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Home > Blog > Inside the World of Buzz
Out of Our Minds
Thursday, January 19, 2006 1:58 PM
Inside the World of Buzz
Kevin Salwen on Culture

Would you buy a product that you heard about through buzz marketing -- if you knew the person telling you about it was being paid? A study presented at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association conference in Orlando found that consumers are not put off by buzz marketers who are upfront with consumers about the products they shill, Ad Age reports.

Northeastern University assistant professor Walter Carl conducted the research, harvesting data from 800 word-of-mouth marketers and the prospective consumers hearing the spiels. 'There's a sense if there's an organized word-of-mouth marketing program there must be something interesting about it,' Carl said. 'There's a sense that a company wouldn't do this unless there was something interesting or new about the product.'

I'm not sure how I feel about word-of-mouth marketing. Paying people to tell me about things -- especially if they're my friends -- takes marketing to another level. It puts at risk the sense of trust I have in my friends' opinions. That said, clearly it works; and this new study casts disclosure in a light I hadn't expected. What's your take?


4 comments

Robert - 1/26/2006 10:36:24 AM
Like any form of marketing, I'd guess its impact ultimately will depend on how well the marketer understands the needs and wants of the person being buzzed. If my friend knows I like $20 jeans and my 15-year-old VW Beetle, and is pitching like-minded alternatives to them, I'd listen. However if (s)he started pitching $400 designer jeans and some boatlike SUV, I'd be skeptical at best, and probably offended.



HELLO, my name is Scott - 1/26/2006 8:07:37 AM
Hey Kevin, I just finished speaking at the WOMMA conference in Orlando. It was amazing! And lots of speakers addressed this issue.

Personally, I wouldn't listen if I knew they were being paid. I'd feel hoodwinked. But that's just me. You should check out WOMMA's blog to see pix, videos and ppt slides from all the speakers. The research is SO cool.

Viva WOMMA!
Janet Auty-Carlisle - 1/19/2006 5:57:15 PM
Hmmm...to buzz or not to buzz that is the question...Isn't that essentially the basis of the old 'and they told two friends' concept? I can make up my own mind even if my friends tell me it's something I 'have to have/try/can't live without.' Would I listen closer if it came from someone I knew...probably...Living la vida fearless, Jan
Curt Rosengren - 1/19/2006 4:34:56 PM
OK, so let's assume a friend of mine could buzz me without its grating on me (though I actually have a hard time picturing any of my friends being a buzz agent, so this one's a stretch).

I think I might be mildly more inclined to at least listen to what they had to say. Not because if they say good things it must be buzz-worthy, but because I would trust them not to bother me with something they didn't feel good about.

Beyond that, the difference between that and advertising might be that I would be more inclined to spend more time talking about it if it is coming from a friend (and again, assuming they haven't annoyed me with it in the process).

So...a foot in the door and my attention for longer than traditional marketing. Not so bad. That's probably why it works.

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