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Buzz marketing is a viral marketing technique that attempts to make each encounter with a consumer appear to be a unique, spontaneous personal exchange of information instead of a calculated marketing pitch choreographed by a professional advertiser. Historically, buzz marketing campaigns have been designed to be very theatrical in nature. The advertiser reveals information about the product or service to only a few "knowing" people in the target audience. By purposely seeking out one-on-one conversations with those who heavily influence their peers, buzz marketers create a sophisticated word-of-mouth campaign where consumers are flattered to be included in the elite group of those "in the know" and willingly spread the word to their friends and colleagues.
Although buzz marketing is not new, Internet technology has changed the way it's being used. Buzz campaigns are now being initiated in chat rooms, where marketing representatives assume an identity appropriate to their target audience and pitch their product. Personal Web logs (blogs) are another popular media for electronic buzz marketing campaigns; advertisers seek out authors of the "right kind of blog" and trade product or currency for promotion. Instant messaging (IM) applications are also being looked at as a vehicle for carrying out buzz marketing campaigns with either humans or IM bots doing the pitching. As with all buzz campaigns, the power of the IM model relies on the influence an individual has in an established small network -- in this case, his buddy list. As technology continues to facilitate the delivery of a electronic buzz marketing message easier, and software applications make message deliveries easier to quantify, some advertising experts predict that electronic buzz marketing techniques will become a standard component in all cross-media advertising campaigns. Others warn that abuse of this potentially powerful electronic marketing technique will be its downfall.
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- This BusinessWeek Online article describes buzz marketing as a stealth strategy that is fraught with risk.