The Best Of The Buzz

How many prime-time commercials have you seen for YouTube or MySpace? Mass promotion did not drive consumers to these online wunderkinds—the thousands of people e-mailing funny video clips (and even funnier personal profiles) did. Soon enough, thousands became millions. This type of ferocious interest and wildfire traffic growth is the byproduct of business-model-jarring buzz.

The common definition of buzz marketing—”the passing of information in an informal way, from person to person, rather than by traditional advertising and marketing methods”—lacks further insight into how this form of marketing can significantly impact your products, audience, brand and business growth. Word-of-mouth communication has always played a powerful role in marketing and is a critical factor driving consumer behavior. Buzz further accelerates the impact of word of mouth—creating a sense of urgency and intrigue around products, ideas, people and businesses. Buzz works like a match, igniting the pace and velocity of discussions happening in clubs, cubicles, boards and blogs about your product or service. With an increasingly connected and hyper-communicating world, buzz breaks through the noise and drives interest and demand.

The Adweek Magazines Buzz Awards submissions reveal how leading brands and agencies are taking on the challenge of driving buzz for their goods and services—and of course working to define metrics for this sometimes-hard-to-quantify marketing tactic. Many entries did include a broad range of traditional and nontraditional marketing tactics, but there was a common goal: engaging consumers with a unique brand experience that drives discussion, interest and, ultimately, behavior. To this end, a few really stood out.

Classic toy company Lego generated significant present-day buzz with the creation and promotion of “Lego Star Wars: Revenge of the Brick.” Lego produced a mini-movie in which its trademark bricks and figures came to life in a Star Wars theme (timed with the release of the motion picture, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith). The clever execution of the mini-movie clearly engaged its target audience, as evidenced by the strong ratings when it aired on Cartoon Network. The buzz kicked in further to drive impressive traffic to the Web site and into stores. According to the company, the Lego Star Wars products flew off of the shelves—the ultimate success metric.

As the largest ad category, we expect a lot from the auto manufacturers. Audi’s “Art of the H3ist” marketing mystery stood out from the pack of submissions. This incredibly detailed integrated campaign started with the planned heist of an A3 from Audi’s Park Avenue showroom and enticed millions of consumers to solve the mystery. Of course, as consumers joined the chase and ensuing buzz trail, they were exposed to the car’s unique features and attributes, generating invaluable exposure. Once again, the intrigue and excitement influenced consumer behavior, driving higher sales during the campaign’s three-month run.

To drum up buzz for the second season premiere of Entourage, HBO executed a campaign geared to “influencers” in key media markets. HBO kick-started the noise by sending 60,000 people VIP packs that included a DVD of the season premiere and other content, in addition to every velvet-rope hugger’s dream—a VIP card that granted them exclusive access to events and happenings in their city. Entourage VIP cardholders received e-mails and text messages regarding their social possibilities each week. The sweepstakes grand prize was a trip to Vegas with the cast. In addition to driving Web traffic and converting new fans, the buzz made headlines in People, USA Today and key ad trades—pretty valuable real estate.

As a marketer and a consumer, I am fascinated by new products and new marketing opportunities—especially when something new is a riff on something classic. A personal anecdote: my husband and I share a small shoe fetish. An in-the-fashion-know friend of ours was IM’ing with my husband and mentioned the opening of the NikeID store in New York. We submitted countless appointment requests through a Web site and were ultimately confirmed at 10 a.m. on a Saturday. Delighted, we marked our calendars, since the appointment was five weeks away.

For an hour on that day, we painstakingly picked from the almanacs of choices to design our shoes: the style, fabrics, textures, colors, stitching and laces—all with the help of a Nike ID specialist, a hipster who seemed a bit uninspired at what we thought was the best job on the planet. We were entertained when a flat-panel monitor (aka “cash register”) revealed that a well-known celebrity purchased six pairs of shoes the night before. (We mortals were restricted to one pair per visit.) Three weeks later, we received our one-of-a-kind shoes. People often ask my husband where he got his shoes, or complete strangers will say, “Hey, cool shoes, man.” Our reaction? Beaming like proud parents. Why? We caught a little buzz, of course.