Buzz vs Viral Marketing : Exclusive Contrast (Infographics)

How does a product or brand succeed in the market place? Many would say it’s due to marketing and by that they mean basically mass media campaigns through TV, Radio, newspapers and magazines. Some would say hoardings in public places and malls may also help create brand awareness.

A mass media campaign may help develop a brand and enable brand recall over a period of time. However, some products and services do well in the market when it gets talked about just ahead of its launch or after launch.

Offlate, such type of marketing has been referred to as buzz marketing when it happens mostly by word-of-mouth and viral marketing when it happens online. In India, jewelleries, new movies, textile showrooms, mobile phone launches, automobile companies are seen to employ such campaigns for people to keep talking about their new offerings.

Film industry use large banners and hoardings mounted on mini trucks or pick-up vans portraying the super stars and songs of the film to attract people’s attention and thereby get people to talk about the movie.

Buzz marketing is not something new, it has been employed by drama troupes, circuses and political parties ahead of elections. Circuses parade elephants, birds and clowns on the streets to attract the attention of the people and create a buzz especially among children who are the prime targets for viewing such performances.

Buzz marketing is a form of word-of mouth campaign where the initial trigger could come from a road show, announcements made through jeeps, trucks or vans or even two wheelers. Viral campaigns on the other hand are chiefly liked and shared through social media (mainly Twitter, FaceBook, Reddit, LinkedIn) and become the talk of the town. In other words, buzz marketing is more of an offline phenomenon, while viral marketing is more of a online-phenomenon.

Buzz Marketing vs Viral Marketing Infographics

Below infographics on Buzz Marketing vs Viral Marketing,throws light on major points of differences between the two.

buzz marketing vs viral marketing infographics

  • Factors that help in buzz marketing

According to Word of Mouth Marketing Association, there are certain factors that could help create a successful buzz campaign.

  1. There must be something to be talked about:

For the success of any buzz marketing campaign, first of all there should be a brand to be talked about which is a given. Aligned to it is the important principle that the campaign should have content that gives people something to talk about, according to Mark Hughes, author of the best seller, Buzz marketing.

The most talked about buzz marketing campaign involved Mark Hughes himself. He created a buzz around www.half.com, the company he was working for by paying to rename a city by that name. Soon it started getting talked about in newspapers and televisions. No sooner people also started talking about it. Within twenty days the website was sold to eBay for $300 mn. The buzz spread faster even as eBay bought it and traffic rose from nothing to eight million in three years. Time Magazine described it as one of the greatest publicity coups in history.

Blendtec, a blender manufacturer, wanted to prove how powerful its blenders were by crushing Iphones, marbles, paintballs into smoothies. The video was uploaded on YouTube and became the talk of the town. Such kind of outrageous marketing has to be connected to the brand and relevant to what it does.

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  1. Get influencers to work for you:

Buzz marketing will not become a great success unless some influencers in the community or industry are used to spread the awareness or the message. It’s humanly impossible otherwise to be talked about all of a sudden.

Reckitt Benckiser, the promoters of Dettol brand distributed 48,000 samples to 4000 influencer mothers with the message try one sample and share ten with others. This helped the company reach 46% of the target audience and resulted in 86% rise in sales. This is a perfect example of how a company an leverage key influencers to create a buzz around a brand.

  1. There must be something remarkable about the offers:

Now customers are inundated with offers-‘But two, get one free’, ‘Buy one get one free’,’ Lifelong warranty’. Although, sales can be boosted with such offers, people don’t see anything remarkable in such offers. But Zappos stands out in making a remarkable offer and succeeding it. It gave a ‘365 day’ return policy and unmatched customer service. The company’s CEO Tony Hseih intentionally budgeted money for returns and quality customer service offsetting the budget for marketing. It paid off in the long run as people started talking about it,good customer service which helped the company achieve$2bn dollar sales.

  1. Give a good experience to share:

Maggi created a sensation in Indian schools in mid-eighties by distributing one packet of Maggi 2-minute noodles to school children across the country. It was a novel processed food at that point of time, perhaps, introducing a ready-to-cook concept for the first time. Kids loved it and began talking about it, urging parents to buy more. In US markets, Coconut Bliss, reached out to more customers through tasting parties and demonstrations. The social media has also helped build the non-dairy dessert alternative. It is an accepted principle that just as buzz marketing needs something to be talked about,experience is something people want to share among their network of friend and co-workers.

  1. Have variety in Buzz marketing

a product will not be talked about unless it is seen to undertake different activities that has nothing to do with direct sales. Red Bull, the energy drink manufactures, undertook a variety of activities to make people talk about the brand. It involved employees distribting Red Bull in their own branded vehicle,sponsoring student talent shows, devising the Student brand manager program, sponsoring journalism and film students to create news stories around the Red Bull Brand.

According to Andy Sernovitz, author of Word of Mouth Marketing, ‘you will get more word of mouth from making people happy than anything else you could possibly do’. Ten years ago, AdAge, did a survey among the youth to find out what influenced their purchasing decision most, nearly 70% felt word-of-mouth is more reliable than mass media campaigns.

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  • Viral marketing- the online equivalent

If Buzz marketing is more of an offline strategy to get people talk about their products or brands, the best online strategy to spread the message is viral marketing. Some of the principles that apply to buzz marketing are also applicable to viral marketing in that there should be a good brand, there should be some information to talk about and there should be something unique, remarkable, outrageous about it.

Just as a computer virus program spreads like wildfire as more people open an application or install it in their computer, viral campaigns spread on the strength of its uniqueness and offering.

  1. Give something free:

The Hotmail is the most quoted example of giving a service free but adding a simple tag at the bottom of every message the user sends-‘Get your private, free email at http://www.hotmail.com’. It could be in the form of free mobile apps, free email, free information services, free software download. Free attracts interest and eyeballs, which in turn generate a database of email addresses, increased ad revenue, ecommercesales opportunities. Even the newspaper and magazines are sold at a highly subsidized price compared to printing costs, thanks to advertisement support. More people see popular television series because they are free and paid for by advertisers.

  1. Emotional connect required:

Viral marketing wouldn’t succeed as in Buzz marketing if there is lack of emotion in the campaign. It should be able to trigger a laugh, shock, surprise curiosity, bewilderment or astonishment. The Red Bulls’ campaign showing the video of Torro Rosso’s F1 car being dropped by helicopter into a ski rope and then raced is one such example of excitement. ALS Ice Bucket challenge evoked sympathy while Panda Cheese commercials evoked curiosity.

  1. Promote social responsibility with branding:

When a company is known as a responsible corporate citizen, people come to associate goodness with the brand. The classic example is the trend set by ALS ICE Bucket challenge. All that was required was to dump a bucket of water over yourself, shoot them on video and share it. It attracted $100 mn in charity and had endorsements from Zuckerburg, Martha Stewart, Orah, Bill Gates and other celebrities.

  1. Make it real life:

Real life videos have the charm of attracting a large audience rather than those based on a creative script. America’s Funniest Home Videos and TNT’Drama Button campaign were much talked about as they involved humor or surprise or shock. If people are asked to respond to a situation or question.

  1. There should be a brand connection:

Many a time marketers spent time and money on creating a viral content on video, FaceBook or on websites but what would be missing is the connection of the message with the brand. Sometimes, it could be good humor enjoyed for what it is but brand may not gain much or sales may not happen because the brand connection is missing in the campaign. The perfect examples in this regard are the ReTweet to Feed a Hungry Child campaign of Kellogs UK and Evian Roller Babies campaign which was meant to promote their drinking water. The video had 70 mn views and the message it intended to convey was drinking Evian water could help you be energetic and young as the babies. The videos did nothing to boost the brand or in sales conversions as the brand connection was missing in it.

Align with unexpected partners to get noticed. It is better to get some player outside of your industry to team up with just as The Walking Dead teamed up with UC Irvine to create an open online course which showed how a zombie apocalypse would be like. Likewise HP-Kiva tie-up helped generate $25 from employees as donation for a charitable project of their choice. Both the companies benefitted from the exposure as a responsible corporate citizen.

  1. Leverage the power of social media, online:

Any campaign that is capable of being shared and discussed on FaceBook,Twitter have a better chance of going viral as more people have started using it and getting engaged in such platforms. In fact, the dominant trend for 2016 is social media itself becoming a media rather than a marketing strategy.


Buzz marketing and viral marketing applies mostly the same principles to get noticed and talked about. Infact, they share some common features but there is a subtle difference in the media through which it gets talked about. Buzz marketing is more event-based either by way of road shows, it could be on-wheels campaign to promote a product with music, dance, and humor capable of attracting crowds where ever it goes. Even before the advent of technology and mass media, buzz marketing was in vogue through short skits, demonstrations, street plays, processions and the like.

Compared to traditional media, word-of-mouth campaigns are generally inexpensive and give better return on investment (ROI). Viral marketing the online version of word-of-mouth advertising can’t go viral without a gentle push through social media and websites. What it takes to make a viral campaign may be an inexpensive camera, a mobile camera, an audio recording device.For shooting real life situations, intimate moments, surprises, shock — what it requires is presence of mind of the observer.

Buzz marketing and viral marketing require great inputs on the creative side rather than monetary side as the message is very important. It should be broad based on demographic profile- age group, income, social status, lifestyle, aspirations and so on. SAMSUNG putting LED lights into sheep and creating works of art attracted millions of views and helped in brand building. A wrongly targeted campaign can misfire and do no good to the band that was intended to be promoted.

More importantly, buzz marketing and viral campaigns can succeed only if it has news value. When something unique is featured in TV, newspapers and online, the brand unknowingly gets imprinted in the consume psyche. Corporates can have word-of-mouth marketing as a strategy along with traditional media campaigns for greater impact. For example, initial branding can be through mass media and brand building through buzz marketing or viral campaigns.

Even big trans-global firms could succeed in only one or two campaigns achieving a 20% success rate while majority of the videos went unnoticed. A complex mixture of factors and variables outlined above are at work and one can always get some clues from the success stories in viral.

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