carry your brand for the long term.