Dave Balter, Founder and CEO of BzzAgent, Inc. launched the company in 2002, and since that time, BzzAgent has established itself as the leading provider of word-of-mouth services for the world’s most esteemed brands, including Anheuser-Busch, Levi Strauss and Ralph Lauren. In January of 2006, the company closed a groundbreaking US$14 million round of institutional financing.
Balter is a founding member of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and co-authored “Grapevine: The New Art of Word-of-Mouth Marketing.” BzzAgent Inc. is a word-of-mouth marketing and media firm that helps companies to organize and manage honest, real-world conversations among everyday consumers. BzzAgent’s innovative process, platform and programs enable the acceleration and measurement of word-of-mouth as a marketing medium. Using such systems, BzzAgent’s clients can generate awareness and shape perception about their products and services either via BzzAgent’s community of 160,000 trained, volunteer brand evangelists.
One Degree: Do you see a difference between buzz, viral marketing, work of mouth and novelty?
I’m not entirely sure what you define as novelty, so I can’t really speak to that, but the other 3 concepts – buzz, viral and WOM – all belong to the same family of consumer engagement (in the marketing process). The commonality among these practices is the belief that the consumer is in control and will determine what media they want to consume and what they are willing to listen to and communicate about. In other words, what unites these techniques is the marketer’s willingness to allow the consumer to determine the messages to be communicated.
However, there are some key distinctions that can’t be ignored. Buzz marketing is most traditionally an event or experience that’s intended to get people talking. It’s Oprah Winfrey giving away 276 Pontiac G6’s on her show in 2004 or Snapple attempting to build the world’s biggest popsicle in NYC’s Union Square (which melted by the way…which created its own buzz, of course).
Viral marketing is any message that is passed along from one consumer to another. The majority of viral marketing takes place online with video snippets such as Subservient Chicken. In some cases, viral media happens organically, with no marketing push. Stephen Colbert’s recent lampooning of President Bush, for example, quickly became one of the most watched videos on the Internet.
Viral marketing can also take place offline, as it did with Lance Armstrong’s Yellow Bracelets, but the Internet continues to be the medium of choice for most viral marketing programs.
Word-of-mouth is the actual sharing of an honest opinion between two or more consumers. It’s part of our social fabric – it’s a major aspect of how we people communicate with one another. The key concept here is that no marketer can create word-of-mouth. It can be sparked, accelerated, augmented, even measured – but because it occurs naturally, it can’t be manufactured or manipulated.
Buzz marketing and viral marketing programs sometimes attempt to create word-of-mouth, with mixed results based on a variety of factors from current consumer trends to originality of the concept. The big takeaway: word of mouth is what ends up driving real results. When it occurs, the rest is easy!
One Degree: How has BzzAgent changed since it was founded in 2002?