Balancing Between Buzz and Believability

September 9th, 2010   •   no comments   


There is an inherent paradox in the marketing world right now, especially with the onset of numerous social media and citizen centric channels. It is what I would call the authenticity anomaly of the digital age, which kind of goes like this:

To be the talk-of-the-town, pulling out all the cards one can muster to generate BUZZ.

To be authentic, real, and BELIEVABLE, regardless of one’s company story.

Let’s put it another way.

If you have fascinating corporate stories – spiced with personal asides and heartwarming moments – to tell a general audience, it is probably easier for you to ride the personality train. Here, penning a blogpost, putting up photo heavy updates on Facebook, piping out bite-sized gems on Twitter, or filming an amateur company video featuring the company clown are all par for the course.

We have all read, viewed or heard stories of companies which have done it. Embracing citizen and employee marketers from every department, their mantra is to let a thousand flowers bloom.

With so many colourful and charismatic colleagues and customers on board, surely one of them would have an interesting story to tell? Wouldn’t they be able to share at least one or two terrific tit-bit to their friends, family members and associates, becoming agents of “spreadable” content?

After all, nothing beats generating buzz like having legions of fans helping to disseminate intriguing corporate episodes of a finely crafted organisational script, preferably transmedia style.

Yet many of us real life marketing practitioners know that relying purely on an organisation’s own innate ability to grown an audience may not be enough. There are oceans, both blue and red, of competitors who are turning every marketing trick in the book. While we may have a more charming fable to weave, our enemies are investing so heavily in every media possible that I can no longer whisper into your ear, WOM style.

With product life cycles becoming shorter and shorter, technology developing faster and faster, and consumers becoming fussier and fussier, there is little rest for us marketers. Every new advertisement, brochure, poster, banner, blog, facebook fan page, twitter account, and youtube channel launched will face higher and higher barriers to entry.

While digital resources are often too cheap to meter, attention is finite.

Can we afford the slower burn needed for our brands to gain critical following while our competitors gain market share with more traditional mass-advertising techniques? Do our shareholders have the patience to wait quarter after quarter for a breakthrough while we strain our creative juices looking for an original made-from-within idea that can generate that mystical “viral” effect? Isn’t it easier to cave-in and just engage the Black-Eye Peas/Zoe Tay/etc and splash them all over the dailies?

Perhaps a balance between mass appeal approaches and longer-term handcrafted endearment is needed. While one should start to build up storybanks of your organisation/brands and to script them engagingly into all customer touchpoints, one should also not shy away from using that extra help which mass broadcast and print media can offer.

What’s important however, is for both strategies to dovetail and integrate with each other. If you’re leveraging on popular approaches, ensure that they gel with your own backstory. Page by page, implement campaigns that use the power of popular culture, while adding chapters to your own corporate book.

Creating our own honest-to-goodness, pure and unadulterated content is crucial to generating credibility with our stakeholders. However, we need to also be realistic about what we can and cannot achieve, and to augment that approach with the occasional injection of buzz-worthy, mass-media enrapturing acts.

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