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Dec 19, 2002
How To

Building Buzz - How to Get Cool Consumers to Spread the Word About Your Brand

SUMMARY: How do you get the hippest consumers to tell all their friends about your product? We asked Michael Leifer, CEO guerillaPR, for his top 3 hands-on tactics for creating a buzz campaign. You will learn how to spot the most connected consumers and how to lure them into acting as "ambassadors" for your brand.
Achieving coolness has become a holy grail for marketing and pr professionals. Cool means big bucks.

A Marketing Ambassador Program is all about driving sales and getting the coolest consumers to use your product. In theory, these programs are simple. In 'The Tipping Point,' Malcolm Gladwell wrote that there are certain influential people in society who know 10 to 1,000 times the number of people that an average person would. These are known as Connectors.

"Connectors are turbo driven, rolodex-carrying key influencers who each have their own opinions, tastes, values, purchasing habits, behaviors, mindsets, and hang-out locations," says Michael Leifer, president, CEO and anthropologist of guerillaPR, Inc. "These are the people that shape global trends and sales."

If you can get Connectors to serve as your product's ambassadors, they influence other people to buy what you are selling.

How?

If you are marketing a beverage, you might make sure that when your Connector goes to a party or enters a club, he is holding one of those drinks in his hand. He passes it around. When he orders a drink it is always the product you are marketing. He talks the product up and creates buzz. The Connector knows a lot of people, so you might throw him a party at a trendy club where that drink is front and center and served to hundreds of people.

For other products, the Connector might wear a hat or T-shirt with the brand logo. If it is an apparel company, the Connector will be decked out in the clothes, and even receive free clothing to give out to friends. If it is a cell phone or MP3 player, the Connector flashes the device all over town.

"These people are marketing-savvy," says Leifer. "They don't respond to traditional, homogenized, reiterative, overt and predictable initiatives that do not speak directly to them."

How do you find the right Connector? Here are three tips:

Tip # 1: Go where the cool people are and entice them with free stuff.

Leifer worked on a regional campaign for a clothing company that wanted an aspirational campaign targeting the younger affluent market. People were sent out to a college campus to find the key influencers.

"It's a complicated procedure," Leifer says. "Maybe a fraternity president was the coolest kid, but then again, maybe he was elected simply because he's the kind of person who would get that job done."

Leifer says it is easy for him to spot Connectors and that he trains those Connectors to find other evangelists. This is how the campaign grows, how a chain reaction is started.

One person he met had 10,000 instant message links, an easy find. He spotted another coming off a plane. "He was talking on a cell phone and had two pagers going." Most Connectors do not have deep relationships but they have a lot of acquaintances.

Connectors are enticed with money and other items such as passes to exclusive clubs, complimentary suites in Vegas, products to give to friends, their own Internet sites, and parties thrown for them at clubs, to name just a few.

"You have to give them objects that make them cooler," Leifer says. He's even put Connectors on TV shows. When the Connector's friends watched, the Connector's stock rose. "For many of these people," Leifer says, "the prime benefit might not be the money."

Tip # 2: Do not give up if the connector does not want the job.

Despite the compensation being offered, some people do not want the job. Often you are recruiting the exact kind of person who would turn down such a job-people who are not in the mainstream, who distrust authority and the establishment. "They might say the product isn't cool, or have the attitude that they just don't want to work for the man," Leifer says.

If they do not like the product, ask why. What brands do appeal to them?

When you find a great Connector, you do not let them go just because they do not like the product. "You involve them in the design process of a brand new product that they think is cool," Leifer says.

Tip # 3: Be specific in your target market.

According to Leifer, Connectors come from different sub-cultural segments, which means that messaging and creative must be custom- tailored and custom-distributed at target intercept points.

Companies are still designing marketing campaigns and products that are too vanilla and homogenized, Leifer says. Traditional campaigns like these do not speak to the most important people in any one group.

For instance, traditional marketing approaches aimed at Gen Y do not work. There are just too many subcultures. The same goes for fans of extreme sports. You have to make products relevant to specific groups of consumers. "People who target all inclusive groups are shooting themselves in the foot," Leifer says.

Identifying, understanding, recruiting and sustaining a relationship with Connectors, for all the reasons mentioned above, is a daunting challenge. Leifer says the rewards can be enormous. He recommends combining an ambassador program with other buzz techniques, such as online viral marketing, 1-to-1 hand-distribution and placement, and guerilla street theatre.

A marketing ambassador program works for any number of products that have talk-value, from clothing to drinks to electronics, and works with new product launches or products undergoing a facelift.

According to Leifer, pros that run marketing ambassador programs have six traits in common:

1. They have a fat rolodex with connections that run the gamut from media, to celebrities, to club owners, to bike messengers-the most well informed people who know what is happening in the street and up in the offices too,

2. They know the secrets to recruiting, training, and sustaining a large number of Connectors,

3. They are capable of managing the complexities of the process,

4. They track sales and report on them,

5. They perform trend forecasting, and

6. They make sure the company's other marketing initiatives do not blow the product out of the water-making it too popular too quickly and thus uncool.
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