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Unleashing the Power of Buzz: A Q&A with Buzzmarketing author Mark Hughes

A No-Nonsense Marketing Smart Tip Wednesday August 17, 2005

How do you capture the attention of potential listeners who are, for the most part, indifferent to your station and your messages? Mark Hughes knows. He’s author of the new book Buzzmarketing, and the guy responsible for such memorable buzz moments as the renaming of Half, Oregon to “,” literally managing to put his product on the map. You can find out more about Mark and his company here.

I talked with Mark about how radio stations can fan the fires of buzz. Listen here for the full ten-minute podcast of my Q&A with Mark.

Here are just a few highlights:

How do you define “buzz” and how can radio stations capture that “lightning in a bottle”?

Buzzmarketing means attracting the attention of consumers and the media to the point where talking about your brand becomes entertaining, fascinating, and newsworthy. First you need to seize their attention, then you need to provide people with a great story to tell or a great one to write about.

You have to give a listener the “water-cooler currency” – “hey you’ll never believe what I heard on the radio this morning.” You have to wrap a great story around what you want people to talk about.

What tactics should radio stations employ to generate “buzz”?

Too much of what we do in marketing is ordinary. You have to tap into the extraordinary, the unusual, the outrageous, the controversial, the hilarious, hot topics in the media, and the taboo.

You can be outrageous, as long as it’s not being outrageous just for the sake of being outrageous. If you can put your own personal fingerprint on any part of a media frenzy you can get a lot of buzz. You can build buzz by making the listener the star – for example, one of the reasons American Idol exploded is that it makes you, the viewer, the star. It’s interactive.

In your book you talk about one specific example of a radio advertiser who generated tremendous “buzz”

Totally Awesome Computers is this little company in Utah that has managed to flourish. The owner, Dell Schanze, bought some radio ads. He just walked into a studio and started recording. But they didn’t sound like commercials, they didn’t sound like anything else on the radio. So when people heard these ads, they paid attention.

Often when we hear an ad we turn off our attention button. But this was crafted as content, honest content. He would talk about lots of crazy things like French-kissing his dog. But strangely enough, those weeks where he did wacky things were his highest sales weeks. People looked forward to his content. He constantly refreshed the spots. Every single week you’d look forward to a new story from Dell Schanze. He has great products, too.

People want content, they want entertainment, they don’t want another ad. And that’s why he succeeds.

How important is creativity in creating “buzz”?

People think that buzz is random, but it’s really like baseball. You have to have a good swing and keep swinging. Are you advertising and marketing to fit in or to stand out? If it’s the latter you’re more likely to be successful.

You’ve got to make the big plays and not settle for most of what advertising and marketing is today – vanilla. But vanilla doesn’t move people, and it doesn’t get people talking. It’s the Rocky Road that generates talk. It’s the Cherry Garcia that gets tongues wagging.

In your book you talk about creating “an attractive personality” for a brand. What can a radio station learn from this?

There are a lot of conglomerates that own stations, but if you can give your station’s brand a personality it makes a ton of difference because in today’s world we really don’t trust corporations, we trust people. So if you can make your brand more personal and less corporate it will increase your odds of success.

And show your warts too. If you see a little mistake here and there, you’re showing that you’re personal and human. Everyone makes mistakes. Instead of trying to hide everything with a polish, show those warts and people will believe you’re honest.

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