The Difference Between Buzz and Word of Mouth

It’s common to hope for new products, books, and marketing initiatives to “generate buzz.” And if something creates a season of buzz early on, that is often looked at as a mark of success.

At first this sounds good. It sounds like it’s in line with one of the core principles of (good) marketing: create things worth talking about. Unleash word of mouth, which is then amplified by the internet as never before.

But it’s actually not. The concept of “buzz” is actually a hold-over from the old methods of interruption marketing where the organization (or marketer) sees themselves as in control. The reason is that there is a difference between buzz and word of mouth.

Buzz is surface level. It is usually based on superficial realities about the product or message. It doesn’t last.

Word of mouth, on the other hand, is substantive. It facilitates meaningful interactions and is based on deeper realities than just surface factors. It stems from a real emotional connection with the product. It is meaningful.

It’s not that buzz is bad. It’s just not enough. Seek for your product, book, message, website, or organization to generate true and valuable word of mouth, not just buzz.

  • Loren Pinilis

    This reminds me of humorous or unusual commercials. It’s interesting how we remember the commercial well but can’t even remember the product that was being advertised (much less actually want to purchase the product).

    I would add that I believe buzz and word of mouth can have a strong synergistic effect. Buzz can serve almost as a vehicle or a platform for the true substantive benefits of the product to be communicated. We talk about a hilarious commercial and someone chimes in, “Oh yeah, I’ve tried that – it’s actually great!”
    But to get back to your point, the value only comes through the communication of these benefits. The buzz alone is meaningless.

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