It's 'about people feeling good'

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When Dave Balter visits a prospective client, he doesn't try to sell a crazy media stunt to gin up buzz around a new product. In fact, his pitch doesn't even remotely sound like a creative idea.

What the 34-year-old founder of BzzAgent is selling is a medium, a system for marketers to put their message in some of the mouths of 120,000 ordinary Joes and Janes who can then spread it to friends, family and co-workers.

In its three years of existence, BzzAgent has run campaigns for marketers including Anheuser-Busch, Kraft Foods and General Mills. Early next year, Mr. Balter, the company's president and co-author of the new book "Grapevine," plans to formalize a new way of doing business. "We're moving to a media model," he says, hinting only that his Boston-based company would likely be adding more targeted channels along the lines of the Hispanic service it launched in July. Procter & Gamble Co. has already done this with its Tremor unit, which creates teen-targeted buzz campaigns and is now expanding its expertise to mothers.

For between $100,000 and $1 million, marketers can have their products chatted up by a segment of the BzzAgent database of volunteer brand enthusiasts.

These "BzzAgents" then report back to communications developers who evaluate their work and analysts who report it to marketers.

BzzAgents are awarded points in a loyalty program based on how effective they are, though few ever cash them in, Mr. Balter says. Apparently, being a brand evangelist is reward enough.

"This is about people feeling good," he says. "People talk about products and services all the time, and this is a way for them to be involved with brands."

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