BzzAgent

 

Last night my roommate approached me excitedly. “I saw this report on the news today about a new way of marketing,” she eagerly explained. “It’s called ‘BzzAgent,’ and it’s all about spreading word-of-mouth. You’re really into that stuff, right?”

 

HAHA! I thought. Little does she know that those pieces of the new 5™ gum she’s been stealing out of my purse everyday were sponsored by that “new” word-of-mouth concept.

You see, I’ve been a BzzAgent since I was an intern here at CDG last summer. The thrill of being a BzzAgent was first introduced to me by my Consumer Behavior professor at William & Mary. I immediately signed up when classes ended for the year and began the arduous (yet completely worthwhile) task of filling out the requested surveys on the site so that I could be offered campaigns that I would be good at and enjoy.

The deal with BzzAgent is that after you become a member and answer a ton of questions about your background, personality, and lifestyle, you get notifications about campaigns around products that correspond to your profile and for which you can then sign up. In exchange for filling out this information, you get BzzPoints that you may accumulate to eventually earn free products. Of course, in much the same style as the old arcades along the Jersey Shore – at which I spent many a night (and many a dollar) as a child, building up my points – there are no good prizes available until you spend a good deal of time “Bzz-ing.” (I’m just crossing my fingers that BzzAgent doesn’t end up like Belmar Playland, getting torn down in favor of beachfront condos before I am able to cash in my points, leaving me with bags upon bags of unused tickets and coins I had been saving up for nearly a decade in hopes of someday going home with one of those giant cuddly teddy bears. What a bust.) Luckily you can accumulate these BzzPoints fairly easily, earning points for each survey you fill out, each campaign you join, and each “Bzz” you make.

Once you sign up to be a part of a campaign, you get sent a BzzAgent Guide for that specific campaign as well as products to test out. For example, as an agent for Wrigley’s 5™ campaign, I received a treasure chest (or a cardboard box, whichever way you choose to look at it) filled with individually wrapped sticks of this new brand of gum, along with several packs of each flavor and coupons for more free packs. My job was to try them, give them to others, talk up the product, and report back on the results. You’re supposed to tell those you “Bzz” that you are a BzzAgent and get their honest, heartfelt opinions on the product (I guess my roommate was ignoring my squeals of glee as I opened up my BzzAgent 5™ campaign packet and immediately burst into the “Flare” cinnamon-flavored gum). When I reminded my roommate I was in fact a BzzAgent and that was why there were samples of this new gum all over, she asked to see the guide that came with it to learn more. Her only comment was, “Do you realize how much effort it takes people to come up with this little packet?!” (Note: she’s in PR and currently spends her days working on the development of promotional materials).

The great thing about word-of-mouth is that it is a low-cost way of promoting your company, your product, or even yourself, as compared to the more typical advertising campaigns. The scary thing is that if something is wrong/goes wrong with your product (or people just plain don’t like it), you get BAD word-of-mouth (see: http://buzzbuilder.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/03/the_age_of_the_.html for the best and most famous example of negative WOM).

I am a huge fan of BzzAgent. It’s clever, fun, and educational. I’m just worried about what might happen if the idea becomes generic and everyone begins Bzz-ing. Will this type of promotion become so overused that it loses its believability? And with everything involved in initiating these Bzz campaigns (e.g. free samples, the Bzz Campaign Guide – and the effort behind it, as my roommate pointed out – etc.), is the product gossip really having a positive financial impact on companies?

As for 5™ gum…I have to admit I like the marketing better than the actual product. Advertisements, branding, and packaging: awesome; flavor: disappointing.


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