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Buzz Power 2008: Buzz is what buzz does

By , agencyfaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | February 15, 2008
At Buzz Power, an initiative organised by agencyfaqs! and Kingfisher Airlines, honchos from the world of branding took a shot at decoding the mammoth implications of the term 'buzz' on brands and consumers - not an easy task by any measure

Everyone has a definition of & #BANNER1 & #buzz marketing in their pockets, but it continues to remain an enigma. At Buzz Power, an initiative organised by agencyfaqs! and Kingfisher Airlines at the ITC Grand Central in Mumbai on February 14, honchos from the world of branding took a shot at decoding the mammoth implications of the term 'buzz' on brands and consumers - not an easy task by any measure. Moderator Meenakshi Madhvani, founder and managing partner, Spatial Access Media Solutions, took the bull by the horns, asking, "Do we truly even understand what buzz is?"

Perhaps one of the few successful examples of a buzzy brand is Gmail, an email service from Google, which, when launched, was made desirable through its exclusive 'by invitation' proposition. "Google didn't spend a dollar on promoting Gmail," began Madhvani. Quite astonishing was the fact that people were bidding for Gmail accounts even on eBay! While that example was refreshing, Madhvani's question remained unanswered.

Meenakshi Madhvani Shripad Nadkarni, director, MarketGate Consulting, was the first on the dais, and he put forward the theory that buzz power is all about giving consumers a great brand story to chat about. "We all love telling stories and being the centre of attention," he began. "A good brand is one that passes on the power to tell that story to its consumer." While this buzz story could be a one-time wonder (Jassi or Windows Vista), there are others that involve perpetually buzzing brands such as Amitabh Bachchan or Kingfisher.

However, marketers need not bring out the loudspeakers yet because there is a difference between buzz and noise, Nadkarni cautioned. "Noise is a monologue of advertising, while buzz is a dialogue with consumers," he said. For instance, a media blitzkrieg without a story to tell, hype without delivery or contorted unreal/boring stories are sure-shot roads to disaster. According to him, a brand must have enough layering and mystique thrown in, so that a consumer craves to know more. Elements such as novelty, intrigue, relevance (to popular culture) and entertainment make for a perfect buzz recipe.

Sripad Nadkarni Contrary to popular belief, it's not just the 1 per cent opinion leaders that create buzz. "You need the critical mass of 10-15 per cent of the audience for that," Nadkarni asserted. Buzz, if used correctly, can create a terrific bonding with consumers, as also compelling brand curiosity and humungous word of mouth (WoM).

Ad veteran Ravi Deshpande, chief creative officer, Contract Advertising, gave buzz a mathematical connotation. "It's all in the idea," he explained. Deshpande came up with the equation: Idea = (Simple + Pure + Original) x (Power of New Media). If Richard Branson stands for showmanship, Taj Mahal stands for love, and Mahatma Gandhi for non-violence. Through case studies of brands such as Apple, Gmail, Harry Potter, YouTube and Tata Nano, he reiterated his point that behind every success story, there is a single idea. Deshpande didn't support Nadkarni's idea of layering because, he said, "it dilutes the buzz exercise".

Ravi Deshpande If Deshpande added a mathematic flair to buzz, Vikram Malhotra, general manager, marketing, Kingfisher Airlines, gave it a scientific spin: Buzz involves methods and detailing and is created over time with a definite agenda. "Buzz is the X-factor of a brand," said Malhotra. He said further that it is a carefully engineered aspect of brand equity in which the consumer's state of mind goes beyond brand satisfaction, loyalty and delight - buzz is about ownership. The real life example of a man with Harley Davidson tattooed on his head is a fine case in point, he said.

Next, Malhotra presented the six point Buzz Agenda. Firstly, one must build buzz into one's product. An example close to his heart was Kingfisher's personalised and never advertised valet service. Secondly, he emphasised on building buzz in one's advertising or de-buzzing competitors. A recent outdoor hoarding in Mumbai was a testimony to Malhotra's theory: When Jet Airways spoke of a change in its outlook, Kingfisher promptly put up a counter hoarding above it, which read, "We made them change". "This almost got passed around as a viral," Malhotra laughed.

Topical buzz (capturing the buzz moment) was elaborated well through the example of the launch of the airbus, A380, by Kingfisher, which became a hot topic of discussion, giving consumers the impression that Kingfisher was going international. Creating a buzz property such as the Kingfisher calendar and a buzz icon such as Vijay Mallya adds buzz to the brand. Malhotra wrapped up with the theory of forming a 'Buzzard' community that goes beyond the use of a product.

Madhukar Kamath Next, Madhukar Kamath, chief executive officer and managing director, Mudra Group, gave the example of a Mudra South client, RmKV Saris, a relatively lesser known brand in South India. "We hired actor Jyothika as our brand ambassador and took advantage of her real life drama," he said. The fact of her marriage to South Indian superstar Surya became the focus of the communication to promote a 50,000 colour sari. With Jyothika's wedding round the corner, this association seemed to be the perfect answer for RmKV. What colour sari Jyothika should wear for her wedding became the core focus of the communication. Consumers were asked to suggest colours for Jyothika's wedding sari on websites, on radio and on a helpline.

Before one knew it, the advertising for RmKV started resembling a reality show of sorts.
As a result of the campaign, awareness about RmKV's 50,000 colour sari went up tremendously, giving rise to many imitations and a lot of media hype.

The event was sponsored by Kingfisher, NIA and Orienta Cine Advertising.