Marketers Can't Buy Buzz

Panel: 'It's an Outcome, Not a Strategy'

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NEW YORK ( -- The Beatles said you "Can't buy me love," but marketers' version of that refrain is closer to "Can't buy me buzz."
Coke almost missed out on its chance to build on organic buzz -- something you just can't buy.
Coke almost missed out on its chance to build on organic buzz -- something you just can't buy.

"Buzz belongs to the people," said's Jeff Jarvis, who moderated a panel yesterday on the topic of whether brands can get away with buzz marketing in the blogosphere. The panel was part of the Always-On Media conference in Manhattan's Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Be more interesting
David Weinberger, co-author of "The Cluetrain Manifesto," said he's not convinced there is a right way to build buzz, outside of just being interesting. The problem is "marketers generally forget how to be interesting because they're so interested in shaping messages," he said, quoting his co-author, Doc Searles: "There's no market for messaging." And, Mr. Weinberger added, bad, manipulative buzz could be damaging to a marketer's brand.

Barry Reicherter, senior VP-director of persuasive technologies at Porter Novelli, lamented that nobody's figured out how to measure buzz, although his agency takes a look at the net-fluencers, which he estimates is about 5% of the population. And that inability to measure return on investment is one of the reasons why marketers haven't allocated more resources to social-media activities, said Rick Murray, president of Edelman's me2revolution practice.

Still, Mr. Murray said social-marketing budgets are dipping into brand-marketing budgets because clients have realized "you can't buy your way into conversations." Getting into the conversation takes time and is more of a one-to-one marketing opportunity. He added that Edelman is focused more on monitoring the conversation than measuring the conversation -- a qualitative rather than quantitative measure.

Coke almost missed out
Coca-Cola Co. was held up as an example of a marketer almost missing the opportunity to build on organic buzz with the Diet Coke-Mentos YouTube phenomenon. Mr. Murray, who added that he's got a background in the soda business, said Coke made the mistake of saying "That's just not our brand, people drink Diet Coke, they don't play with Diet Coke. ... Bottlers would say that's a great thing, it's driving per capita consumption and they're not even drinking it."

He would have gone to every retailer he knew, set up a cross-promotion with Diet Coke and Mentos, and created a commercial or campaign to run offline as well. "Buzz," he said, "is actually an outcome and not a strategy."
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