Wednesday, December 28, 2005

rant: fabricated vs earned buzz

My copy of Advertising Age finally made it up to my desk from the nether regions of the mailroom, and what do I find but an article by Larry Dobrow (AA 11.28.05 p33) titled, "Play to passions of adults, use events, experts urge". But it's really about buzz tactics.

From my time spent at Torre-Lazur/McCann Global a few years back, I know that clients like to see buzz marketing tactics in the mix. They like to see targeted websites, forums, peer group discussions and other whatnot that simulate "real people expressing their heartfelt opinions to the unconverted".

I also know trying to talk clients out of these fabricated attempts to create buzz can be difficult, because clients want to do everything they can to guarantee a fabulous launch. In his article, Larry quotes Patti Saitow, Radica's VP of global marketing services as saying, "I was surprised [the buzz effort] worked. the campaign felt very genuine to us, and I guess consumers picked up on that."

The reason I'm re-quoting Patti is that she (perhaps accidentally) struck on the reason why I'm not a fan of fabricated buzz tactics - they feel genuine, but they're not genuine.

In all fairness, however, fabricated buzz campaigns do work - the same way burning down all of the wood in the forest around your cabin works to heat it. But eventually, you run out of wood, then the mudslides come. . .and the killer weasels. . .

Fabricated buzz is like lying about your age. Sooner or later, the truth will get out and you'll end up looking like an ass. Sooner or later your customers realize that they've been manipulated by someone close to them, and they'll take out their frustration first on your product - and next on the person who tried to sell them the product.

The doomsday scenario is this: fabricated buzz tactics will - if used extensively - create a cynical, suspicious consumer who is even less "open" to product marketing than before, and this includes genuine buzz. It's a scorched earth tactic that is bad for the marketplace.

Generating genuine buzz around a product launch is hard work. You can't hire "buzz specialists" to do it for you. More simply, you can't buy buzz - you have to earn it. Nowhere is this more true than the commercial software marketplace.

You earn buzz around software by creating a truly excellent product, with credible, clean positioning, reasonable pricing, and by backing it up with service. You earn it by sharing it with groups of users, by talking to editors, by doing anything you can to get the word out that you've got something different that works better.

You don't need hired minions to chat up your product. Let your product do the talking for itself. If you've done your job, it will speak for itself better than you ever could. That's when true word-of-mouth takes over, and that's earned buzz.

No comments: