Monday, May 24, 2010

"Buzz Off": How to Destroy a Buzz Marketing Campaign

According to the site, Buzz Marketing is "capturing attention of consumers and the media to the point where talking about your brand becomes entertaining, fascinating, and newsworthy" or, put more simply, "starting conversations."

Buzz Marketing has become an increasingly popular route to market for many businesses, large and small. Companies recognise that more buying decisions are made because of recommendation and referral than any other factor. The growth of review sites, such as TripAdvisor demonstrate this perfectly.

I have been part of a Buzz Marketing campaign this year. It was one that I originally thought was well thought through and inventive, but increasingly demonstrates the dangers of a buzz marketing campaign that is not fully supported.

As a member of a Private Members club in London's West End I was offered a free Palm Pre mobile phone. Intended as a competitor to Apple's iPhone, the device had failed to get much traction in the UK market and it was thought that the members of our club mixed in the right circles to generate some positive word of mouth about the phone. We were given the handset with no contract and unlocked, so that we could use it with our existing network, and a card with details for support.I was also connected on Twitter to the independent Palm Pre Guru for constant tips and hints on using the phone.

A few weeks later I received a short questionnaire about how well the phone was working for me, with a quick reaction to the questions I raised. All good so far.

Then it began to unravel. First of all I lost some pictures when trying to transfer them across to my computer. I sent a tweet to Palm Pre Guru and an email to Palm for advice and support but received no response.
Then last week my battery, which had been performing increasingly poorly, died completely. I tried again to contact Palm through their Twitter account and by email. Again I got no response. I even tweeted my dissatisfaction with Palm to see if it would raise their interest, but they remained silent.

Palm's aim in giving me a free phone was to get me to talk about their product. I was picked because of my membership of a Club on the basis that I would be likely to be well connected in their target communities and likely to spread the word.

In that case, doesn't it make sense to ensure that the word I spread is a positive one, rather than negative? Palm appear to have entered into this campaign half-heartedly, thinking it is enough to simply give away phones and hope their performance speaks for itself. Not if the battery dies it doesn't!

If you engage in Buzz Marketing and select people who will speak about you, make sure that the word you give them to spread is a positive one. Treat them as your most important customers, not as an afterthought or irrelevance. Buzz Marketing has to be backed up by superlative customer service if it's going to make the impact you seek.

If my experience is not unique, this campaign could possibly turn out to be a complete disaster for Palm.


  1. You were lucky! If you get a cell phone is a nice gesture on their part!

  2. Thank you for your comment Iosif.

    You are right, if it is simply a gesture. My point is that the giveaway was part of a 'Buzz Marketing' campaign by Palm to promote positive word of mouth about the Pre. That can only work if the handset works and the support is superlative.

    If you want people to evangelize about your product or service, you have to give them something to feel positive and passionate about.

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