Creating buzz: The ethical debate

20 03 2009

 

Buzz marketing can be done in 2 basic ways.

The first type involves recruiting volunteers (the so-called ‘influencers’) to act as agents for a product. In this form of buzz marketing an agent acts as an independent entity and has the freedom to express his/her views openly with no obligation to the company. Such techniques not only empower consumers but also ensure that corporations produce products that deliver a truly unique value proposition. Basically, a company has to be extremely confident in its offering to allow its consumers to talk freely about its product, even if it is critical at times.

The second type involves hiring agents (posers) who are paid to enter into public domain and behave or act in the desired way with the intention of grabbing consumers’ attention and creating buzz. For example, in order to promote one of its camera phones, Sony Ericsson hired actors to pose as average Joes walking around the city asking people to take pictures of them – the idea being that when people took the camera to take pictures, they would realise that it was actually a phone as well.

The problem however with the latter technique is that these agents aren’t expressing their opinions but those of the corporation itself. Therefore, since the message being sent is not authentic, it cannot be trusted. At the end of the day, consumers hate being duped and that is exactly what this technique achieves!

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