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Be it called viral, buzz or word of mouth, the marketing practice of enticing people to spread the word about brands has reached a new milestone as two associations vie for attention.

The Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association, spearheaded by Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer of Cincinnati-based online buzz researcher Intelliseek, emerged May 24 during Ad:Tech in San Francisco. Four days later, organizers of the Viral and Buzz Marketing Association, based mainly in Europe, announced similar plans.

Both are successfully building buzz, drawing several hundred queries from potential members so far, with plans to announce organizational details at Ad:Tech Chicago in July.

Establishing ethical and measurement standards for a business sometimes associated with spam and covert shills is also a common goal for the groups.

"Word of mouth gets stigmatized as fuzzy and unquantifiable," Mr. Blackshaw said. "Shifting toward more quantifiable media will bring people into the franchise."

VBMA, which has 20 members so far among consultants and marketing firms, is being selective about who it accepts, said Justin Kirby, managing director of Digital Media Communications, London, and a founder of the group, concentrating on specialist practitioners vs. marketers and full-service shops - though Omnicom Group's GSD&M, Austin, Texas, is also a founder.

Mr. Blackshaw said WOMMA will have a broad-based membership, with about 40 of 400 member inquiries so far from marketers, 50 or 60 from research firms and the rest mainly from ad and PR agencies, specialty firms, consultants and academics.

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