7 Principles for Building Buzz Equity, And Don’t Forget the 3 S’s

The Old Spice Muscle Music campaign was a shocker alright: to the tune of 7.3 million video views.

Buzz. It’s a term that has gained steam over the years, especially as digital/social communications have come of age. Building maximum buzz around a brand is the Holy Grail for communicators.

And at the PRSA International Conference in San Francisco last month, a session offered key principles for building such “buzz equity.” The presentation, featuring Citizen Paine CEO Daryl McCullough, Jon Cronin, CP’s managing director of social engagement and Daniel Lemin, head of brand consultancy Social Studio, covered their seven principles and included some dazzling examples of fully integrated award-winning campaigns that truly built buzz.

The beauty of these seven buzz principles? You don’t have to use them all in a program to have success, says Lemin. And your budget doesn’t have to be huge. “I think a lot of companies look at brand building and think it’s going to be expensive,” says Lemin. But that’s simply not the case. “Nonprofits do buzz marketing really well,” he says.


But before you can generate buzz, there are some imperatives to put into play: The three S’s—social voice, storytelling and social currency. Having the right voice on social media seems obvious, but it’s tricky, says Win Sakdinan, associate director, external relations at Procter & Gamble. “Brands in the Twitter world, for example, compete against people’s friends, not necessarily other brands,” says Sakdinan. So, he says, think of how your brand would talk at the bar—in a social sense.

The second “S,” storytelling, is now much talked about among communicators. Simply put, a good story is “something you carry with you and share with friends and family,” says Cronin.

Then, the story should contain valuable information that will induce a person to want to be the first to share a post or a video—the third “S,” social currency.

To achieve these buzz imperatives, apply one or more of the following seven principles:

1. Shock Them: There’s no better example of the use of this principle than the Old Spice Muscle Music campaign (see the image). When actor Terry Crews starts playing a drum set using nothing but his muscles and shoots flames out of a saxophone, it’s a shock. “It’s also incredibly entertaining, interactive and designed to be very easily shared,” says Kate DiCarlo, communications director for Old Spice. In the first week alone, the video garnered 7.3 million views between Vimeo and YouTube.

2. Be Newsworthy: A prime example of a creative, newsworthy campaign is Oreo’s Daily Twist. Images of Oreos were created that were fun and relevant to the news of the day. Oreo kicked off the campaign in June with the Rainbow Oreo, showing support for Gay Pride Month. According to Oreo’s director of marketing, Cindy Chen, engagement with the Daily Twist Facebook posts increased 110% on average.

3. Don’t Fear Emotion: In early 2012, Duracell partnered with the NFL on a campaign called Trust Your Power, featuring a video with San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis. Willis and his three siblings were raised in a poverty-stricken neighborhood by a single father who struggled with alcohol and drug addictions. “It’s about overcoming adversity,” says P&Gs Sakdinan, who works on the Duracell brand. “There are no batteries involved in this. It’s about power itself,” he says. It’s also about master storytelling.

4. Embrace Their Pride: As people struggle to find jobs, Puerto Rico struggles to find workers— 60% of the island’s population receives government handouts. Living off welfare is so common that it is celebrated in the greatest salsa hit of all time: “No Hago Más Ná” by El Gran Combo. Puerto Rico’s largest bank, Banco Popular, convinced El Gran Combo to rewrite the lyrics of their song—one that encouraged the population to want to work. The beauty of the campaign: “Banco Popular didn’t attach itself to the video until the day after it launched,” says Cronin.

5. Capture Their Imagination: “Beauty and imagination are powerful storytelling mechanisms,” says Lemin. “This forces PR to think more about form than function.” To build a program that is imagination-oriented, Lemin says to hit the right touch points: target moms with babies and children, for example. Then, tell part of the story, but not the whole story.

6. Try Something Untested: To create buzz in early 2012 for his new single “Pass it On,” Swedish hip-hop artist Adam Tensta came up with something unique, to say the least. “One Copy Song” was a Facebook app that allowed one person worldwide to hear Tensta’s new track at a time. Yep, if you wanted to hear the song, you had to wait in a digital line. To move up in the line 15 places, you could tweet or Facebook about the song to 15 friends. Thousands of music fans got in line, and the song traveled to more than 40 countries.

7. Make Your Fans Part of It: This is the most important principle, says Lemin. Tentra’s song is prime example of this, and so is the Old Spice Muscle Music campaign. At Old Spice, it wasn’t just about creating a wild video, says DiCarlo. “Fans could create their own muscle videos,” she says—to the tune of more than 14,000 submitted.

Most importantly, DiCarlo never loses sight of the brand’s fans. “We pride ourselves on being consistent in some ways and highly versatile in others,” she says.

While Old Spice consistently creates products that deliver on promises, its communications are versatile enough not to box the brand into one campaign idea.


Jon Cronin, jon.cronin@citizenrelations.com; Daniel Lemin, daniel@social-studio.com; Kate DiCarlo, dicarlo.km@pg.com; Win Sakdinan, sakdinan.w@pg.com.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01