Spread your position through word-of-mouth buzz
Buzz that’s effective gains “stickiness” in your customer's mind.
You can spend all the money you want on your marketing and advertising, but if you can’t get your product and position to stick in the minds and the mouths of the public, you’ve wasted your investment. Sometimes creating buzz around your brand is necessary, and extending your marketing beyond paid advertisements might be necessary to gain brand traction.
At Innis Maggiore, the nation’s leading positioning ad agency, we seek to build buzz that isn’t simply for the sake of buzz, but to win mindshare with your target audience. Buzz for the sake of buzz serves as nothing more than fluff and will quickly fade away once the campaign is over. Your position shouldn’t just be a flash point, but a talking point. Buzz that’s effective means your position has been dramatized in the marketplace and quickly gained “stickiness” in the mind. That’s what buzz is all about.
The six different types of buzz marketing
There are many ways to bring your product into the public eye and strengthen your image through word of mouth. According to Mark Hughes, who coined the term “buzz marketing,” there are six different methods of generating buzz around your business, products, and most importantly, your position.
Taboo buzz marketing utilizes controversial topics and concepts to attract attention and spark conversation among the public. With so many differing opinions surrounding any controversial topic, tapping into that vein is a very effective way to surround yourself in that conversation.
One such example is Nike’s 2018 Colin Kaepernick campaign. It successfully pressed into a controversial topic and became a high-ticket conversation point in the media, and remains as such today. No matter what “side” you took in that conversation, you were forced to make a decision about the brand. And chances are, you haven’t forgot about this campaign.
Sometimes also known as “shock marketing,” outrageous buzz marketing is somewhere between taboo and hilarious buzz. Outrageous buzz seeks to plant itself in the minds of the viewers by simply shocking them into remembering a product.
A good example of this, and perhaps the most outrageous marketing scheme ever concocted, is “Skittles Commercial: The Broadway Musical,” an entire 30-minute musical that took place during the 2019 Super Bowl. The musical, playing only one time and never airing on television, mocked Skittles’ advertising and over-commercialization, and was a smash hit, earning 2.5 billion impressions and $50 million in earned media.
Buzz marketing that seeks to be funny serves to catch the attention of prospective customers by being memorable, as well as making the company appear more down-to-earth and personable. Hilarious buzz marketing can be tricky to pull off in a way that feels natural, but if done right, it’s sure to leave a lasting impression.
One of the most prominent examples is Geico Insurance. From its “Rhetorical Questions” to its “It’s What You Do” campaigns, Geico is well known for using humor in its commercials to make them stick in the minds of the viewer long after the 30-second commercials are over.
While it might initially sound like an oxymoron, secret buzz marketing seeks to build buzz around your product either by not releasing too much information about it or by making it exclusive and limited. The air of secrecy and exclusivity, along with building up FOMO (aka Fear Of Missing Out), draws in prospective customers, playing on the concept that we all want what we can’t have.
One example of this is in the early days of The Facebook (today, Meta). When the social media platform first launched, joining required an invitation from someone who was already a member, building a sense of exclusivity around it, which attracted attention from the public, helping it become the conglomerate that it is today.
Remarkable buzz marketing seeks to go above and beyond the expectations of the customer, which is usually achieved through appealing to the human side of the public. Customers always expect a good product from a company, but when that company delivers an emotion or an experience along with its product, it can build a powerful positive buzz around that company.
One strong example of this is how Coca-Cola installed vending machines with live-streamed screens in them in two separate malls, one in India and the other in Pakistan. Each machine displayed what was in front of the other machine, and instead of requiring change to purchase a Coke, the machines required one person at each end of the live stream to interact through the screen. It helped to unify the two countries and helped to solidify Coca-Cola’s position as not just a soda company, but as a company that “refreshes the world and makes a difference.”
Unusual buzz marketing is all about making your product seem new, different from anything else being offered, and sometimes just weird in a good way. Unusual buzz is unique in that it’s not necessarily triggered by any specific marketing campaign, but rather by just releasing a product that appears to change the market.
The strongest example of unusual buzz marketing is when Apple first launched its iPhone in 2007. During the announcement, Steve Jobs stated Apple was releasing “an iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator … but these are not three separate devices.” The idea was so different and revolutionary that it immediately took the public by storm, and the products that Apple has put out since then, such as the iPad, have managed to capture that same feeling of unusualness.
Matching the right type with your position
Understanding the image you want your company to have and the position you want to take to differentiate yourself from the competition is essential in picking and designing the right type of buzz marketing campaign.
Each of the listed examples didn’t just sell another product; they sold an experience, be it a Broadway production, a connection between two neighboring countries, or a revolutionary idea that would change the modern world.
Knowing your audience and your community is also an important step in leading a buzz marketing campaign, or else you could be in danger of a good idea falling on deaf ears. Depending on your position, we will work to create the best campaign to match your company’s style with your target market through methods such as special events, limited-edition product runs, anniversary celebrations, and a combination of PR, web, digital/social, event, and other marketing tactics. We want to create buzz that isn’t whimsical, misleading, or otherwise for its own sake.
Sta-Kleen™ Performance Fabric
An Erasable Man put the “show” back into “trade show”
The Mitchell Group is a premier source for unique faux leathers and other vinyl fabrics for the hospitality, healthcare, and office markets. It developed a technology breakthrough that addresses what may well be the biggest problem relating to upholstery for those uses. It’s best appreciated by thinking of your own favorite sofa. Then imagine it being used by hundreds or thousands of people every day, with every size and shape of person plopping down on your cherished sofa. All of those pieces of furniture, all of those people, all of that dreaded maintenance. Stains, marks, drips, drops. Food, drink, pen, Sharpie®. Day after day after month after year. Then imagine a new type of faux leather that wipes clean with a dry cloth. That is Sta-Kleen™ Performance Fabric and that became “the future of faux.”
Innis Maggiore developed the brand position, calling it “the industry’s first true dry-erase urethane upholstery,” and then developed the big idea with a brand icon. In this business, trade shows are everything. Trade shows are also live. So Innis Maggiore thought: Why not create a walking, talking, selling advertisement for Sta-Kleen? And why not add the perfect twist that just happened to play off of the fashion sense of buyers and designers and the media? The Erasable Man™ was born! A real, live, flesh-and-blood selling machine, walking the show and doing demonstrations while wearing a sports jacket made from — what else — Sta-Kleen Performance Fabric!
A teaser trade ad, DM, collateral, POS hang tags, and online video heightened the mystery about The Man and the fabric with the tagline, “Now you see it … NOW you don’t!™ The show program revealed this super-contract superhero for the first time, informing prospects they could write ON The Erasable Man and that he would then make any stain disappear — right before their very eyes. You meet him, you write on him, and you erase it, with the salesman wearing the product that just happens to be the demonstration “hook.” All materials featured the dynamite combination of not one, but two icons we introduced. The Erasable Man himself and his Sharpie Permanent Marker, the perfect symbol of the toughest real-world stain situation.
Innis Maggiore conceptualized The Erasable Man symbol. The agency also scouted and chose the perfect talent, who had been recently featured as the Academy Awards® own Oscar.com red carpet host. His aggressive schedule of appearances at two key hospitality and contract industry trade shows fortified the sales efforts of key distributors, garnered prominent web display on distributors’ sites, and gained significant orders for large installations in the healthcare and hospitality markets.
It takes a dragon to tame a beast
In this case, the dragon is a monster of a new product and the beast is a competitive market fighting for the same advantage.
Radio Frequency Systems (RFS) is a global designer and manufacturer of total-package solutions for wireless and broadcast infrastructure. They developed a new product — a coaxial cable that can withstand fire to keep communications alive to save lives in tall office and residential buildings.
RFS chose America’s #1 Positioning Ad Agency, Innis Maggiore. As with all marketing projects, we start with brand positioning and base everything we do on that defining a differentiating position.
In December of 2019 we started the process, launched the last Friday in February of 2020 … and were already getting sales results the Monday after that weekend! The client continues to get qualified order inquiries as steady as the mission-critical communications their product protects.
An RFS team from multiple countries joined Innis Maggiore positioning and marketing experts for an Appreciative Discovery® session, to learn and discuss and strategize in order to help us recommend their brand position.
We named the product in the style of a consumer product, befitting its significance, while positioning the new brand as “The FIRST and ONLY in-building communications cable certified by UL” (without extra metal conduits, extensive wrapping or requiring a fireproof enclosure).
This was followed, in quick succession, by a logo, landing page, an introductory package — from a collateral kit and trade show ads to email marketing and direct mail oversized postcard. When Google Ads and email marketing were deployed, they generated near-instant positive results.
Other agencies sell unicorns. We’re all about the dragons.
Can healthcare employ Disney-style marketing?
A dramatic example of departing from the ordinary and the expected was for a category known for its orthodoxy in advertising: Healthcare. The purpose was to keep up the interest and excitement about the construction of Aultman’s new hospital facility. The challenge was that normally the only interesting parts are the groundbreaking and ribbon cutting.
We broke new ground with Disney-style marketing for a combination of ubiquity and mystery. Innis Maggiore created an alter ego identity as a symbol that something new/something big was coming.
We pumped up the interest with a little creative misdirection, using a teaser campaign about a fictional property we called “The MEDSquad.” Was it a TV show, a movie, or something else? Throughout the summer the audience (area residents) was told to “tune in this fall” to find out. The misdirection was used to create and sustain interest over an extended period of the huge construction process.
We used ubiquity to put this medical mystery in front of area residents in some traditional media (radio, newspaper, outdoor) as well as a lot of unexpected places (e.g., pharmacy bags, coffee cups at high school football games, a mobile billboard in the Pro Football Hall of Fame parade, oversized table tents in local mall food courts, bus wraps, as well as a web promotion to win a plasma TV by guessing the true MEDSquad identity).
The best part was that no one knew what it was, but they saw it everywhere.
The result was a groundswell of awareness and ready acceptance of the new facility as the region’s finest and best choice for quality medical care. It also provided a more friendly and inviting transition to marketing the facility with the theme “Aultman IS The MEDSquad!”
The Emergency and Trauma Department increased visits by roughly 10,000 patient visits from the year before. The Birth Center increased its market share while The Heart Center saw a steady rate of admissions despite population declines.
Misdirection is the magic behind sustainability.
Arnold Funeral Home
There is very little relevant differentiation in the funeral home industry. People generally don’t think of choosing a funeral home until someone dies. Promoting pre-planned funerals was identified as a way to reach out to people before the immediate need of a funeral, expanding the selling opportunity for the funeral home.
While most other funeral homes have this service available, no one was really owning the service in this market, giving Arnold Funeral Home the opportunity to do so.
Pre-planned funerals are growing in use as an instrument that may be purchased in advance of transitional care (e.g., assisted living, skilled nursing care, etc.) from an individual’s assets with no penalty. Pre-planned funerals lock in a set price for the buyer and provide guaranteed income to the funeral home.
That all made sense. What didn’t make sense was anyone having an expectation of standing out from the rest of the industry when no one was willing to look or sound different. The entire category had become a cache of clichés, a place for advertising to die. Picture a calming sunset or a bad stock photo of an elder couple with the same messages about handling your loved ones with dignity.
Thinking that if we truly wanted our client to stand out and get people to notice and think about pre-planning, we knew it had to be more real. Real people have real personalities, unique and quirky and fun and spirited. Real characters have idiosyncrasies, with their own hobbies and interests and obsessions. Let’s make a campaign that reflects that — and doesn’t apologize for being different.
Starting with the lowest budget and the lowest risk, social media was the first step into new waters. Innis Maggiore decided to create a series of Facebook concepts with a distinct voice and tone more lighthearted and edgy. Moving away from the traditional and expected, we wrote and designed a trio of ads that used photos of people who looked like real characters rather than clichés.
The main theme was, “It’s your funeral…” We recognized that it was pushing things a bit, but felt it was the right direction because of its built-in double meaning. Of course, it’s a standard phrase in the vernacular, but it also communicated the idea that Arnold would plan a style of service that reflects your desires and personalities. Examples given were: “Pink, sparkly pajamas. A room full of daisies. Tea and cookies for the guests.”
The overall messaging was not for shock value, but to set up legitimate copy points and call-to-action, “Shouldn't your final wishes be your wishes? Schedule your funeral pre-planning meeting with us today! After all, it's your funeral!”
Once the initial Facebook campaign garnered a positive response (reaching more than 45,000 Facebook users, generating over 3,000 clicks to the website and a click-through rate higher than the industry benchmark), the client was willing to add a more expensive and higher-visibility outdoor campaign which used parenthetical examples of the types of funerals possible: (even a biker parade), (even pink pajamas), (even a string quartet).
We extended the “It’s your funeral” Facebook ads with the new billboards complemented with a targeted geofencing digital strategy. The creative also rotated on Facebook to match the billboard creative. Using the geofenced Facebook campaign, we retargeted drivers up to 30 days after they passed a billboard, resulting in an increase in brand awareness — which also made sense because retargeted users are 70% more likely to convert compared to cold audiences (pardon the pun).
All made possible because Innis Maggiore didn’t want to settle for the safe or follow the crowd.