The buzz on buzz

Harv Bus Rev. 2000 Nov-Dec;78(6):139-46.


Word-of-mouth promotion has become an increasingly potent force, capable of catapulting products from obscurity into runaway commercial successes. Harry Potter, collapsible scooters, the Chrysler PT Cruiser, and The Blair Witch Project are all recent examples of the considerable power of buzz. Yet many top executives and marketing managers are misinformed about the phenomenon and remain enslaved to some common myths. In her article, author Renée Dye explores the truth behind these myths. Myth 1: Only outrageous or edgy products are buzz-worthy. That's simply not true. The most unlikely products, like prescription drugs, can generate tremendous buzz. Myth 2: Buzz just happens. Not so, says Dye. Buzz is increasingly the result of shrewd marketing tactics in which companies seed a vanguard group, ration supplies, use celebrity endorsements, leverage the power of lists, and initiate grassroots marketing. Myth 3: The best buzz-starters are your best customers. Often, a counterculture has a greater ability to start buzz. Myth 4: To profit from buzz, you must act first and fast. In fact, copycat companies can reap substantial profits if they know when and when not to jump in. Myth 5: The media and advertising are needed to create buzz. When used either too early or too much, the media and advertising can squelch buzz before it ignites. As globalization and brand proliferation continue, writes Dye, buzz may come to dominate the shaping of markets. Indeed, companies that are unable to control buzz may soon find the phenomenon controlling them.

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / trends
  • Commerce / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Marketing of Health Services / trends
  • Mythology
  • Persuasive Communication*
  • Product Line Management*
  • United States