Buzz marketing. What is it and how can you use it? That’s what we’d like to cover in this post, but before we do, we need to consider one other question. Can buzz really be purposefully generated, or is it something that happens accidentally?

The Truth about Buzz Marketing

The truth about buzz marketing is that it can be purposefully generated, especially if you know how to use the six buttons for buzz marketing success.

How can we be so sure?

We know it’s true because Mark Hughes documents it in his book Buzzmarketing. He shows how he used the six buttons of buzz to get a $300 million offer from Ebay for Half.com only six months after launching and how they used it to grow from zero to eight million users in under three years. He also discusses countless other instances where buzz was generated through smart and purposeful campaigns.

Are you interested in learning about these six buttons of buzz yet? Good. But there’s one more thing we need to cover before taking a look at the six buttons and how you can use them.

What Exactly Is Buzz Marketing?

Buzz marketing is the concept of getting people to talk about your brand, product, or service. Instead of merely advertising to one person at a time, you advertise to one, and that one person tells four people who end up telling four more people each. In the end you reach a lot more people with your advertising than you would with a traditional type of campaign.

Doesn’t that sound awesome? We think it does, and something else that’s awesome is how powerful word-of-mouth marketing can be. Most people view it as the best form of marketing because people trust what they hear from their friends more than what they hear from almost anyone else. So if more people are talking about your brand, that’s a really, really good thing.

And essentially, the trick with buzz marketing is giving people something to talk about. If you’re brand is boring and doesn’t give people anything to tell their friends, then they won’t. But if you start pushing one or more of the buzz buttons, there’s a good chance you’ll get people talking.

So how can you get people talking about your brand, and what are these buzz buttons we’ve been talking about?

Introducing the Six Buzz Marketing Buttons

According to Mark Hughes, there are six buttons for buzz marketing success. Jonah Berger, a Wharton professor who’s studied online viral content more than anyone else, would counter that there are a few more buttons to consider, but for the sake of this post, we’ll just look at the ones that Mark Hughes has identified (although you’re welcome to order Contagious by Jonah Berger if you want to learn more about what he has to say).

The six buttons according to Buzzmarketing are:

  1. The taboo (sex, lies, bathroom humor)
  2. The unusual
  3. The outrageous
  4. The hilarious
  5. The remarkable
  6. The secrets (both kept and revealed)

In order to use them, you need to learn more about what they are, which we’ll cover below, and then you need to learn how to implement them in your advertising campaigns.

Let’s take a look at each of the six buttons now in order to get a better idea about how to use them.

The six triggers for buzz marketing

Button #1: The Taboo

As listed above, taboo stands for things like sex, lies, and bathroom humor, but I also like to think of this one as the controversial button. What can you do that will stir up some controversy and get people talking about you?

Mark Cuban, the billionaire entrepreneur and one of the star investors of Shark Tank, provides a great example of this. He constantly creates controversial situations that get people’s attention, whether it’s publicly criticizing referees or declaring he’d let WNBA star Brittney Griner try out for the Dallas Mavericks. All of these actions are controversial and somewhat taboo, and they get people talking. Sometimes the antics result in fines from the NBA, but the charge can simply be added to the marketing budget with all the press and water cooler conversations that come along with it.

Another example along the lines of taboo and controversial are the ads that GoDaddy runs during the Super Bowl. Yes, they pay a lot for those ads, but they also get more mileage than most with taboo ads that get people talking. One of the most recent ones was of Israeli fashion model Bar Refaeli kissing a nerdy IT guy. It was controversial, which means some people didn’t like it (including myself), but it also made an impression and got a lot of people talking the next day.

And can you think of a more widely known web hosting company than GoDaddy? Yes, their ads are distasteful to many which means not every company would want to go this far to get publicity, but there isn’t a single other hosting company that’s better known than GoDaddy. And being the best known is half the battle when it comes to making a sale.

This is a button that not everyone will be ready to push, but it’s an example of how thinking a little outside the box and doing something controversial that won’t damage your brand has the ability to generate more awareness and interest for your company.

Button #2: The Unusual

Another button you can push is the unusual button. Mark Hughes uses the example of OverweightDate.com in Buzzmarketing to explain how this button works.

Ian Klein, the founder of OverweightDate.com, decided to start a dating website and opted for one targeted towards overweight people searching for a date. Some thought this would be business suicide, but it actually worked in his favor.

Not only were there enough overweight people looking for a site like this, but it was so unusual that people had to talk about it. Match.com is one thing, but a dating site devoted to overweight people, that’s worth telling your friends about.

So how did they get the word out about their website? They got the word out through word of mouth, flyers handed out at In-N-Out Burgers, some online ads, and a few keywords. Once you added in the buzz generated from people talking about such an unusual site, that ended up being enough to get them off the ground.

Another word you can use to describe this button is “unique.” If you do something unique that no one else has tried before, there’s a better chance you’ll get people talking and sharing your message.

Button #3: The Outrageous

Being outrageous is another button you can push. An example of this is the Golf Boys video featuring professional golfers Ben Crane, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, and Hunter Mahan.

Farmers Insurance sponsored the video and convinced the four golfers to create an outrageous music video of a made up song titled “Oh Oh Oh.” The song makes fun of pop music, while also featuring crazy antics from all four golfers. It’s completely outrageous and something everyone has to share with at least one person once they’ve seen it (and we’re guessing you will too once you watch the video below).

However, one thing to keep in mind about being outrageous is that, not only do you want to generate buzz and get people talking, but you also want to generate positive brand awareness. In the case of the Golf Boys video, 6,865,672 people had watched the video at the time this article was written, but it can be argued that those views haven’t really generated that much extra brand awareness for Farmers Insurance (although we are talking about them right now which means they still are getting some amount of mileage from the video). Just keep in mind that if you decide to push the outrageous button, you also want to make sure it matches your brand and gives you a beneficial brand impression.

Button #4: The Hilarious

Being hilarious may be the top way to get people talking, especially online, since sharing something funny is one of the primary things people use social media for (especially Facebook).

One example of this is the Pepsi Max stunt videos with Jeff Gordon. Pepsi Max and Jeff Gordon worked together to produce videos where Mr. Gordon takes an unsuspecting used car salesman and a journalist on a high-speed car ride. Both videos are hilarious and have received millions of views on Youtube.

And this is a good example of pushing a buzz button while also gaining a positive brand impression. Pepsi is pushing the message that Pepsi Max is a diet cola in disguise as a regular cola because it tastes so good. Thus, not only is the video hilarious, but it also matches the Pepsi Max brand quite well.

Button #5: The Remarkable

An oft-overlooked button is the remarkable button, but when you do something remarkable, people take notice. Pepsi Max once again provides an excellent example when it comes to remarkable buzz marketing.

In another series they’ve created titled “Uncle Drew,” Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving dresses up as an old man who picks up past basketball buddies and goes to local basketball courts where they upstage much “younger” players. The concept is so unique and is produced in such a remarkable way that nearly everyone interested in basketball is familiar with the video and quotes memorable lines such as, “Don’t reach, young blood” and “I get buckets.”

This series is an example of producing something that’s not only unique but also gets noticed because it’s produced remarkably well. If the video was shot in a shoddy way with poor acting and directing, then it wouldn’t be as popular. But since it’s done at such a high level, i.e. in a remarkable way, people not only watch it but also want to be the first one to tell their friends about it.

Button #6: The Secrets

Last but not least is the secrets button. By revealing or keeping secrets, businesses can generate more buzz.

To reveal a secret means you let customers or prospects in on something most people don’t know about. This could be a behind the scenes look at your business or letting your most loyal customers first know about an upcoming product launch. To keep a secret is let people know your business has a secret sauce you can’t talk about or letting them know something new is coming without revealing the exact details of what’s to come.

A great example of this are the Apple product launches. Apple always drops hints about what’s coming, but they don’t let out all the secrets until the product itself is launched. This builds up hype, gets people talking, and generates more interest once the product is finally released.

How to Push the Buzz Buttons

At this point you may be thinking, “Ok, that’s great. There are six buttons for buzz, but how do I push them for my business? I don’t have the video-production budget Pepsi Max has, so how am I supposed to do something remarkable or hilarious that will get people talking?”

Yes, you may not have the budget that some of these businesses have, but with a little creativity, you can get similar results. Here are some examples.

Example #1: KISSmetrics

Take KISSmetrics, as an example. KISSmetrics is a SaaS company that provides detailed analytics that help businesses measure how effective their website and online campaigns are at driving sales.

They also produced a collection of marketing resources and infographics on their blog that are done at a high level (remarkable) and can’t be found anywhere online (unique). KISSmetrics has leveraged the uniqueness and the remarkableness of this content to generate social shares, traffic, and links back to their site that they couldn’t have generated as easily in any other way.

Example #2: Grasshopper

Grasshopper undertook a massive buzz marketing campaign after rebranding in May of 2009. In order to get the word out about their new branding, they decided to send out 25,000 chocolate covered grasshoppers to 5,000 of the most influential people in America. This list included journalists, news reporters, celebrities, bloggers and more.

The total cost for the campaign $68,103. The results? In the first month after the campaign 119 blog posts and news articles were written, and Grasshopper received 3,286% more traffic from Facebook and 4,911% more traffic from Twitter than in the previous month. All in all, it was a complete buzz marketing success. (You can read more about the campaign on these pages: Grasshopper FedEx’s 25,000 Chocolate Covered Grasshoppers to Influencers and Entrepreneurs & Case Study: Grasshopper Re-branding Campaign.

What buttons did they push? The unusual (unique) and the outrageous buttons.

Example #3: EverDayCarry

Another example of effective buzz marketing is EveryDayCarryBlog.com, although it’s not quite as unusual as the previous example.

EveryDayCarry is a blog that features gear that guys carry on a daily basis. Each post includes one picture that captures someone’s everyday gear with short description of the gear below it. It’s not unusual or hilarious, but it’s unique and done in a remarkable way. The result is a blog that has been growing slowly and that people can’t help but talk about with their friends.

This is an especially good example because it shows that creating things people want to share and talk about doesn’t have to be as crazy as sending out 25,000 chocolate covered grasshoppers.

What buttons do they push? The unusual (unique) and the remarkable buttons.

One Final Tip

Before finishing the post, we’d like to mention one final tip. When possible, it’s best to combine as many of the buzz marketing buttons as possible. Not only is it good to be hilarious, but it’s even better to do something hilarious and remarkable. There’s a good chance something can go viral even if it’s just funny, but combining more than one button gives you an even better chance of generating buzz.

Did you learn anything from reading this post, or are there any other good examples of buzz marketing you can think of? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.