Buzz MarketingMarketing Week ran a front page item a couple of week’s back which focused on buzz marketing – the question they asked was whether the new EU Law is likely to spell “The end for Buzz Marketing?” So what is it all about and are these bleak prophecies really warranted?

According to Marketing Week, Buzz Marketing is “the practice of creating a buzz around a brand” with the focus generally being on newer online channels such as blogs, social networking sites to create Word of Mouth marketing etc. As it happens, the Law in question (The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations) doesn’t simply target the fake blogs which is where much of the article’s focus is placed, but rather any activity, online or offline which sets out to deceive or coerce consumers.

Essentially, the Law is there to protect you and me from people making claims which are untrue or representing themselves falsely – an online example might be leaving testimonials on your own site under a false name or submitting a positive review of your company’s service or product without revealing your identity or without making your connection to the company clear.

In the same way, flogs or fake blogs such as the “Walmarting across America” fiasco and the “All I want for Xmas is a PSP” which was more painful than deceitful, will now be illegal rather than simply downright stupid. As it happens, in these cases, the blogosphere did an excellent job of policing itself and the companies in question quickly admitted responsibility and withdrew the blogs.

So is this the end of the world in terms of online Buzz Marketing, now that we are no longer able to lie to and deceive our customers without falling foul of the long arm of the law? I think not and indeed my own opinion is very much in line with Simon Quanse’s comments quoted in the article when he states that

“the new regulations will only have the potential to affect those using “underhand” buzz marketing techniques”.

Spot on.

There are many innovative ways to communicate with, interest and interact with customers without deceiving them. Although not online in this instance, you only have to look at the recent Honda campaign and the “live ad” with the skydivers to recognise that these are great cases of buzz marketing and just because a fake blog or similar is the easy route, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the best, even if you can get away with it.

So be creative and open and above all respect your customers – with those three things in mind, you’ll be in a position to create successful campaigns and keep your customers’ respect … as well as their ongoing business, I suggest.

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