Grapevine: The New Art of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Overview

"As the founder of BzzAgent, Dave Balter developed a strategy for driving authentic word-of-mouth in the real world. He's a successful practitioner in a field previously dominated by armchair theorists." In Grapevine, Balter and John Butman draw from real BzzAgent campaigns and other case studies to show what does and doesn't work to get people talking. They answer some of the most elusive questions in marketing today.
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Overview

"As the founder of BzzAgent, Dave Balter developed a strategy for driving authentic word-of-mouth in the real world. He's a successful practitioner in a field previously dominated by armchair theorists." In Grapevine, Balter and John Butman draw from real BzzAgent campaigns and other case studies to show what does and doesn't work to get people talking. They answer some of the most elusive questions in marketing today.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
The New Art Of Word-Of-Mouth Marketing
In the world of Dave Balter, the founder and CEO of the word-of-mouth marketing firm BzzAgent, consumers are like big, round grapes. Interconnected with all of the other grapes in the vineyard by a collection of vines and roots, there is a consumer grape that is the marketer's target. Balter explains that shouting to that grape from across the vineyard might not be so effective. But saying something to the grape that is nearest to you and mentioning that the target grape in the middle of the vineyard might be interested in what you are saying is an important way to get the target grape, as well as the rest of the grapes in the vineyard, to hear your message. In Grapevine, Balter's first book, he writes that it doesn't matter whether the message is repeated just as you said it, or how long the message takes to reach its destination. "The target grape is far more interested in what other grapes have to say than it is in catch phrases shouted from a distance by message purveyors," he explains.

This type of indirect marketing is known as word-of-mouth, and Balter has discovered that it is most powerful when it is delivered by ordinary people. This is because the people around us have a bigger influence on us than the experts we hardly know. In Grapevine, Balter and writer John Butman describe what BzzAgent has learned from real marketing campaigns about what does and does not work to get people talking about a product or service.

Gen-0 People
Balter explains that he has found a way to measure and harness word-of-mouth without corrupting it. His agency does this by coordinating a community of more than 100,000 people who volunteer (for the cost of a free sample, a coupon, or a potential free trip) to talk to their friends and acquaintances about products they love. These products include books, beer, jeans, perfumes and restaurants.

Balter classifies the people who first share their honest opinions as generation zero (Gen-0). He explains that his agency chooses Gen-0 people based on certain characteristics or demographics, and then lets them experience a product and helps them understand how to communicate the experience more effectively. By helping the Gen-0 people talk consistently about a product with others, he prepares them to begin a 12-week campaign of interacting with their acquaintances that produces about five to seven interactions about a product or service. Although this might seem like far fewer than might be effective, Balter believes it is highly effective. He writes, "Five or six or seven genuine, honest word-of-mouth interactions may be more powerful than 500 advertising impressions."

The Gen-0 people also report their activities, which gives BzzAgent an idea of who the Gen-1s are, how they interacted with the Gen-0s, and how the Gen-1s responded. The marketing agency also learns where the interactions took place, how the product figured in the interactions, what was communicated, and what resulted.

Realizing the Power
The next step — when Gen-1s carry the communication along to the next group of people — is no longer controlled or monitored by the agency. This communication is left to the consumer, without control or management. Balter explains that this realizes the power of the word-of-mouth medium. By making sure that the original communication with the Gen-0s is "entirely genuine, honest and worth talking about," the Gen-1s will have received honest opinions as opposed to marketing tag lines. The credibility of the Gen-0-to-Gen-1 interaction, he adds, carries over to the next levels of communication that follow.

Word-of-mouth must be allowed to proliferate naturally, Balter explains, or it isn't word-of-mouth. He warns that marketers should not attempt to track it because tracking damages its purity and corrupts it, reducing the credibility of the message.

Grapevine describes dozens of scenarios when word-of-mouth marketing worked, and how other types of marketing — buzz, viral, shill (which involves people being paid to recommend a product without disclosing their relationship with the marketer) — compare to the honest, genuine sharing of real opinions and information about products and services. One surprising aspect of word-of-mouth marketing that the authors describe is the fact that it does not have to be positive to be good. They write that negative word-of-mouth can add credibility to a product or service, and can bring out the quiet advocates "who can be even more powerful than everyday fans."

Why We Like This Book
Packed with specific examples of how BzzAgent is able to spread the word about new products and services using an unconventional yet exciting new marketing technique, Grapevine offers marketers a complete guide to word-of-mouth. Offering step-by-step instructions on creating a word-of-mouth campaign, along with the case studies that show how BzzAgent has been successful at communicating to potential customers through real people and their honest opinions, the authors reveal a shiny new tool for the marketer's toolbox. Copyright © 2006 Soundview Executive Book Summaries

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591841104
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/3/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.22 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction : welcome to the grapevine 1
Bardo, your average unique consumer 11
2 Who talks about products and why? 15
Andie, attack marketer 35
3 Word-of-mouth is not buzz 39
Launch day 63
4 How word-of-mouth proliferates 67
Who's your maven? 85
5 The myth of the influentials 91
At the barbecue 107
6 Word-of-mouth storytelling 113
A pimple on sparkly perfect 131
7 The weird value of negativity 137
Bardo the loyalist 155
8 What's next for word-of-mouth? 161
Final review 179
Deep inside the hive : more reports from the BzzAgents 185
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2005

    Focus on the book.

    Okay, let's set aside the BzzAgent debate and focus on the book. I read it, I enjoyed it, and I agree that it does read somewhat like a commercial for BzzAgent. I don't see that as a bad thing, as the samples given and examples used effectively illustrate how Balter has used this technique to exponentially grow his business. To me, verifiable real life examples effectively validate the data presented in the book. Even being a BzzAgent doesn't give you the insight that reading the book does - it's a different perspective from Dave's point of view. Did I agree with everything said in the book? No. Did I take away ideas that I can use both personally and professionally, yes. If you have no interest in the Word-of-Mouth concept, move on. If this subject interests you, this is a good book to get you thinking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2005

    A MUST READ for every company!

    This book clearly states the benefits of having an effective WOM campaign -- companies who deny the power of WOM marketing will be in for a surprise after reading this book...complete with customer testimonials and an easy-to-read format...also has a companion storyline about a sample company who initiates a WOM campaign and the results.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2005

    An Interesting Book

    I liked this book. It has made me look at advertising (commericals, print ads, coupons, etc) in a new way. A lot of big promotions just don't work - everyone might talk about the commercial but does anyone talk about the product? The book goes in depth about Bzzz Agent and how the company works. No matter what your opinion of this company is, the book clearly shows how powerful the opinion of everyday consumers really is. If you are in marketing, this book is a must read because it will make you think about a new aspect of your job. If you are a consumer, this book will make you more aware of how marketers try to manipulate you. A very interesting read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2005

    Fast read very entertaining

    'Grapevine' is a fast read that will educate you not only on Word of Mouth Marketing but also other alternative sources of marketing. I personally enjoy reading testonmonials. So that was a big plus for me. I have been a bzzagent for three years.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2005

    Word of Mouth Marketing

    Grapevine is truly my favorite Word of Mouth Marketing book. Dave Balter founder of bzzagent explains how word of mouth marketing has taken the market by storm and how effective it is over traditional marketing. Well written, couldn't put this one down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2005

    Interesting read for marketers or BzzAgents

    I am a Bzz Agent (read the book if you don't know what this means) and am reading this book as part of a Bzz campaign. I found it interesting because it helped me see behind the scenes at BzzAgent (who gets picked for campaigns, examples of bzz, etc). I can also see how it would be interesting to someone who works in marketing, as it's all about word of mouth marketing and how it works or sometimes doesn't. For the average reader though, I don't see this book being of much interest.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2005

    A helpful book!

    I found this book very readable and practical. Helps us to tap in on and use the power we each have to change and influence the world of marketing. Until I read this book, I didn't realize just how much my friends and I talk about products. I began to think about the 'why' of buying and what attracts interest, thus how to influence the sales of the products I currently market. Very helpful!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2005

    Grapevine--Product news at its best

    Grapevine is one of the best books to be put out on the market in along time. It is well written and very informative on how the Bzz of new products really work in todays market place. It will really give a new insight to marketing practices. I am a Bzz agent and am really proud to be part of this great way of introducing new products to the consumers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2005

    A Business Book You Can Actually Enjoy Reading!

    I read lots of business books, mostly because I have to. Here is one that I started reading, and found I couldn't put it down! Written in an entertaining way, yet with lots of 'meaty info' (apologies to vegetations), 'Grapevine' has earned a treasured spot on my bookshelf - during the 10 minutes of the day when I'm not referring to it. Read the book and see how concepts we always sensed were out there, are actually validated. If you read only one business book this year, this is the one you should pick!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2005

    Grapevine....a 'life line' for lagging business

    I initially read this book for a bzz campaign and wasn't quite sure if it would be 'my kind of book'....soon I found myself deep within the book, and before I knew it, I was finished and eager to share the news with others! This book is a definite 'must have' in the ever growing trend of 'word of mouth' advertising and lagging business! It reaches persons of all kinds and professions and easly drives home to importance of the 'common man' an his opinion of the world and everything in it that we consume! Since reading this book I have spoken to many different business' about word-of-mouth advertising and GRAPEVINE and I am happy to report that upon entering our local B&N yesterday I observed 5 persons waiting in line to check out and ALL of them had GRAPEVINE in their hands! Now if that doesn't say something about WOM and the power of the comon man I don't know what does! Don't be left behind.....get this book, check out the chapters and share it with a friend....it may be the boost your business desperately needs right before the holidays!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2005

    For those wanting to know about the marketing side of things, this is a great book

    This book tells you the ins and outs of the ads. It lets you see why some ads work( ones that are catchy and you understand what products they are selling) and other s that dont work well( such as the Quizno's spongemonkey one that turned many people off). It shows you the future of marketing is not in the ads themselves but the word of mouth that comes from the ads. Its the buzzing of people that keeps products alive.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2005

    Great Addition to Your Marketing Strategy

    If you are looking for an innovative way to enhance your marketing campaign, then 'Grapevine' is the book you want to read. This book with its use of a fictional marketing campaign is easy to understand and is not couched in unexplained marketing jargon. This book explains how to properly use word-of-mouth marketing and is a must have for anyone who wants to include word-of mouth in marketing efforts.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2005

    I hardly ever read business-related books, but this one kept me interested

    I am not a business person. In fact, business-related things usually bore me. I even don't really like the form of capitalism in America that seems to have spawned a giant deceptive and/or pushy advertising market. I hate that advertisers pay to have products placed in movies. I hate the airplanes with banners that fly over the beaches trying to entice sunbathers to watch a new TV show. I hate that my mailbox is always stuffed with junk advert mail. I hate that we are bombarded with marketing messages seemingly 24/7. That might be why I liked this book. Word of mouth seems to be a more honest, genuine approach to selling products than most other forms of advertising. We all do it anyhow- we tell our friends what we buy and why. It's a form of helping others- if I find a brand of shampoo I love, I'm going to tell my best friend, because who wouldn't want to share a good thing? Word of mouth also involves negative remarks. I'll warn friends to stay away from a product that doesn't deliver what it promises. Word of mouth is an effective way to make sure you (and your friends, family, etc) buy something useful and necessary, instead of things that are cleverly marketed but poorly made. This is why I joined BzzAgent. I wanted to be part of a real kind of product information sharing an honest kind. This book gives a good introduction to the ideas behind word of mouth and why it's so effective. If you are interested in or work in advertising, you should read this book. Others would probably enjoy it as well, if you as a consumer care about the type of messages that are thrown at you by marketers. To be quite honest, I think the writing style was a little less than perfect, which might annoy some people. But it is engaging enough to make you pretty much forget that. Not a great read, but a good one, and an important one if you care at all about the state of advertising.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2005

    Grapevine

    If you like to watch the group dynamics unfold on reality shows this would be a good book for you. Grapevine explains and describes word-of-mouth marketing, which is like trying to observe group dynamics on a huge and unmeasurable level. Since it can't be measured there's less control over the outcome. Maybe this is why it makes some people nervous. Grapevine is an interesting book. It not only explains word-of-mouth marketing and follows the progress of a sucessful buzz campaign, but also reveals some of the less than successful outcomes of other recent promotions such as the GM Pontiac G6 giveaway on the Oprah show and the launching of the new CoCa Cola C2. Grapevine would be a good book for the morning commuter train or a good gift for the business student, especially one interested in marketing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2005

    We are all grapes...

    and our vine is our 'network'. This is a good, easy read. It's interesting and written with anecdotes and stories about various BzzAgents and their campaigns involving word of mouth. I read 'Grapevine' for a campaign. I thought it would be boring, but it's not...it's fun to read. A new kitchen thing, 'SparklyPerfect', (which is beyond awesome!) is introduced. (It's good for barbequeing, too!). 'Grapevine' shows how important individuals are to companies...Word of Mouth is the best advertising! We can ignore television commercials, skip over written ads...but we listen to our friends, relatives, coworkers and neighbors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2005

    I Heard It Through The Grapevine

    If you are starting a business or have been a business owner for many years and want to put some excitement into your company, read GRAPEVINE. It is very easy reading and very common sense approach to marketing. You don't have to be a marketing guru to follow the WOM strategy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2005

    A Different Kind of Business Book

    Yep, I'm a BzzAgent. I think that there might be a misconception about us. No, we don't get paid. We DO get the opportunity to try new products & read new books and give direct feedback to the manufacturers and publishers. I've given my honest feedback all of the time and not all of it has been positive. With that said, I enjoyed this book. I've had to read a lot of business books throughout my career and they aren't my favorite type of books to read. They're usually so dry and boring. This business book is different. It's an easygoing and entertaining kind of a read. It kept me engaged from beginning to end. Dave Balter gives excellent examples of WOMM in action. I learned a lot about WOMM which I didn't know before I picked up this book. If you're interested in learning more about this extremely direct form of marketing, or about BzzAgent, then this book is for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2005

    Every Marketing Major needs to read this

    This is a great book that really explains why a lot of today's big marketing campaigns don't work...they aren't about the product! It is a great read for an Ad agent or a consumer to peek behind the scenes at the messages coming at us. It also empowers the consumer to know that we really are in charge of what products really take off. It is an easy read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2005

    Great read for non-marketers, too!

    I am reading this book now and can't put it down. I signed up to review it as a bzzagent (you'll know what that is when you read the book,) although I didn't really expect to enjoy it because I'm not in marketing. But it's written in a way that makes you want to keep turning those pages! It weaves a fictional story in with the real-life tale of the birth of a company with a unique theory on how people communicate about the products they use. Maybe it's the psychology major in me (and those of you like me might also get a kick out psycho-analyzing the writer and founder of the company, who calls himself the Pilgrim, and is so incredibly busy yet can always find time to talk with the little people about his great ideas....Puhleeze! I had to take one star off the rating to make room for his ego), but it's really interesting to think about how we share information on this big grapevine we're all attached to. Enjoy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2005

    The future is here!

    The future of marketing sucess could well be word of mouth campaigns. Back in the days before network television marketers understood this, and would give free products to 'influencers' for example, free clothing to popular high school kids. Today's marketers face an uphill battle trying to compete for the consumer's attention, but word of mouth is effective and inexpensive! Read more about it in this informative book!

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