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Juanita Berge | Philly Creative Guide Event Reporter

Buzz Marketing
by Juanita Berge, 1 Oct 2009

Prior to founding Buzzmarketing, Mark Hughes was vice president of marketing for eBay's Half.com, the fourth most visited e-commerce retailer of 2007 according to Hitwise. Hughes brings a wealth of creative and quantitative experience in consumer marketing from PepsiCo's Pizza Hut Division, Pep Boys, and American Mobile Satellite. Hughes spent five years at PepsiCo's Pizza Hut division, working on new concept development and analyzing new store penetration. Hughes has also spent time in the Telecommunications Industry, as Product Manager for American Mobile Satellite which spawned XM Satellite Radio. Hughes holds his MBA from Columbia Business School in Marketing " International Business. His book, Buzzmarketing has won two Icon Awards in radio as well as alternative media.


The Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association pulled off rather a coup September 16th, booking Mark Hughes, author of Buzzmarketing and principal of C3 Metrics, for their presentation at RiverCrest Golf Club in Phoenixville. Hughes topic was Buzz Marketing - Get People to Talk About Your Stuff. His premise is deceptively simple: learning how to harness the power of word-of-mouth. Hughes calls word-of-mouth the most powerful form of marketing on earth. He explains that most marketing, advertising and PR follows a "push" strategy. They push at you with constant messages you don't care about or need to buy, buy, buy. No one enjoys marketing that pushes you (that's pure advocacy). Buzz marketing is different in that it creates a "pull." It pulls you into its realm with irresistible attention getters about the content.

Mark Hughes | Buzz Marketing
Mark Hughes, author of Buzzmarketing and principal of C3 Metrics
Copyright ©2009 by Marc Barag

What is buzz marketing? Buzz marketing is capturing the attention of consumers and the media to the point where talking about your brand becomes entertaining, fascinating, and newsworthy. Buzz marketing is about starting conversations. In a nutshell, buzz marketing is about getting people talking and getting the media writing about your brand. Smart brands create content, and content drives buzz.

Mark Hughes | Buzz Marketing
Copyright ©2009 by Marc Barag

Hughes broke his message down further with key points marketers must accomplish to create buzz around their products. In an age when trust in advertising is down 41%, this seems a technique most would want to at least try. Hughes claims that word-of-mouth is 10 times more effective than TV advertising. That's because it's credible. "When an advertisement tells us to buy a product, we know it to be biased; we know it to be advocacy. When our friends and family members tell us about a great product, we believe them." Take a look at Hughes' points.

  1. Give your customers a great story to tell; give people a reason to talk about your brand (it's the root of all buzz.)
  2. Put your brand second (the buzz you create has your product at its center)
  3. Follow these secrets

Mark Hughes | Buzz Marketing
Copyright ©2009 by Marc Barag

The first of these secrets is this: push the six buttons of buzz. It's really the meat and potatoes of buzz marketing. Push the buttons that are tried and true starters of conversations among people. Hughes tells us these six things are what people enjoy talking about because they lend the storyteller social currency. They are:

  1. the unusual
  2. the outrageous
  3. the taboo
  4. the hilarious
  5. the remarkable
  6. and secrets

Why not, says Hughes, talk about what we know people are talking about already. We know people like stories about the unusual. Place your product in a story that's unusual. Think of Pepsi, for instance, placing Coke in their Pepsi Challenge commercials. We know people love to talk about the outrageous. Hughes' own feat of getting the town of Halfway, OR to rename itself Half.com comes to mind. This put Half.com on the map. It cost $100,000 and delivered $4 million in publicity - a forty-fold return on investment. Or, place your product in the middle of a taboo. Clairol turned a hum-drum "Herbal Essences Organic" into an industry star with their commercials playing on the close similarity between the words organic and orgasmic. Make use of people's penchant for chatting about the hilarious. Who can forget the Super Bowl Snickers commercial of two mechanics sharing a Snickers bar up 'till the moment their lips meet? And so on.

Mark Hughes | Buzz Marketing
Copyright ©2009 by Marc Barag

"When consumers start talking, they begin marketing your brand for you," Hughes explains. "When people talk to each other, they've got undivided, face-to-face attention – something conventional advertising rarely achieves." That's because the emphasis in buzz marketing is on content rather than on the product, and that content is what people want to talk about.

Hughes believes that, amazingly, the true secrets of buzz marketing are not found in big business. The true secrets of buzz marketing are found by experiencing both big brand marketing and small start-up marketing, which he has done. "Only by experiencing both worlds, can you understand the value of buzz marketing, and how it can stretch your marketing dollar. Only by experiencing both worlds can you see how often dollars are wasted in pursuit of conventional marketing. Only by experiencing both worlds can you see how marketing dollars are multiplied by buzz marketing." Buzz marketing, Hughes continues, is for hungry brands. Buzz marketing is really for #2, #3, and #4 brands. Buzz marketing is not for the fat, happy, #1 brands who are marketing to play it safe.

Mark Hughes | Buzz Marketing
Judy Arnold, President of Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association
Copyright ©2009 by Marc Barag

The Hughes presentation was quite compelling. I wish he'd had more time to go further in depth. He had all the evidence that proved buzz marketing works. His thought-provoking presentation was an eye-opener, showing that buzz may seem to be 'random happenstance' in the marketing world but, done his way, is actually deliberately structured. Out-think rather than out-spend your competition utilizing buzz marketing techniques, and leverage your marketing budget to be ten times more effective than it is now.

To learn more about the Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association go to www.the-pdma.org.

Print Article  Brought to you by: Juanita Berge | Philly Creative Guide Event Reporter

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