During my recent eight-day meditation retreat, I must have slipped into and out of my Birkenstocks at least fifty times. About every thirty to forty-five minutes we'd switch from sitting meditation on cushions in the meditation hall (the beautiful hardwood floors means no shoes allowed) to walking meditation outdoors and vice-versa.
I made a mental note to check into buying a pair although I didn't know the brand name (uh, it's a silent retreat). Often as we're wont to imitate, (remember how well your parents "Do as I say, not as I do" admonition worked on you) visual buzz works even better than verbal.
In the article, Step 3 (of three steps) of building an instant company involves "free buzz marketing" through "leveraging the hype machine." The hype machine most lauded is the blogosphere. My honest visceral reaction to the story was "Yeechh! If everyone has these shoes, maybe I don't want them." (You can probably guess my visceral reaction to the use of bloggers as merely message dissemenators.)
So you've figured out how to design and build your hit product. Now you have to sell it. Yes, go to trade shows. By all means, meet as many potential customers as you can. But as an instant-company builder, you have to approach marketing just like everything else. That's right: Get others to do it for you.
In May 2004 the popular blog Cool Tools -- which gets 240,000 hits a day -- ran a post praising quick-drying Keen sandals as "a gift from above." Months later Diego Rodriguez, owner of a blog called Metacool, proclaimed, "All the cool kids are wearing them." Above Rodriguez's post was a photo of Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs hawking an iPod U2 Special Edition while wearing a pair of Keens. During the fall 2004 season, Keen sold 400,000 pairs of shoes -- while spending virtually nothing on ads -- in what is typically an off-season for sandals. "The goal was, get the shoes on as many influential feet as possible," says Keen's Van Dine. - "The New Instant Companies", Business 2.0, June 2005
Now this all assumes that blogs are about hype. Blogs = Hype Machines? Yikes! And in fact hype and buzz are distinctively different things.
Marketers don't need to abandon hype tactics altogether. They can be effective media tools. But they have major limitations. By definition, hype tactics are loud, aggressive, and short-term in nature.
Buzz, on the other hand, has nothing to do with noise; it's about seduction. It involves the marketplace in the dissemination of a big idea. It helps consumers learn about a new norm and can be sustained long term. It is, simply put, a marketing and media tool of a higher order. - Alex Wipperfurth, Brand Hijack: Marketeting without Marketing
Wipperfurth's book (highly recommend) succinctly charts the differences between the two (below):
|Is co-created with the market||Is autocratic, leaked by the brand owner; the market is an audience, not a participant|
|Travels through grassroots, peer-to-peer communication||Uses mass media and staged events|
|Carries an authentic social message; it's news||Carries a biased product message; it's publicity|
|Is seductive and spreads exponentially||Is loud and aggressive|
|Is trustworthy||Can be easily distrusted|
|Is a long-term learning model|
Creates short-term awareness
Now here's some more buzz. Authentic, seductive, news-worthy:
Check out the design award-winning Solemates to the left; "made from recycled newsprint, these remarkable and disposable slippers are eco-friendly and cost less than 50 cents each." Thanks to BrandAutopsy, a blog I personally trust to share ideas foremost, for the tip. (Buzz is also peer-to-peer storytelling.) BusinessWeek says: "In India [and Japan], it is a tradition to remove the footwear when you enter a house or building. As a host it is a good gesture to offer visitors footwear that is worn only indoors." To me, the Solemates evoke something exotic, natural and beautifully simple.
The Keen story isn't done yet because, I still haven't gotten around to buying a pair. And also because in an upcoming post I'll talk more about the core of Keen's buzz. (Don't believe all the hype about blogs either!) I believe that blog buzz was icing on the cake, so to speak, for Keen.
And I'm curious to explore this notion of "buzz as seduction." Can you be real and seductive?