At the end of a recent seminar, I was asked to define “buzz marketing.” I believe my response was something to the effect, “It’s viral marketing. It’s getting people to talk about your product or service. Buzz marketing is creating buzz.” I thought my definition helped to answer the question at the time, but when I got home that night, the question lingered and I thought, “How do other marketing professionals define buzz?” So I went to my bookshelf and pulled out one of my old MBA consumer behavior books and looked it up.

The best definition I found was from professors Del Hawkins of the University of Oregon and David Mothersbaugh from the University of Alabama. They defined buzz as “the exponential expansion of word-of-mouth” communication. Buzz is the result of specific marketing activities that creates conversation, excitement, and anticipation around a brand, service or product. It’s “Hey, did you hear…? Hey, did you see…? Hey, did you buy…?” Buzz can be positive or negative. Of course, the goal of marketers is to create positive buzz surrounding their brand.

Creating Buzz

Creating buzz is often part of a larger marketing and advertising strategy. Marketers can create buzz by providing opinion leaders advance information about a product or service. Buzz can be created through contests and sweepstakes, sharing product samples, having celebrities use products, placing products in movies or at events or providing a limited number of products to the public.

Two marketing tactics that are often associated with creating buzz are viral marketing and guerrilla marketing. Viral marketing is an online strategy encouraging targeted users to pass along your message to other targeted users. Email and social media are often tactics used in viral marketing. Guerrilla marketing is the use of non-conventional tactics to begin discussion of a product. Guerrilla marketing can occur online and offline. The goal of both of these tactics is to help speed up the natural word-of-mouth process.

Today, social media plays an important role in creating buzz. Blogs, consumer review sites and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are key tactics in a buzz marketing campaign.

Examples of Buzz

Ever since the first movie trailer, the movie industry has become great at creating buzz. Some popular examples of this type of buzz are: “The Blair Witch Project,” “Pokemon” and the “Twilight” series. A recent success story was the Old Spice campaign where Old Spice used YouTube videos to respond to Twitter tweets. This campaign helped to increase Old Spice’s Twitter followers to over 80,000 and Facebook likes to 630,000. According to Ad Age, Old Spice’s Facebook interaction and engagement increased 800% with the launch of the personal videos. More importantly, Old Spice grew its market share 4.8 points and increased sales 106% over the previous year.

What’s your feeling about buzz marketing? Do you know of some other ways that marketers can take advantage of buzz? I’d like to read your thoughts.