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Word of mouth is an amazingly powerful force but how does it really work?.
Businesses have become obsessed with stimulating word-of- mouth to counteract the declining effectiveness of advertising. But it’s easier said than done.
As the founder of BzzAgent, a community of more than 400,000 people who volunteer to talk to friends and acquaintances about products they genuinely love, Dave Balter is a successful practitioner, not a theorist. And he’s figured out how to measure and harness word-of-mouth without corrupting it.
In Grapevine, Balter shows why honest feedback about books, restaurants, gadgets, or anything else is more believable than any paid endorser. And he answers some of the most elusive questions in marketing, such as what makes word-of-mouth very different from buzz” and viral marketing.”
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Dave Balter is the founder and CEO of BzzAgent (www.bzzagent.com), the ground-breaking word-of-mouth marketing firm that has been profiled in Forbes, Fast Company, and a New York Times Magazine cover story.
John Butman is a veteran business writer.
Like most other marketing books, this intriguing but unconvincing volume dwells on botched ad campaigns, implying that those campaigns would have triumphed if only the advertiser had sought the authors' advice. In this case, all the reviled efforts overlooked "the most powerful marketing force in the world": word-of-mouth. "Everybody talks to everybody else about products every day," writes Balter, founder of three-year-old BzzAgent Inc., which enlists earnest volunteers to spread the gospel about products that the firm is hired to promote. Balter argues that the fact that BzzAgents actually tell people, "I'm a BzzAgent, and I'm pushing this product" aids the credibility of both the products and their advocates, with the result that Bzz campaigns succeed where shill campaigns (which employ paid actors) backfire. That may be true, but this volume doesn't adequately make the case that sincerity and product samples constitute a marketing revolution: the book's slapdash, "admittedly nonscientific" analysis is backed by little more than enthusiasm, quotes from The Tipping Point and three years of BzzAgent anecdotes. Balter's gee-whiz, narcissistic writing voice won't help win converts, either. (Though Butman is a coauthor, Balter narrates the book in the first person.) While it aspires to reorient current thinking on consumerism and social interaction, it's clear that this book's true purpose is to serve as a 210-page BzzAgent ad. (Nov.)
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