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Can Buzz Truly Build a Brand?

Buzz is often listed as a key element of success in many campaigns today. Engaging consumers to multiply the impact and reach of your marketing message seems like a worthy objective, but how do you measure the role buzz played in executing your marketing message?   

Case in point: Last week I sat across the table from an automaker client and several representatives from its agency to discuss the buzz on a recent campaign that was designed not only to drive traffic to the dealer but also to drive buzz among the right consumers online. From a pure buzz perspective, the news was good. Many consumers were buzzing about the innovative elements of the campaign. Here were the findings:

  • 33 percent of buzz was occurring among brand enthusiasts

  • 25 percent of buzz was occurring within online communities where competitive enthusiasts gathered and the buzz was largely positive 

  • 37 percent of the buzz came from sites frequented by new vehicle shoppers

  • 5 percent of the buzz came from non-automotive sites such as lifestyle sites

As a result of an analysis of the buzz by itself, we can provide the brand with the following key insights:

  • Demographic and behavioral information on who were the most vocal about the campaign

  • What elements of the campaign were most talked about

  • How consumers talked about the brand itself within the context of the campaign

  • Where buzz occurred and the influence rank of each site

In addition to a granular analysis of the buzz -- including catching nuance, sarcasm, slang, abbreviations and the like within individual messages -- other metrics can be just as insightful, including:

  • Dispersion. How far and wide the buzz has spread

  • Citations/links. What was most linked-to: blog posts, articles, URLs, et cetera

  • Influencers. Which individuals were most likely to have an impact on image, perceptions and sales

The data in the charts below are examples of campaigns that were designed, at least in part, to generate buzz among a specific group of consumers. In all three cases, they were successful, albeit for different reasons.

In each of the graphics displayed below, the message count represents the quantity of individual comments that contain a related keyword or phrase. In a typical analysis of user-generated media, however, many more relevant messages would be identified that may not match a basic keyword/phrase search.

In the case of the Scion event in Miami, Scion teamed with Scion enthusiast forum, Scionlife.com, to invite 300 influential owners and hip, urbanites to an invite-only event where various new Scion models were available for viewing within the context of a large rave-style party. Therein lies a key point to improving the success of any buzz campaign: leveraging those vocal and passionate owners who already love you and who are already buzzing about you. It's so obvious yet so often overlooked.

In the case of the VW Guitar campaign, where a customized guitar, capable of being played through the audio system of the VW vehicle, was provided as a sales incentive, the biggest driver of buzz was the innovative campaign, as well as the high-profile "talent" used in the spots, including guitarist Slash, John Mayer and Nigel of Spinal Tap fame.

Finally, there was the Taste of Lexus campaign. This was primarily an offline event where consumers were invited to test drive Lexus vehicles along with many of the primary competitive vehicles. While this happened entirely offline, you can see that during the mid-September to early December run of the event in both 2005 and 2006, buzz spiked. Even better, the Taste of Lexus event continues to drive positive buzz around the brand and vehicles well beyond its limited annual run.

Don't forget that while measuring buzz online is perhaps the best way to determine the ROI of a buzz campaign, those who are active and vocal online are also active and vocal offline. In fact, Compete, Inc. did a study in late 2006 around the influence of user-generated media on car buyers and found that, "consumers influenced by (UGM) have a major viral effect on other buyers, with 68 percent influencing friends and family post-purchase and magnifying the overall impact."  

So, while the question "can buzz truly build a brand" is a bit simplistic, the examples above demonstrate that not only is buzz, and the vocal consumers who create it, a good amplifier of brand messaging, it also serves as a metric by which to measure the return on your investment.

Bill Stephenson is vice president and auto industry practice leader for Nielsen BuzzMetrics. .

Bill Stephenson leads Nielsen BuzzMetrics' automotive practice, which boasts six of the 10 largest automakers in North America. Since joining Nielsen BuzzMetrics, Stephenson has established BuzzMetrics as the leader in monitoring, measuring and...

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