The Accidental Buzz Marketer (or “They should really pay me for this”)

First: two disclaimers. 1.) The “style” of my blog layout capitalizes all of the first words in my post titles — I know better than that, but I don’t want to pay for the ability to correct this. 2.) When I mention a specific product here, I do so honestly.

About blogs: For those of you who don’t have one of your own, you may not be aware that there is some semi-accurate software attached to my blog that tells me how many people visit my site each day, and where they come from if they clicked a link to get here. Typically I only get a visitor count, and sometimes I get a site reference — usually what seems to happen is one of you clicks on a link to the right, and the owner of that site gets a link to my site and they visit (is this making any sense? I’m very tired and inarticulate today). So today I have two referrers. One of you is reading my blog through Bloglines, apparently. Thanks for subscribing! And someone (this is so crazy) is searching blogs for mentions of Chopin vodka and picked mine up: This both amazes me (that this is possible) and freaks me out a little (that this is such an open arena).

If you go to the site, you’ll see a little area on the side that asks if I want to “Write a quick explanation of the buzz around Chopin vodka.” Technorati runs this, and calls it “WTF” (supposedly “where’s the fire,” but even my British friends know better than that), where you can report on the buzz surrounding anything — Spears’ shears, your favorite band, whatever. For kicks, I posted a WTF. I’ll let you know what happens… maybe they’ll pay me? I’ll just mention here that I accept both cash and vodka…

I don’t know who is behind this, but the keyword here is definitely buzz. Buzz marketing is something we should be concerned about, as it threatens to make us all into marketers. Not that all marketers are bad, but don’t we all hate the college girls at bars who give you free shots of something kind of icky and maybe a keychain? (Okay, maybe we don’t hate them, but do we think they really like us, or do we think they’re maybe trying to sell us something in the long run?) What happens when people just like us (without samples) pose as sincere, regular people but have ulterior motives? Will you recommend your dentist if he gives you a discount, even if you’re not that jazzed about him? Will you start carrying around a certain kind of water if the company gives it to you for free? Or wearing a little too much pricey perfume (free to you) as a conversation starter? This might sound a little paranoid, but it’s seriously happening. And I think it’s happening on a grander scale than we realize.

This NPR story from last year gives a pretty good picture of what buzz marketing is, and who is using it. I just think it’s so interesting that people are paying so much for this, and that it apparently works. I think it really degrades actual buzz and can cause suspicion when a person is honestly recommending a product. For example: I can’t leave a grocery store without buying a Lara Bar (or six) because they’re so delicious and one of my staples. I love that there is no crap in them — just fruit and nuts and sometimes a spice or two thrown in, and I love that they’re made locally. Whenever I see someone deliberating which Clif bar to buy, I always mention the Lara Bars. I have given them to several of my friends and family, a couple of whom are nearly equally addicted now. I’ve never met the folks at Lara Bar (though they did respond to my e-mail suggesting they test a carrot cake bar, more or less saying thank you but they probably wouldn’t). I pay $1.39 a bar like the rest of you (at Whole Foods, which is surprisingly cheaper than other places in this regard). I just like sharing a good thing.

I have a friend who does the same thing with MyChelle cosmetics, another who swears by all things Patagonia, and another who just really loved Talbots for a while there (happy birthday to her, by the way). I know people who won’t hire anyone who doesn’t come through personal recommendations of people they already know and trust (sketchy from a legal/HR perspective, but all of that aside, probably wise). I recently bought a color correction book based on the recommendation of an unemployed graphic artist who may or may not have been intoxicated but clearly had spent many hours perusing the Photoshop section in Barnes and Noble… And I should mention that the book is fantastic. Most of us have our favorites that we aren’t shy about promoting, and often our friends — and even strangers — appreciate that advice. It feels so honest. But it just isn’t all the time. And that’s kind of scary.

So… I’ll let you know what happens with the Chopin, if anything. If they give me a free bottle, I’ll even have a party in its honor. But do know that my promotions and mentions are sincere.



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4 responses to “The Accidental Buzz Marketer (or “They should really pay me for this”)

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