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Creating a new buzz for your business

DO you notice billboard messages? Businesses that wish to create a big awareness bang about their products hope that you do. They expect that the messages they carry are effective enough to make you notice their product, talk about it with your family and friends and perhaps be moved to buy what they are selling. Billboards are a big way to get noticed. I like them when they are not blocking the scenic routes or when they are not still standing (tattered and torn) five years after the demise of the product they heralded. Doesn't someone monitor these things?

Last week in the United Kingdom, the Outdoor Advertising Association (OAA) launched a campaign in London to prove the effectiveness of billboards and posters. The campaign featured large signs on buses and buildings that said, "Career women make bad mothers". The idea, reported Amy Graff for the San Francisco Chronicle, was to grab people's attention. It did. The campaign grabbed so much attention the OAA scuttled the campaign, which was supposed to run for 14 days, after hundreds of mothers on the Mumsnet Web forum expressed outrage over the ads, according to Graff. I guess that settled that argument.

Even though I like billboards which larger companies use, they can be costly and must leave question marks when measuring the return on investments of the spend. Everyone wants their merchandise to be the talk of the town. But our budgets are shrinking even more this year, so how do we get people to talk about our goods and services? How do we create a positive buzz, that will not leave a sting -- in people's minds and in our budgets?

Believe it or not, now is not the time to be stingy with the money you spend on keeping people aware that your products exist, even in a down market. As we speak some out-of-work, recent graduate is working full-throttle in their parents' back room to throw you out of business when the economic situation improves. They have the time and talent and are just waiting to take you out. The future belongs to the young and will become the graveyard for businesses who refuse to embrace technological and other changes.

Since this is Jamaica, you know we have to add a twist and shout to whatever it is that we do -- good or bad. During last year a couple of the telecom companies (I am not calling any names) hired young girls, hot-looking girls in skin-fitted jeans and branded tops to hand out flyers while we were in our cars in the traffic. I am guessing that the theory is that you are more likely to wind down your car window and take a flyer from a total stranger is the person if female and does not look like the Bride (or daughter) of Frankenstein. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of that one. I mean, how many of us actually read the flyers? And if we did were we moved to 'action' by the message, if it called for such? Could there have been a better way to reach that audience?

Then there was the company which hired, the man or woman to wear the sandwich board at the major intersections. That caught my attention as did the person dressed up as a chicken. It was low cost and although it might not have the reach --depending on the objective it was certainly effective.

In-store tastings: Do in-store tastings really work? I know of people who on any given Saturday, trek, 'belly in hand' to Costco and other wholesale giants in North America, and literally eat their way through to dinner time, via in-store tastings. Their objective is not to pack up their trolley with the advertised product, but rather to freely load up on their week-ends worth of vitamins and carbohydrates at others' expense. I myself am not a great fan of the supermarket tastings, unless it is accompanied by other useful information such as recipes and innovative and easier ways to use the products, articulated intelligently by the salesperson. You will definitely get a 'bad buzz' if the new product tastes awful.

Creating a viral buzz: Within the last week women have been posting different colours as their status on Facebook. The whole idea is to raise awareness about Breast Cancer Awareness by asking each person to post the colour of their bras. A spokeswoman for Facebook said it's not clear where or how the message started, calling it an example of a grassroots movement beginning on the social networking site.

According to an article posted on CNN's website, "What is particularly unique about this grassroots campaign is that it seems to have been started by a user or group of users, as opposed to an official entity, and spread virally throughout Facebook," Facebook's Malorie Lucich said. "It's an ideal example of how an individual voice can be magnified to create awareness for a good cause and ignite action among millions by using a site like Facebook."

How are you going to buzz about your product this year?



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