"There's fake corporate marketing and then there's real marketing. This is the real stuff for real people." -Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream
These days consumers are paying less and less attention to advertising. A majority already zap commercials, and new technology keeps making it easier to tune out marketing messages.
Mark Hughes has written a breakthrough guide to the art of successful buzzmarketing which many people talk about but few truly understand. He draws on his own real-world experience as an executive and consultant, as well as untold stories of some of the great buzz generators of our time, including American Idol, tie-dye shirts, and the birth of Lite beer.
Remember Half.com? Back in the days of the dotcom boom, the discount retail Web site drew headlines when it persuaded the town of Halfway, Ore., to change its name to Half.com for a year. The stunt helped the company gain millions of customers and position itself to be bought out by eBay for a handsome premium. Hughes, the brain behind Half.com's marketing ploy, extols the virtues of "buzz marketing," his name for the idea that companies can dramatically boost sales by attracting publicity and fueling widespread word-of-mouth. In this book, Hughes lays out the "principles" of buzz marketing, offering a list of dos and don'ts, plus numerous examples of businesses that outshined competitors by creating buzz. Anyone familiar with Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point will grasp the logic underlying some of Hughes's ideas. He advocates getting the attention of people who can spread the gospel about your product. This approach, he says, is not only more effective than traditional advertising, but far cheaper. Hughes's tales of companies that successfully harnessed buzz are the strongest part of the book, covering businesses as diverse as Pepsi, Ben and Jerry's and Rit Dye, which revived itself by sparking the tie-dye craze in the 1960s. How valuable readers find some of his other case studies will depend on whether they agree that Britney Spears and American Idol represent "great products" marketed shrewdly. Hughes, who worked for PepsiCo and Pep Boys before joining Half.com, now runs a consulting firm that teaches companies about buzz marketing, which no doubt explains why his writing sometimes seems as subtle as a PowerPoint presentation and as gung-ho as an infomercial. Still, Hughes's ideas are provocative and should interest business professionals frustrated with same-again advertising campaigns.