The new TV buzz word: buzz marketing.

Author:Milano, Valerie
Position:Who'da Thunk It?

My digital video recorder (DVR) is chock full of programs and only the "buzz" from my friends and family seems to be able to convince me to start watching new broadcast shows. I zip through television commercials because I am older and just plain tired of being pitched to. I have countless science shows on my DVR (O.K., I am the mother of two children). I'm also supposed to Tivo Ugly Betty (O.K., my friends are mostly gay). I have come to rely on my trusted social network to guide my TV and movie viewing.

I have just laid out, in a nutshell, why buzz marketing works. Buzz marketing is a technique designed to make every encounter with a consumer appear to be a spontaneous, personal exchange of information rather than a calculated pitch from an advertiser. We are most influenced by the people around us and the people we look up to. We are moved into action by our social needs to be in communication with, and be a part of what is going on. Buzz marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, stealth marketing (a practice designed to deceive consumers about marketers' involvement) and viral marketing (a phenomenon that encourages people to pass along a marketing message) are all put to use by the good folks who want you to watch their entertainment programming.

The buzz-makers reach us on the Web sites we visit, the coffee houses we frequent, the videos from user-generated content sites, such as YouTube, that are forwarded to us on our cell phones. It's smart and it's effective. If programmers can orchestrate a permeating chatter, they can create overnight sensations, like that now-ancient The Blair Witch Project. In effect, buzz-makers have wedged their strategy into the vernacular of a generation at very little expense.

On the other hand, stealth marketing is a trickier business. Once consumers figure out that they're being pitched to, well it's a turn-off, or a betrayal, depending on how dramatic they are. At times TV makes use of stealth marketing. The Gossip Girl enthusiast who is chatting with you or posting a comment on a Gossip Girl fansite could very well work for the show (and often does, by the way). After all, these sites spring up rather quickly and adeptly. This stealth marketing tactic is very smart and very effective and it taps into an old-fashioned social paradigm. It's the chat with "my neighbor over the fence." It brings us back to what we already know and trust.


Viral marketing works somewhat differently. Imagine that I work...

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