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All that fuss about 'brand buzz'

By Karan Kumar , Fabindia, Mumbai | In Marketing
Last updated : March 27, 2018
Is the marketer's confused enthusiasm the bane that plagues most 'buzz campaigns'?

Brand Buzz has been the subject of many discussions both inside boardrooms and outside of them. Buzz marketing or campaigns that lead to brand Buzz, have come to become a constant part of many a CXO brief given to enthusiastic brand managers internally and to agency partners externally. And while such briefs have invariably led many young men and women to run all over the place in their quest of creating buzz-worthy content, most often, this chase has ended in being one for the wild goose! The reasons for this are actually quite simple: lack of a common definition of what is Buzz; limited understanding of its strategic purpose; and how to go about creating and measuring the efficacy of such campaigns. Here are some of my views on this intriguing subject. And let us start from the beginning:-

Buzz is not ambient chatter

Karan Kumar Karan Kumar

Quite to the contrary, it is, in fact, an over-proportionate amplification of a targeted message, as intended by the brand. It is amplification that is largely organic and beyond the monies that may have been put behind the message's initial public broadcast. Buzz is about the conversations that emerge from this messaging, often those that can't entirely be controlled. What a brand can do is, as best as possible, curate these conversations, guiding them to achieve the objectives in-line with the pre-defined campaign metric.

Any Buzz is not good Buzz

Just as all publicity is not good publicity, I believe all conversations are not welcome conversations for the brand. Brand Buzz must focus on creating and furthering positive brand discourses else it becomes completely counter-productive. Let me explain this with two examples:

1) An iconic Indian motorcycle brand that is largely silent on mass media has been very successful in curating a fiercely loyal community of its brand's advocates. It achieves this by creating and sharing buzz-worthy content around its product, one that its loyalists come to own and evangelise within their extended communities.

2) An iconic Indian multi-business conglomerate got it completely wrong when they decided to position their new automobile as one that was the cheapest, meant for the masses. This positioning led to conversations that soon spiralled to crush the brand's business aspirations, eventually leading to the product going up in flames (pun intended)! These examples are two of many that prove that only positive Buzz is what the brand ought to desire and only that (and not any and every conversation) would translate into business success.

Buzz is medium agnostic

At the core of every buzzy campaign, it is the message that is the hero. Let it be clearly understood that the medium is not the message - it is, in fact, only a tool (a rather important one though) in the broadcast of the message. The message needs to contain a potentially explosive value - something that could disrupt the status quo and one that the audience would love to "own" because only then would they fervently share it. How that message gets translated into a communication stimulus (static or audio-visual) and what media will best support its broadcast leading to advocacy, come up as subsequent decision variables.

Successful and "buzz-worthy" content could be created around many pillars. Most often, these would revolve around:

1) The stance a brand adopts amongst its larger societal and audience context as a manifestation of its core purpose. An extremely successful brand of Tea did that as an example when it created a campaign that promised to stir up the conscience of the nation.

2) The announcement of an unparalleled consumer offer, making available value like never before. This was the route taken by a mobile (and data) services brand which was a late entrant into an already crowded industry

3) Communication campaigns that are extremely topical and contextual in nature; relevant to certain days or periods of "celebration". An extremely successful international fast food brand inverted its logo as part of its celebration for International Women's Day and another brand, the biggest in internet search, frequently modifies its logo as a mark of being contextually relevant to on-going social conversations, be it around festivals, ideas or people who are being celebrated.

Buzz must deliver on a business metric

The entire and only point behind investing resources to generate brand Buzz must be to drive brand business. I would almost always look as these being those that drive either a brand's revenue growth or its ability to capture higher value as reflected in improved margins, if not both. These metrics should not be confused with the other, more transient ones that capture heightened "social conversations", be it on media platforms or amongst audience communities at large. Most often, social chatter becomes the default barometer for measuring the impact of brand campaigns, with likes, comments and share taking centre-stage as being the only monikers of brand Buzz.

Don't get me wrong; not for a moment am I saying that social media-led engagement metrics are not important. They are, so long as the success they represent through likes, comments and shares is viewed astutely as early indicators of the eventual success of the content campaign - success that delivers on the larger business charter of improved financial performance; some examples of which I mentioned earlier in the piece.

The other important role social media's verdict plays is in enabling a brand to continuously improve its capability to create content, inputting into conceptualization and execution of subsequent campaigns that deliver progressively better on overall efficacy - on parameters of effectiveness and efficiency, both.

Final words

Admittedly, the last word on Buzz marketing hasn't been spoken yet. But this is what I have to say - more than ever before, today there is a science behind creating brand Buzz. Content is key - there must be a message that is conversation-worthy. It must be punchy, contextual and extremely relevant for the targeted audience. If content is king, then media is the queen. The choice of media platforms for broadcast must be dictated by ones that would maximize impact given the creative execution - low-cost WhatsApp could trump high-cost print media if the creative execution is more amenable to the former. And finally, the ultimate objective of brand Buzz is to favourably impact core business indices. Conversations must deliver business performance measured against pre-defined financial indices like that of enhanced revenue and the ability of the brand to capture higher margins.

If you choose to sift through the fluff, the way it works is actually quite simple. The buzziest campaigns deliver better ROI on account of their sheer ability to deliver a much larger impact over and beyond the marketing monies committed to their creation and broadcast. But to do that, the real question a brand marketer must answer is just how well the potential of the product and its ability to deliver an opportune and hugely welcomed disruption for the core audience does.

(The author is head of brand and marketing at Fabindia)

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First Published : March 27, 2018


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