Last Updated: November 14, 2020

We have all played a marketing role at some point. When we rave about a new restaurant to a friend, we (perhaps inadvertently) drum up business for it. If we talk excitedly about a movie we just saw, we are encouraging others to go see it as well.

Dining establishments, filmmakers, and all types of businesses benefit when people talk casually and positively about a product or service. Word of mouth between two people has a more credible effect than a print advertisement or TV commercial. We are more likely to try something new if a person we trust suggests we check it out. (See also Word-of-Mouth Marketing)

This “buzz” marketing is highly effective for spreading the word about a new product or service. Consider the yearly Super Bowl ad frenzy, where nearly everyone talks about what silly or ingenious advertisements they saw between plays. Ideally, in the minds of marketers, Super Bowl watchers will also be talking about the companies behind those commercials.

Marketing professionals who focus on buzz marketing do what they can to encourage such talk. Their work instigates conversations between small groups of friends, as well as larger scale discussions through social-media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. They keep the conversations going by responding to consumers through these tools, and kick start that conversation by organizing events to gain attention.

When introducing a new granola bar with honey, for example, a marketing team may bring bags of samples to a college campus and have students dressed in bear suits hand them out. The stunt will generate buzz and – if the snack is actually tasty – motivate students to suggest others try it.

Who employs buzz marketing campaigns?

Both large and small companies need marketing professionals who understand the benefits of buzz marketing and know how to use it. They may expect their in-house marketing team to have this skill or hire an outside agency to provide such a service. In recent years, small agencies that specialize in buzz marketing have been created.

Businesses that hire the services of these agencies and their buzz marketers include companies that sell:

  • Cars
  • Technology
  • Consumer products
  • Movies
  • Beverages
  • Fashion
  • Cosmetics
  • Children’s gear

What kinds of customers are effectively marketed to in buzz marketing campaigns?

The most effective buzz marketing campaigns are initially targeted toward people who are considered influencers or early adopters of products. (See also Influencer Marketing) We all know these types of people; they tend to dominate their peer group and are eager to share their knowledge. They may have their own blog that is widely read and a Twitter account with thousands of followers. These are people whose opinions are noticed because of their personality and influence.

If marketers have done their job right and these early adopters share their experience of a new product, ideally, the buzz about it will grow as more people hear about it.

How is a buzz marketing campaign developed and employed?

The concept of buzz marketing has existed for many years. Circuses, for example, once used morning street parades to tease potential audience members about what their elephants and clowns would do during their night performances. The walk-through by animals led to chatter among the town’s residents and soon the circus would sell out. Before television and the Internet, circus entertainers were limited in their ability to market their shows beyond a few posters. The most effective way for them to get people to buy tickets was spreading the word through a stunt, like a parade.

Creating a Buzz on Campus

Marketers working on behalf of computer maker Dell knew how to go after a key demographic when they set up a presence in college campuses across the country. In need of laptops but perhaps not sure of which brand to choose, college students were exposed to Dell’s offerings in many ways through a campaign recently put together by agency Mosaic Experiential Marketing.

The agency used so-called brand ambassadors to discuss not just Dell products but local and popular events on Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. The company also held a contest, called SuperProm, which invited students to create a 60-second video to explain why their school should win a party put on by Dell. The contest got students talking on Dell’s social-media sites as they voted for their favorite videos, and it increased Dell’s fans and followers. Perhaps most importantly, it kept the Dell brand front and center in students’ minds.

Over the past decade, buzz marketing has become a specialty service for marketing professionals. Those who are skilled in the concept continually ask: how can we get our consumers to keep talking about our products?

An increasingly popular way is through social media. These platforms have proliferated in recent years, creating many ways for marketers to create buzz and keep that buzz going. Companies use established social media outlets, like Facebook’s business pages, to talk directly with consumers and get them discussing a product with each other. (See also Facebook Marketing)

Some companies also create their own social networks. Clorox, for example, developed The Clorox Lounge, an interactive website with contests and forums for customers to talk about their bathroom experiences. The site encourages customers to keep coming back through surveys and e-mails. This creates a way for Clorox to stay connected with its consumer base in a way it wouldn’t otherwise, and it creates a buzz because of its unusual subject matter.

Marketing departments may also use outside bloggers to help with their efforts. Knowing that an interesting fact can spread quickly on social-media networks, marketers send bloggers samples of products before they are widely distributed. They expect a mention of the product in return.

An influential blogger, for instance, will discuss the new product on a blog post that gets read by his followers. Those followers, in turn, may forward the post to their friends and highlight the product on the social-media sites they use.

Outside of the blogosphere, car companies have used a similar concept. They have loaned out a new car model for a certain period of time to a certain age group they are looking to attract. In return, they ask these trial drivers to talk about the features of the car to anyone who asks.

How to Get People Talking

According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, marketing strategies that have the following attributes keep customers happy and make it easy for them to discuss a product or service with their friends and peers. Such marketing methods:

  1. Encourage communications through website forums and social networks.
  2. Give people something to talk about with information that can be easily shared or forwarded and publicity events that inspire people to tell others about what they saw or experienced.
  3. Create communities and connect people such as user groups, fan clubs, and message boards.
  4. Work with influential communities by identifying influential people and informing them about the company’s plans and encouraging them to share such data.
  5. Research and listen to customer feedback which can be done by tracking online comments to social networks and collecting survey data.
  6. Engage in conversation by establishing blogs and a social media presence and contributing to them on a regular basis.

What types of careers work with buzz marketing strategies?

Marketing Managers

What do they do?

What type of salary should I expect?

  • Marketing Managers
    Median pay: $112,800
    Top earners: $166,400
  • Market Research Analysts
    Median pay: $60,570
    Top earners: $111,440
  • Demonstrators and Product Promoters
    Median pay: $23,110
    Top earners: $44,070

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Marketing managers run programs that will create interest in their company’s products and services. These days, buzz marketing will be part of that plan, which may also include advertising campaigns, public relations, market research, and pricing studies. These managers coordinate their strategies with executives, art directors, sales teams, the financial department, and possibly an outside agency. They may employ social-media specialists to maintain their company’s presence online.

The marketing manager role is expected to grow 14% between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Education and Skills

Marketing managers tend to have five years of experience working at a lower level in advertising, sales, marketing, or promotions. They also have a bachelor’s degree and may have a master’s degree as well.

Market Research Analysts

What do they do?

Market research analysts provide marketing managers with an overview of market conditions in their industry. They help marketing teams understand what types of products people want and how much they are willing to spend. Most importantly, they can help marketers understand consumer behavior, a key point for targeting a buzz marketing campaign. They do this by conducting surveys and gathering data about certain types of consumers (based on geography or age group, for example).

This position is in high demand as it is expected to grow 41% between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Education and Skills

Analysts usually have a bachelor’s degree in market research or a related subject, as well as a master’s degree. They have taken courses in marketing, and they have studied statistics, business administration, and, in some cases, communications. A background in sales or business will help them succeed in this role.

Demonstrators and Product Promoters

What do they do?

A position as a product promoter is a great way to see if marketing is the right career path for you. Promoters, such as the people who share food samples at supermarkets, encourage customers to try a product and answer any questions they might have. They do research on these products and have an understanding of the type of customers the company is trying to sell to.

These professionals may conduct surveys, participate in trade shows, and hold contests. Some may also be hired on a contract basis to write about products on their personal blogs or social media accounts.

Education and Skills

Demonstrators and product promoters should have at least a high school diploma and will usually get trained while on the job. They are expected to have strong customer service skills and an outgoing personality.

How can a marketing school help you succeed in a company that uses this type of marketing strategy?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

Marketing professionals need a solid understanding of marketing business to carry out successful buzz marketing campaigns. They must have strong analytical skills, creativity, and management know-how to increase the effectiveness of these campaigns. A degree in marketing can help future professionals develop these talents and successfully integrate these skills into their outreach efforts.

Many schools offer undergraduate degrees and master’s degrees in business administration with a marketing concentration. These courses cover business strategy, sales, business development, consumer behavior, analytics, and communications.

All of these skills will give students versatility in their careers, particularly if they want to become marketing managers or run their own marketing agency. The courses go beyond the basic tools of marketing, such as advertisements and e-mail newsletters. They dig deep into how to analyze a particular market and how to manage a brand. (See also Brand Manager)

Some classes may get into psychology and anthropology so that students can fully grasp consumer behavior and be able to predict how consumers will react to new products. In that way, they can determine whether a buzz-marketing campaign will work for a particular item.

More Tongues Will Be Wagging

Companies are predicted to spend more of their marketing dollars on encouraging people to talk about their services, particularly through buzz marketing. Spending on public relations and word-of-mouth marketing will grow by 14% between 2011 and 2012, according to investment firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson. This category ranks second, behind just one other segment in the media, entertainment, and communications sector: