Anirban Roy Choudhury

Can a brand create buzz?

A panel of brand experts discussed the dos and don'ts of buzz creation.

An interesting panel discussion took place at the Buzzies (afaqs! Event that recognises buzzing brands); moderated by Ashwini Gangal, executive editor, afaqs!, the panel consisted of Karan Kumar, head of brand marketing, Fab India; Abhishek Upadhyay, marketing head, OLX group; and Apurva Chamaria, Author and CRO of RateGain. The discussion was focused around one of today's commonly used marketing terms - 'Buzz' - and the topic was, 'The Rules of Creating Happy Buzz'.

The session started with the moderator asking if a brand can create buzz and Upadhyay was the first one to pick up the microphone; he said, "Of course we can create buzz and every brand wants to create buzz," his comment got an immediate counter from Chamaria, "10 years back a brand could create buzz, now the consumer creates buzz." Chamaria continued, "Brands today are using consumers as a media channel to create buzz so you are evoking emotions out of them. The traditional way of doing it is you shoot it overseas, spend a lot of money and then you deliver a lot GRPs, you do road-blocks and outdoors to create buzz. Today you might not do TV or outdoor and create buzz, you can just create a meme and get a lot of buzz." Karan Kumar echoed Chamaria's point of view and added, "The amplified conversation is what we call as 'buzz'. I think it is the idea that creates a buzz; when Reliance Jio came out and said we will give XYZ GB of data for free, that was a statement enough to get people talking."

Can a brand create buzz?

(L-R) Abhishek Upadhyay, Ashwini Gangal, Apurva Chamaria, Karan Kumar at Buzzies 2018
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After the initial remarks, moderator Gangal brought up the topic of positive and negative buzz and if it matters or if any buzz is good buzz just like any publicity is good publicity. Kumar spoke first and disagreed with the 'any buzz is good buzz' concept. "The buzz has to be positive," echoed Upadhyay which led to the moderator bringing up a counter-narrative citing the Jawed Habib example where an ad from the Salon backfired during Durga Puja; the brand was heavily trolled for a few days after, but the dust has now settled. Her counter argument to the panel was that because of the trolling and negative buzz, new people became aware of the brand but it did it not work in its favour, now that it is business as usual.

"Just knowing is not enough, the brand needs to think it through; there have been instances when the brand had to issue an apology for getting backfired," Upadhyay replied. Chamaria chose to agree with both Kumar and Upadhyay, but with a caveat, "Look at Zomato, for example; their recent hoardings with MC BC got huge attention and many bashed them. But their target audience of 18-32 loved it, so you are getting a negative buzz from a section of people who are not your target audience; its fine provided your target audience is raving about it."

Gangal then brought up the topic of what not to do in order to create buzz, how far is too far; Chamaria commented first saying that the thumb rule is to not do something which you cannot do in real life, "Something that you cannot say to your friend, you sister and your mother, don't say that to create buzz for your brand." Upadhyay's point was that all buzz needs to reverberate around the brand's TG, "If the TG likes to talk about racism go ahead and do that," he said.

Karan Kumar, summarising the buzz concept, stated that it all started with the bosses coming and saying people are not talking about the brand, so do something to get people talking. He was of the opinion that because of the pressure from the top, marketing executives started to do whatever they could to get people talking which, according to Kumar, is completely wrong. The Fab India marketer said, "If the buzz index is helping efficiently in moving the brand in the right direction, its good; if it is not optimizing any quotients, then it is of no use."