The Difference Between Bzz Marketing, Viral Marketing, and Word of Mouth Marketing

Glenn Gabe

viral-marketing, wom

You might be wondering, “Aren’t they all the same thing?” The quick answer is no…and you are about to hear the longer answer in my post. If you are in marketing, I bet you’ve heard someone talking about WOM when they really meant Bzz and then heard someone else a few minutes later talk about Viral Marketing when they really meant Word of Mouth Marketing. Am I confusing you yet??

In an earlier post, I explained the two major categories of Word of Mouth Marketing (from my perspective), the first being Organic WOM and the second being Amplified WOM or WOM as a Campaign Driver. Now I will go a little deeper and explain the difference between Bzz, Viral, and Word of Mouth. I was recently speaking with an owner of a growing small business that used these three terms interchangeably. I was curious, so I asked him what he thought the difference was between the three. He gave me a “Tony Soprano” stare for a few seconds (which actually felt like 10 minutes) and then asked me, “Well, Mr. Web Marketing, what is the difference?” So, #1, I’m glad I’m still alive and #2, I wanted to create this post to clarify the difference!

Bzz Marketing is when you are trying to make a big splash, wow people, excite them about a product or service and get people talking. I’ll start with a comical example. Remember when Fabio was hired to ride in the front seat of a new roller coaster at Busch Gardens a while back? That stunt actually made a bigger splash than expected, since Fabio was hit in the face by an unsuspecting bird during the ride. The bird was collateral damage, but it ignited a lot of coverage… Was that good bzz or bad, I can’t tell. I guess if you are a bzz consultant, it was probably good! Another example would be hiring actors to walk around Penn Station in New York City singing This Land is Your Land and handing out business card cd’s holding a video of the latest and greatest minivan. It will definitely grab people’s attention, but it probably won’t last long…

Viral Marketing is a little different. It typically happens online and spreads like wildfire across the web. The goal is to get a marketing message out and enable people to send something along to their friends, coworkers, family, etc. They can post it in their blog, email it to their friends, IM their coworkers, etc. I have seen firsthand how viral marketing can impact a campaign. One of my clients received over 922,000 visitors in a relatively short amount of time, which also spurred over 6500 orders. How did this happen, you ask? The link to the flash video site that I built was posted on blogs across the blogosphere. It was amazing to watch the posts increase over a short period of time.

Word of Mouth Marketing is more organic, happens both offline and online, and is the goal of almost every marketer these days. This is where an initial word of mouth conversation happens and the spark ignites a web-like path. For example, my friends and family typically come to me with questions about the web or computers in general. If I recommend a product or company that I’ve had good experiences with, I let them know. They, in turn, might explain this to their friends at work, who might also tell their spouses at home, who may tell their sister or brother that….”there is a guy at work who knows someone really into technology that recommended ABC product.” Is this true, yes, did it start with a casual conversation over a family dinner, yes, does that person really know that I’m a technology fanatic or credible, no…but that’s how a typical word of mouth path gets started. Add the web, which enables you to spread information like no other medium, and boy have you got a dynamo called WOM! Now, I didn’t mention the best ways to harness the power of WOM…that’s for another post. Sorry.

One Part Bzz, Two Parts Viral…
The last point I wanted to mention is that you can combine Bzz Marketing, Viral Marketing, and Word of Mouth Marketing. For example, the site I mentioned above that received over 922,000 visits used an attention grabbing set of video clips on the website, offered forward to a friend, but also leveraged company fans/influencers to get the word out. To read more about the differences between Bzz, Viral, and WOM, definitely check out Grapevine, a book written by BzzAgent founder David Balter. It’s a great read and also has a chapter focusing on the major differences.

So, when you are at your next marketing meeting and someone incorrectly uses Bzz Marketing when they mean Viral Marketing, you can jump all over them! ;-) Have fun!