An old marketing saying is there is no such thing as bad press, just make sure you spell my name right whatever you have to say about me. A trio of companies are taking this to new levels by using new methods to spread word-of-mouth buzz . Let's look at what they are doing.
The first company is called Marqui and sells content management services for automating Web sites. The CMS arena has been a tough marketplace, and involves selling expensive, hard-to-use complex tool sets that require a great deal of training, hand-holding, and client contact to establish and operate. What makes Marqui intriguing, at least to my first glance (I haven't actually used the product) is that it operates in front of your own Web server. Once you create your content and move it through its workflow manager, it then FTP's the pages to your Web. In effect, this makes them better than many of the open source tools such as Mambo that operate in this area: if you want to change to another CMS or to something else to prepare your site, you have the static HTML pages to use without having all your content held hostage by your CMS inside a database.
Marqui is more than a CMS though—it can be used to structure marketing campaigns and can post content to blogs, to sending out email blasts, and to doing other tasks that focus on building word-of-mouth buzz.
What makes Marqui doubly interesting is the way they are going about getting attention for their product. In late November, they paid 20 or so bloggers to be shills for them. The deal was for three months each blogger would mention Marqui at least once a week in their postings. The bloggers were picked from such media celebs as Mitch Ratcliffe, Marc Canter (who is also on the company's board of directors), and others who names are part of the digital generation. If a lead was generated by the blogger and qualified by Marqui, the blogger would receive a small commission on top of his or her monthly fee.
So my first question was, why wasn't I on the A-list of bloggers? Very funny, but I will get over being passed over and still write about them. While their tactics raise all sorts of conflict of interest questions, I think the company has handled themselves well and the bloggers for the most part are somewhat amusing (and annoying, in that all-too-consumed blogging self-examination way) about the whole thing. Many of them are facing this issue for the first time. As a tech journalist, we get hit every day with potential conflicts, and at least the Marqui blogging crew has to be upfront about their participation in this program. Marqui, to their credit, is not restricting what each blogger has to say about their product, just that they have to say something. You can read more about it here on the company's own site:
The second company is BzzAgent.com. This company creates marketing campaigns for consumer product clients. They are a combination of multi-level marketing like Amway mixed in with some new electronic tools. Unlike Marqui, they create buzz by hiring unpaid associates to go about their daily lives and pitch the product as if they were just telling their friends about some new shampoo or dog food or cool gadget. The associates then file regular reports about who they contacted and what kinds of things worked and didn't work.
Not everyone can become an associate, who get free products prior to general release and get a chance to be seen as cool trend leaders but not much else. Of course, for some people that is probably more of a reward than any paid salary. (Personally, I would rather have the cash, thank you very much.)
The third venture is an Internet radio station, www.KaltAz.com. But unlike many others, it
gets paid by local
Woodward and Bernstein once said to follow the money. But in the age of the Internet, it is getting harder and harder to track who should pay to promote and who does it for free. And while it is hard to quantify exactly what exposure has resulted from all three efforts, all are interesting new models in the buzz creation industry. The marcom folks at Marqui told me "We’ve had calls and offers to speak and write about creative marketing through the blogosphere. Of course, no one wants to quit their day jobs and start a consultancy there, but we could if we wanted to." Their program brought over 30,000 visitors to their site within the first month of launch, which is impressive by any account.
I think all three companies are interesting experiments in how to promote themselves and their clients in this hyper-media world we now live in. It is all about finding the right communities of interest and picking the right taste-makers of our generation. Look to see more wacky and intriguing models for buzz creation in the future.
Entire contents copyright 2004 by David Strom, Inc.
David Strom, email@example.com, +1 (516) 562-7151
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