The Wide World of WOM

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What's the buzz? This is what's been happening.

A sample of 2005 word-of-mouth forays ...

Best Buy co.: Retailer and PR shop Ketchum pulled off a string of guerrilla stunts. Examples: an agent working on a laptop in a glass box that read "In Case of Technical Catastrophe Break Glass" and swarms of Geekmobiles on high-traffic roads.

Microsoft Corp.: To create buzz around the announcement of Xbox 360, Microsoft and PR agency Edelman created Colony, a community-based game. It all started with one gamer posting a message on a game message board. Colony drew 16,000 teams and 110,000 gamers.

Volkswagen of America: For the launch of the 2006 Passat, Arnold Worldwide put in motion a 12-week "VW Alpha Drivers" direct mail and e-mail campaign that offered 5,000 brand enthusiasts "insider access." About 200 early test-drivers ended up buying the car, and their buzz went far in helping the launch.

Vespa USA: To reach loyalists, the scooter maker's PR agency, CooperKatz, enlisted four bloggers to wax about the lifestyle. Sample post: "If you read this and own or buy a different brand, I'm not going to hold it against you. The marketing folks may cringe if I say this, but I'll actually be happy that you get whatever scooter you want ... as long as you are happy."

VF Corp.: To push One True Fit Jeans, Lee hired BzzAgent, which dispatched its "BzzAgents" to talk up to consumers the jeans' virtues, namely a low-rise waistband and stretch denim that gives. In return, agents got a free pair of jeans. Almost two-thirds of participants said they would choose Lee after wearing them.

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