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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Open Source Word-of-Mouth Advertising 168

Posted by michael
from the selling-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Plenty of corporations are willing to hire shills to generate buzz for a new product. But what people don't need to be paid to promote? Boston company BzzAgent found that their volunteers promote products simply because it makes them feel good. The NYT Magazine interviews several 'agents'. The volunteers cite the feeling of being 'on the inside', like sharing opinions with others, and enjoy feeling altruistic. Has Madison Avenue figured out what open source developers knew all along?"
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Open Source Word-of-Mouth Advertising

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  • by iclod (831412) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:19PM (#11003515) Homepage
    i can certainly relate the advantage of word-of-mouth to a game site that i'm working for [iclod.com]. there's a strong community forming and new players are coming from word-of-mouth (or text-of-email) because of existing players' experience in the game.

    of course a bit of incentive wouldn't hurts, but it doesn't have to be in monetary term. it can be in the form of being credited or recognized.

    the only catch is you need to stay good, because of the old marketing saying - a good mouth told 3, a bad one told 10.

    the article mentioned "revealing her (the marketer) identity, she said, would undermine her effectiveness as an agent.".

    it's similar to teenagers never listen to their parents about what is good for them, but peers always have a greater influence.
  • However, exposure (Score:4, Insightful)

    by utopianfiat (774016) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:20PM (#11003519) Journal
    exposure may be the thing that hurts many people trying to spread their product. Although linux was held in high regard among many people for a long time, a good majority of the mainstream populace are still unaware of it simply because mainstream people are fed mainstream media.
  • by mordors9 (665662) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:23PM (#11003542)
    Just look at the evangelism of some of the gentoo users. They are completely dedicated to spreading the word. On some OS or Tech News sites, there are few distro related posts that doesn't have a gentoo disciple posting a follow up about the superiority of their distro. This would be massive free advertising if some commercial product would get that kind of devotion.
    • by Lispy (136512) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:26PM (#11003567) Homepage
      Well, if this was true then everyone would be using Linux since their next door geek keeps telling them "Windows sucks!".

      The truth is, zealots can get annoying...
    • by Coryoth (254751) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:29PM (#11003578) Homepage Journal
      Just look at the evangelism of some of the gentoo users.

      Though, to be fair, that can be as damaging as it can be helpful. A lot of advertising is about association - you associate a product with a certain lifestyle, or try and break traditional associations about the product. In the case of the Gentoo evangelists they do a fine job of furthering the association of Gentoo with die hard geeks. Unfortunately they also tend to further the association of Gentoo with 1337-speaking h4x0r wannabes who just want to look cool and extra-1337.

      Please note, I'm not saying that's what the Gentoo community actually is - just that that's the association that a lot of Gentoo zealots (i.e. the most vocal ones) tend to help promote.

      Word of mouth can work as much against you as for you. While the evangelists helped the initial growth of Gentoo, they've also helped box it into a small limited market where it will stay until perceptions change.

      Jedidiah.
      • You meant g3nt00, surely? Gentoo is actually a very good distribution, very well documented. There is a lot of useful information in their forums aswell, just a matter of sifting out the good stuff. Pitty emerge sync's take so long though.
        • Pitty emerge sync's take so long though.

          You can speed up sync's by excluding categories that you aren't interested in e.g. games. This was added to a recent, probably "unstable", version of portage - this also has various sync speed-up changes that may help.
      • by bluGill (862) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @08:17PM (#11004109)

        Ahh, but if you are in that narrow focused community... In the case of gentoo that is good. I use unix myself and am deep into it, but it doesn't take me much reading about gentoo to realize that it is only for hard-core computer people. Gentoo's word of mouth is actually perfect, it is spread by and to the people who would use it for the most part, in such a way that it turns off people who shouldn't use it anyway.

        By contrat, for the average person on the street linux is ready for their comptuer - IF they install Suse, mandrake, or the like. Everything works out of the box and is easy. (easier than Microsoft Windows if you install yourself) However for someone like me who grew up with BSD (back when you were either BSD ot SysV), those two just don't cut it. The do everything for you additude gets in my way. I love FreeBSD, but the experts there have told me that Gentoo (or slackware) are the best linux distributions if you need something that FreeBSD doesn't support as well.

    • Remember OS/2? There were a lot of "true believers" trying to spread the word about OS/2 (myself included). Heck, they even formed Team OS/2 [teamos2.org], all to promote this commercial product made by IBM.

      And it worked great, too! That's why everybody uses OS/2 today... er, waitaminute.

    • I would argue that believing in something because it is good (for some/most people) and free (so they can afford to live) and directly impacts reality in a possitive way is better than believing in something you can't prove actually exists and possibly has no direct impact on reality (besides the sum of the actions of its believers).

      This is why I think science would make a good religion.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by goofyheadedpunk (807517) <goofyheadedpunk.gmail@com> on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:23PM (#11003548)
    This is open-source how?

    I didn't know that some company had developed a proprietary speech format that just happened to be good at spreading advertisements. I also didn't know that those of us that are in the OSS community developed our own speech format to be used freely by the masses.

    I guess I learn something new everyday.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Eric Giguere (42863) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:18PM (#11003805) Homepage Journal

      Yeah, this kind of "viral marketing" is nothing new. Time Magazine published an article in 2000 about the viral marketing efforts for Christina Aguilera [bebeyond.com] that helped her "make it". Plenty of software companies already have "Team XXXX" or "MVP" programs that reward non-employees who answer questions and help others fix problems, and most of them do it for no payment. Those latter programs usually start as a grassroots, informal kind of thing, though, and these guys are trying to formalize the process to make it more predictable and more controllable.

      Eric
      Tired of MySQL? Develop with ASA for free [ianywhere.com] (that's my viral marketing plug!)
    • In other words... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Moraelin (679338)
      Yet another company has discovered fanboys and astroturfing. Yeah, that's sooo new.

      Can't even say it has anything to do with OSS. Anyone who's played a game and ever posted on a gaming board, has already met the unpaid fanboy acting like he's Holy Defender Of The Publisher, Minister Of The Truth, Silencer of All Heresy. "You dare complain about bugs and crashes? Nooo! The game is perfect! It's your system! It's your drivers! You're too stupid to use a computer!"

      Cretins.

      And yet another set of corporate fu
  • Well, duh?!?! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by FreeLinux (555387)
    Just look at the fan boys in the Open Source world. Look at what happens when I utter the words:

    vi
    emacs
    Gentoo
    KDE
    Gnome
    Linux
    *BSD
    Wind ows????
  • SpreadFirefox (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ewithrow (409712) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:25PM (#11003562) Homepage
    Firefox has been a 100% grass-roots effort to date. SpreadFirefox.com, the site devoted to informing people about Firefox's benefits over IE, has 35,000 members, basically volunteers that provide free advertising.

    Everything is not well though. They are being a little too secretive about the status of the NYT ad, which garnered $250,000 from the community. Threads have begun to pop up about what exactly happened to the ad, and some people are starting to whisper "refund":

    http://www.spreadfirefox.com/?q=node/view/4700 [spreadfirefox.com]

    http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?t=1721 76 [mozillazine.org]
    • Maybe they accidently left the money in a newspaper that they gave to Mr. Potter.
      Then an angel will come and let Firefox know it's still rich as long as it has friends.

      Personally, I thought it was strange how quickly they got that much money. Perhaps some of it was pledges from wealthy people who now are trying to back out?
    • Re: SpreadFirefox (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:42PM (#11003949) Homepage
      Everything is not well though.

      You got that right. Have been a long time Firefox user now, and very happy with it. But shameless call on Mozilla developers and project managers here: get your act together on issues like localization. Take the Dutch translation for example:

      A lot of tam-tam was done around nov.9, when Firefox hit final 1.0 release. Parties were organised worldwide, and local Dutch media reported the release.

      But in the Netherlands, you'd want a Dutch translation, right? Turns out older 0.9 releases had bad or incomplete translation (so lots of translation work had to be re-done), and catching up for 1.0 wasn't done during 1.0 pre-release period, but mostly started *after* 1.0 final release (sorry, but I think that's braindead project management style). As a result, it took some 3 weeks (!) after 1.0 release, until a quality, 'officially approved' Dutch translation was available (around dec.2). And when it finally was, very little mention of it in local media. But there's more:

      As a Dutch user, you'd try some URL's: Firefox.nl [firefox.nl] (used by some unknown party), Mozilla.nl [mozilla.nl] (fake, nothing to see here) or http://nl.mozilla.org [mozilla.org] (says "host not found" here). There DO exist several Dutch Mozilla-related sites, like MozBrowser.nl [mozbrowser.nl], but no link to be found anywhere on Mozilla.org. Also, it's possible to install English language version, locale-switcher extension and a language pack, to obtain non-English Firefox. But no mention, or links to this, on Mozilla.org site either (or damn near impossible to find).

      Okay, I know Mozilla is a large project, but how hard is it for instance, to make <countrycode>.Mozilla.org domains work, point those to country/language-specific sites, and provide some basic info on options, status and downloads for translations there? Mozilla organisation could improve a lot here. For Dutch translation alone: Netherlands have some 16 million people, computer use & broadband is very common here, so huge potential for localized Mozilla builds.

      "You think that is air you're breathing?"

  • Love - Hate (Score:3, Interesting)

    by penguinoid (724646) <spambait001@yahoo.com> on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:26PM (#11003571) Homepage Journal
    So, do we love the new volunteer advertizers, or hate them for being advertizers? Myself, I think I will go on the side of hating them -- I mean, it is still advertizing.

    On the other hand, these people (I think) all belive in what they are saying, so I might actually listen to what they are saying.
    • Re:Love - Hate (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Umbral Blot (737704)
      Well I don't mind volunteer advertizers because, unlike other advertizers, they actually believe in the product. Also they tend to know a good deal about it and are very informed. Even if you dont switch to what they are advertizing you can at least learn about it through them, and I would never turn down information. My only quibble here is that this tends to promote the big projects and crowd out the small ones. As an admin of a small open source project I would love if I could at least have more peop
      • Re:Love - Hate (Score:4, Interesting)

        by RGRistroph (86936) <rgristroph@gmail.com> on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:36PM (#11003918) Homepage
        If a foolish crowd-following chump believes in something, that isn't much of a recommendation.

        And these people sound stupid. You say "I would never turn down information" but these people don't sound like the kind of people who would filter out mis-information before passing it on, especially if it made them feel important to be passing it on.

        They have the kinds of personalities that would have been a trouble making town gossip a hundred years ago in some small village. In today's societies, they similarly cause trouble by spread a generalized distrust, as you have to figure out if each stranger you meet is trying to manipulate you in some way.

        Ultimately, if you follow their recommendations, you end up doing other people's (unetheically unlabeled) advertising for free.
        • So you never told anyone you liked anything?
          You never told anyone you liked the location where you spend your holidays?
          You never told anyone you liked a certain restaurant?

          You did? So you must be "the kind of personality that would hav been a trouble making town gossip a hundred years ago in a small village"!
      • Well I don't mind volunteer advertizers because, unlike other advertizers, they actually believe in the product.

        Every couple of weeks I get some volunteer advertisers pushing bicycles and wearing white shirts and black ties knocking on my door. They seem to believe very strongly in their product - would you like me to send them your way?
      • Following the link in your sig, clicking on introduction and reading the first sentence made me uninterested. The first sentence reads:
        Centum is an interpreted language that was designed to be used on computers running some version of windows.

        No, it's not simply the word "Windows", but the fact that a programming language designed for a specific OS is IMHO a bad idea.
        Sorry, no free advertising for you :-)
  • by Nomihn0 (739701) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:29PM (#11003580)
    Anonymity is crucial to any Bzz campaign. If the word gets out that one member of a community is covertly foisting products on the rest, a general sentiment of deceit smites the social atmosphere. I feel that, although this is a perfectly legal, dare I say brilliant, marketing system, I would make it a point to rout out and publicly humiliate any Bzzers I discover.
    • amen brother. see my post below.
    • I agree, and I'd go to the extent that it is ultimately destructive to a community to astroturf in this manner.

      That's the thing that makes me nervous about Amway, Tupperware, Mary Kay, etc., you'd end up selling either to your friends or want to be your friends, and ultimately breaking any friendship there.
    • Huh? They're not being paid for this "advertising". They're promoting products they actually like to their friends. I tell my friends about stuff I like all the time, and they do the same for me. Why shouldn't we? Why should we distrust each other for doing so? Where is the deceit?
      • by Nomihn0 (739701) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @08:24PM (#11004131)
        The Bzzers don't even need to like the items they market . . . and more often than not, they don't. For example, on the Bzz site they have a testimonial from a Bzzer who was trying to promote 20Q (a great website, but a lowly toy) to other mothers at a bus stop. She mentioned that the toy was making a lot of noise because it was getting "Torah" wrong, repeatedly. Others asked where to buy it, though. So, even though it is clearly an inferior toy, she tricked them into finding it appealing. She even described her methods online.

        Obviously, it was not $10 well spent for those mothers. I can't imagine that the peer pressure on the mothers, with all of their kids flocking to the little blipping, flashing, toy helped.
        • I can't imagine that the peer pressure on the mothers, with all of their kids flocking to the little blipping, flashing, toy helped.

          Not to pick on you or anything, but that's not peer pressure. That's just plain old ordinary pressure. Peer pressure would be if other mothers (ie: peers) were putting pressure on her to by the toy.
      • I think it is based on whose interests you are primarily serving, or priorities. If you are providing recommendations because it will be in the best interests of the friend/relative/acquantance, I think it is fine, but if you are doing it to help the business, especially because of a vested interest, then I think that conflict of interest is fundementally dishonest unless declared.

        What you describe really doesn't need Bzzz, because as you say, it already happens. If something works well or poorly, word o
        • I admit I didn't read the entire article; after one long, boring page the prospect of eight more just like it made me give up. So maybe my question is answered somewhere in the last 88% of the article: Why would they promote the products, if they aren't paid and don't believe in them? By "paid" I mean any kind of compensation at all -- coupons, "bonuses", pat on the head, shares of the company, whatever.

          My apparently incomplete understanding is that bzzz is attempting to organize and control the natural

    • ...I would make it a point to rout out and publicly humiliate any Bzzers I discover.

      Word of mouth advertising brings advertising back to its original purpose: to inform you of the existance of a product you might want. Not to tell you it's needed to get laid, or that you NEED it, etc etc etc.

      If the folks are simply doing this because they like what they bought, why do you need to humiliate them? I've convinced several of my friends to buy PowerBooks. I did so because I thought they'd enjoy it as much
  • by KalvinB (205500) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:32PM (#11003598) Homepage
    then they'll advertise it for free depending on their means. Otherwise it's going to take a paycheck. If I don't like a product enough I'll negatively advertise it.

    If there is a cost involved with advertising the product then of course someone is going to consider whether they will demand a fee or not depending on how much they like or dislike the product.

    If a rich person really likes or dislikes product A then they may spend a million bucks advertising it because they want to. This happens in politics often. A local millionaire spent a lot of money campaigning against a recent proposition. Other rich people campaigned for it. If a modestly wealthy person likes product A then they may seek cheaper avenues to advertise such as basic word of mouth or print ads.

    This isn't late breaking news or anything that has to do with Open Source. This has been public knowledge since forever. Word of mouth is the cheapest and best advertising and you can only get it from people who like your product enough to talk about it.

    Every company seeks to get word of mouth. This is why they have occasionally steeply discounted or free samples of their product. A limited number of people buy it because of the price point and then advertise to friends and family who then may pay a higher price for it after the sale ends.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Exactly.

      That's why I choose Microsoft. With 20 years of unbelievable[1] quality, Microsoft stands in a class all it's own[2]. I cannot say enough good things about Microsoft[3]. It's a world leader in providing solutions[4]. No-one ever got fired for buying Microsoft products[5]. With new DRM technologies, you can be sure that your computer will be taken care of[6]. And with Microsoft's shared source, you can be part of the exiting future Microsoft has laid out for us all[7]. God bless Microsoft[8].

      ---
      [1]
    • If a person likes a product, they will stereotypically only tell 4 of their friends on average.

      However, if someone dislikes a product or has a bad experience, they will traditionally tell 20 or more people on average.

      I suspect that this 'viral marketing' is needed to help compensate for some of the bad press that many companies get due to lack of quality service. You'd think that they might just spend the extra money and effort on making a product that doesn't suck, wouldn't you? But no, that's not immedi
  • re (Score:5, Insightful)

    by computerme (655703) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:33PM (#11003609)
    This is not open source "advertising".

    Its about a corporation using people's time and effort to further its bottom line.

    (ooops. that does sound like open source)

    Read the article. The main reason people are doing seems to be as quoted in the story, not that they ARE trendsetters....but they would LIKE to be trendsetters.

    So people trying to be cool are being used by Corps to hock their STUFF in a most unseemly way to me (IMO).

    Why unseemly? I'll give you a example. Let's say I am throwing a party, its a pot luck and everyone is supposed to bring over a casserole or other dish.

    If a bzzz agent brought over "Lenner's Sausages" and starts to extol the virtues of said meat links... i WOULD THROW HER ASS out of my party.

    I invited my guests over to relax and forget about the world NOT TO BE SOLD TO.

    Isn't it enough with billboards on roads and product placement in TV shows?

    Now they want guest and friends to sell me shit?*

    *And no, i don't care if they really believe in the shit they are selling, there is a fine line between a friends reccomendation and a sales pitch. These people cross it.

    Oh and can we stop apply the ever-so hip "Open source" to everything?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Lets call them buzzards. I think that's a better name. Tar and feathers for the lot of them, I say!
    • Re:re (Score:5, Informative)

      by saitoh (589746) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:13PM (#11003776) Homepage
      what you've described and given examples of, is very very similar to what marketing classes call "undercover marketing" (Guerilla and Buzz have both been used for the same concept). The catch with undercover marketing is that you unknowingly are marketed to. Keyword there being unknowingly. If you can pick it up, either you have studied this, or its being done really poorly. There really isnt much if any middle ground there, and the reason is this:

      If someone with a thick spanish accent stopped you on the street, and asked you to take a picture of him and his girlfriend. You have never seen this camera, and he shows you how it works so you can take their picture. Its a sweet camera. You take the picture, and your off on your way.

      They just pimped a new Sony camera that you'll see next month, yet you were being nice. To pick up on this, either one, you see the example beforehand and wear a tinfoil hat, or two, you dont see it and it doesnt seem like advertising, but just being nice and touristy. That is until you sit across the street in the cafe and watch the preceedings for an hour. This is the classic example I've seen in my classes, and its really hard to pick out without wearing a tinfoil hat and beleaving that everyone is out to get you with advertising.

      Personally, that doesnt bother me, cause it doesnt feel like advertising. Thats part of what many people dont like, is that feeling of being sold to. If you can hype a product (which is all this does, if the product sucks, you dont have nearly as much to stand on as tv advertising does), and it is discovered that it was artificial hype, then it goes down in flames faster then the hindenburg, and everyone remembers the bitter taste in their mouths of that betrail, and its *extremely* hard to recover from that. I've seen it go both ways.
      • by Saeger (456549)
        Personally, that doesnt bother me, cause it doesnt feel like advertising. Thats part of what many people dont like, is that feeling of being sold to.

        So, according to you, it's OK to be manipulated, as long as it doesn't feel like you're being mentally engineered? That's some kind of bullshit.

        Personally, dishonesty and hidden agendas always bother me.

        --

      • by CGP314 (672613)
        They just pimped a new Sony camera that you'll see next month, yet you were being nice... Personally, that doesnt bother me, cause it doesnt feel like advertising.

        Now that to me is the worst kind of advertising there is. I live in London [colingregorypalmer.net] (might as well shill my blog in a story like this one) and I take photos for tourists all the time. But if I ever found out that one of them was just trying to expose me to a new product, I'd be very upset. What right does mega-corp have to take advantage of me bein
    • Oh and can we stop apply the ever-so hip "Open source" to everything?

      Jon Katz may have gone, but he's clearly still with us in spirit.

    • I checked out the company's website and you're way off track.

      They say it's not about paying someone to secretly promote a product to their friends. It's more like giving out free samples to people, then telling them to tell their friends what they actually think about it and telling bzzagent what their friends say about it. They want to promote good products by getting people to talk about them if they think they're good. If you sign up, you only talk about the products you're interested in and talk to y

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)
      It sounds a lot like the marketing strategy used by Apple, to me. And gentoo, to a degree, but that's less of a centralized effort and more of a

      I don't know how many times I've had some fool Mac fiend come up to me and my IBM Thinkpad x30 and say something asinine about his iBook or Powerbook being better. I don't notice them going up to the Dell or Gateway owners - I'm guessing they don't see those POS machines as threats to their trendyness.

      At any rate, it usually boils down to them saying something alo
  • by spencerogden (49254) <spencer@spencerogden.com> on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:37PM (#11003624) Homepage
    I was thinking just earlier today that my experience with Open Source has made me mistrustful of advertising.

    I expect to hear about good products from other people. If I see an ad for something I haven't heard of my initial reaction is "Why haven't I herad of this, is it no good?" If a product is good, word gets around. I'm hesitant to buy any tech product without hearing other's experience with it on sites like Slashdot.
  • by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:41PM (#11003645) Homepage
    In a way, this is what Microsoft is doing with their usability studies. I've done quite a few, mainly to get the free software to resell on Ebay (recently got Project (msrp: $400 - $599), sold it the next day for $280 cash).

    But other people do these studies because it makes them feel "a part" of such a great software company, and I'm sure they tell all their friends.

  • by Comatose51 (687974) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:42PM (#11003646) Homepage
    I've been trying to get my company to take advantage of Open Source solutions but it's not easy. Sometimes it seems that they think if it's free, there must be something wrong with it. I suppose they like the support of paid-for software. My strategy right now is to replace all the non-supported software with open-source ones. Once they feel they can trust open-source software, that when I can seriously push open-source software as an option for our bigger problems and needs.
  • Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mccalli (323026) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @06:44PM (#11003658) Homepage
    I was going to add an opinion but really - do I need to say more than "Apple" on this subject?

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • OMG... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by johansalk (818687)

    The whole idea of word-of-mouth is that it has some honesty that's not been tarnished by commercial interests. This word-of-mouth marketting association is one more reason to dislike unashamed capitalism that seeks to milk out everything.
  • More like it confers a sense of belonging to a larger entity, which makes them feel wanted, and hence good.

    Kind of like the OSS religion.
    • (--- This post may be a paid, or volunteer, advertisement, and may not truly represent the views of the poster.)

      Not the OpenSource stuff. That is just fine with me because it is a worthy cause (--- that's an advertisement right there!).

      But the fact that people would go around promoting a product just to be "in-the-know" about it is just so perversely consumeristic and representative of what is wrong with the factory-farmed citizen (--- something like that would be a key giveaway that a person is using pr
  • by mishmash (585101) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:05PM (#11003749) Homepage
    No one's paying me to post www.subservientchicken.com/ but I do.... it must be a good example of what we're talking about...
  • by Jonny 290 (260890) <brojames@noSPAm.ductape.net> on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:08PM (#11003762) Homepage
    to anybody who can either convince me that this BzzMarketing crap is not an MLM, or to actually tell me what the hell it is they do.

    Because the latter is not clear, I am assuming that the former is false.

    It's just time for Slashdot's daily ads. This is a non-starter. The very fact that I found the phrase:

    "Reality Marketing"

    on their site immediately disqualifies them from my list of companies to do business with, whatever the fuck it is they're selling.
    • I hate to reply to myself, but a quick guideline that I often use is that if a Slashdot story is submitted by 'anonymous', it's probably an ad. You'll notice that except for this story, every single story on the front page (at least my front page) has a source listed.

      I don't have a problem with Slashdot's masquerading as a news site, I just want to make sure they have the most educated readers possible :)

      You are not the consumers of Slashdot. You are the product.
    • by bluGill (862)

      Its not MLM. Someone hires you to advertise a product. As in "five bucks (or some other amount) if you bring our saussages to the next pot luck you go to and tell everyone how much you like them". You are going to the party anyway, and you need to bring something. So it only costs a few words of your time to tell everyone what brand they are. You are not looking for other people who do the same, you are just trying to talk them into a brand.

      It works because people trust word of mouth. You wouldn'

      • Though I wonder how much a little money helped them to like something?

        Considering the articles mentions several times that they receive no compensation beyond some free samples of the product, I would have to say not at all.

    • Well, although your post was most certainly flamebait, you bring up a good point. Many people here on slashdot don't know what Buzz Marketing is.

      As someone in the advertising/marketing industry, allow me to shed some light.

      First off, it goes by a couple names: guerilla marketing, buzz marketing, viral marketing, etc. Some of it is paid, some of it is just because people want to, like in this situation.

      Its not MLM at all, its more akin to hiring a spokesperson for a brand except they don't tell you they'r

  • Gabriella asked a manager why there was no Al Fresco sausage available.

    I got your Al Fresco sausage right here, Gabriella Bay-bee!
  • I don't think it's this way with all open source products' ads. I seem to recall watching the Super Bowl and seeing a "Linux- The Future is Open" ad... hmm...

    - dshaw
  • MySQL (Score:3, Informative)

    by ayn0r (771846) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:27PM (#11003858)
    A few weeks ago I went to a presentation by Michael "Monty" Widenius from MySQL. Among many interesting things he talked about, he mentioned that MySQL really never have had to advertise in a regular fashion, because most of the time their customers had actually already been using their product for a good while before putting it to use in a commercial project. Some guy in the company would need just any database for use in his small private project, then tried the same database when things started getting bigger...the rest is history.

    This model is obviously not applicable everywhere, but it has a great deal of advantages over regular advertising really - the main thing being that the customers actually know what they're getting, by using the product themselves instead of listening to how some marketing guy somewhere decided to describe the product. This is a great advantage for open source projects in general IMHO.

  • ePinions [epinions.com] has built a moderated community of many reviewers that is often very helpful. It's mostly open, and zero dollars.
    • People tend to post soon after their purchase with lots of glowing reviews. This makes it pretty much useless for new products.

      Then, when the product proves to be a piece of junk, you'll find post after post from many of those same people complaining about their piece of junk. While this might be comforting in a group therapy kind of way, it is also pretty much useless as a "product review" unless you happen to be considering purchase of two year old merchandise.
      • That is true of any review site. That's why I look almost exclusively at "bad" reviews. And I never trust any review at all, without checking the reviewer's other reviews, to get a sense of our common sensibilities. The Web is no different from any other hearsay.
  • Buzz Marketing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by daigu (111684) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:47PM (#11003971) Journal

    Buzz Marketing has been around for a long time. Books like the Anatomy of Buzz [amazon.com] have been out since 2000 and have be subsequently refined conceptually into defining who people listen to by books like The Influentials [amazon.com] or more geographically with books like Hub Culture [amazon.com].

    It's not really that big of a deal. Buzz marketing is just another way of saying a product web of trust, and Slashdot is perhaps one of the better examples of buzz marketing I can think of.

    Let's see in the last few days, people on Slashdot have mentioned Firefox and Thunderbird [slashdot.org], AbiWord [slashdot.org]. and other programs. There are even whole sections - Book Reviews - that are essentially a form of buzz marketing.

    The problem that people have is when this is disingenious. Slashdot deals with this by giving you the negative buzz too - anyone here going to rush out and buy a Treo 650 [slashdot.org]? I know I'm not - and I'm thankful to the guy who posted the comment so I am aware of the problems of the new Treo.

    Bottom line: buzz marketing - so long as it is accurate, is offered by someone you trust (or forum or what have you) and is appropriate given the circumstances (posting about a bad product experience on Slashdot for example) is not necessarily a bad thing and is often quite useful and good.

    Hearing about new restaurants in your area, new software products, or whatever from people that have actually used them and had a good (or bad) experience is often an excellent way to find out about new things. I think most of us would agree on this point. So, don't get all bent out of shape about a 50 cent word used by marketroids.

    • There is a key difference between the way /. works and the way so called buzz marketing work though. The majority of the people posting stories and comments here are not being stage-managed by corporate handlers who have given them an agenda and talking points to follow. The book and product reviews here are by people who have actually read/used the item in question and as you pointed out are often negative. The bzz marketing people TFA talks about haven't always tried the product (such as in the case of th
    • Nope (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Moraelin (679338)
      This kind of confusion between "honest personal opinion/review/dogma" and "corporate marketting to make a buck" is just what those unethical corporate shills are exploiting, and what they'd like you to believe. "Sure, there's no difference between Joe talking about his new car from experience, and Jack who's regurgitating corporate hype for, say, Ford." Wrong.

      You even almost see the difference on your own when you say "Slashdot deals with this by giving you the negative buzz too." Well, bingo. That _is_ th
  • One phenomenon I'm frequently struck by when visiting a forum discussing upcoming computer hardware and software products is the number of people who are creating hype and whipping each other up into an excited frenzy. There's much more of it than can be explained by agents/shills (paid or otherwise). For some strange reason, people who have no association with the company making the product volunteer themselves as mindless "fanboys" helping to promote it.

    The most remarkable example I've encountered was in
  • The key with buzz is that a little investigation will turn u someone you know or wsomeone who will talk toyou about the OS A that might bet the ticket. The BS is just background noise.

    • Someone out there has a sig about moderating incoherent. Finally I begin to understand why that might be necessary.

      Sai Babu, if English is not your first language try to post some more information and I (or someone) might try to help you. If English is your first language I hope, for you sake, that you are drunk.
  • by Misanthropy (31291)
    "They were invited guests, friends or relatives of whoever organized the get-togethers, but they were also -- unknown to most all the other attendees -- ''agents,'' and they filed reports."

    WTF?! I would be completely insulted if I invited somebody to my house and they tried to advertise a product.

    Marketing has infiltrated our lives enough already, yet these idiots volunteer to advertise and file reports about their friends and family to some market research people. I find that more than a little creepy!
  • I don't work with BzzAgents, although I am involved in similar areas to them. It's interesting to think of why we "buzz" (to steal their terminology) certain products and services and not others.

    For example, I'll often recommend MySQL, Apple, Linux, Perl, or even companies like EV1Servers with total enthusiasm. It doesn't affect me if someone uses MySQL, an Apple computer, or gets a server with EV1, so why the enthusiasm? Most people don't do the analysis, and I guess I haven't till now either. The answer
  • Thinking small (Score:4, Insightful)

    by metamatic (202216) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @08:39PM (#11004235) Homepage Journal
    People shilling products for free is nothing! Look at how many people pay money for the privilege of shilling products on their clothes.
    • Look at how many people pay money for the privilege of shilling products on their clothes.

      Yeah, don't people know that the way to get T-shirts with advertising on them is to go to conventions? Then people *give* them to you...and the only reason to wear them is when you are too lazy to do laundry and you have nothing else to wear.
    • From My First Mall Reader [tripod.com]

      Lesson 4. The clothing stores
      See the clothing stores.
      See the posters in the window.
      See the people in the posters.
      See how thin they are.
      Later they eat a lot.
      Then they throw up.
      See the people shopping there.
      They all look the same.
      See the clothes in the store.
      See the name on the shirts.
      It is the name of the store.

  • I rarely if ever "advertise" products that I like. I respect other people too much to do that. Only when I see that a person clearly has a need that can be met with a particular product, would I recommend it. Though when a product is free, I can suggest it even when the need is not so obvious.

    For example, here on Slashdot I won't promote CS Desktop Notes [chissoft.com], even though it's really great software, because I don't think most slashdotters need it. On the other hand, I feel no remorse about suggesting you check
  • Probably some sort of hardwired social animal/pack animal/tribal instincts to tell the other members of the tribe about some new food source or other resource: "hey, guys, you won't believe this great patch of berries I found upon on the mountain this morning!"

    THis is a very old and highly developed survival skill, and corporations are tapping into it with this sort of technique.

    • What's with trying to assosciate this hardwired behaviour/human animal crap with everything people do? This behaviour is actually the *opposite* of animal behaviour - dogs (another pack animal) don't go telling all the other dogs about that cool bone - they go bury it so the other dogs don't find it. I remember hearing somewhere (probably the zoo) that the Chimp is the only other mammal apart from humans that willingly share food. The only other animals I know of that share knowledge about where to find foo
  • . . . and you can find them at just about any internet forum for specific products.
  • ...their volunteers promote products simply because it makes them feel good....
    Slashdot runs on volunteer writers who [except maybe Roland Clique-appeal] don't make a cent and just submit items because it makes them feel good.
  • It might just be me, but personally, I've never met anyone involved with computers that's worth respecting (ie, not a blathering idiot) that's altruistic. Not in the least. They're almost invarialy condescending and self-important.

    Note, don't confuse that with with being conceited. The fact is, they really are better, and thus can condescend to these people's levels.
  • I'm going to sound like a dork when I say this, but in many cases, the volunteers really ARE on the inside. In my case, I'm the leader of the Open Graphics project, and while there are certain aspects of the interaction between company and community will being hammered out, I know perfectly well that the project will go nowhere without the involvement of the community, because it's a project to meet THEIR needs. This means that they MUST have control. None of this "company knows best" crap (only I'm the
  • is not open source marketting...it is an lothesome technique. I once read an interview with a leading viral marketer (surf control prevents me from linking at this time) who was quoted saying something along the lines of "our customer realise it's not cost effective to have a product or service that is good enough to produce word of mouth, however we can hire people to create that word of mouth for a fraction of the price".
  • Well that's no news. This phenomenon happens almost everywhere. So it's strange that the title mentions open source. I guess it's even more common in hardware. Take for example 3D videocards. When they were new, fanboys promoted their new Voodoo cards. Then nVidia came along with their TNT card, and 3Dlabs was a big company so the fanboys started praising nVidia for being a small company that challenged the big company with a superior product. Nowadays the fanboys blast nVidia for being big even though they
  • From the article:

    If you start questioning everyone's motives, then you'll be in a home with tinfoil on your head.

    So that is why I feel creeped out about this. It doesn't work on slashdotters.
  • In the long term I don't think this type of marketing will work for companies. The obvious reason why most of us trust other people is (a) they are honest because they do not have financial interests (b) we appreciate their opinion because we want to be like them.

    If this type of marketing becomes wide-spread then simply everyone will start being much more cautious about what he is being told. As for the coolness factor, well, we already have that for a long time: hot actors tell us what to eat/drink/wear

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller

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