How Buzz Marketing Can Go Horribly Wrong

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No one can fault ConAgra Foods for its attempt at some good buzz marketing. But this particular example went horribly wrong when they neglected to truly consider the reaction of their audience. And they may have simply gone too far in setting the stage for their audience.

At a time when 24-hour news is giving journalism and reporting a bad name, the
NY Times article notes that bloggers tend to hold themselves in high regard as seekers of truth. And ConAgra allowed the hosts of this event to mislead the bloggers even as they voiced concerns about the type of food they were about to be served.

This marketing effort was compared to successful ones by Pizza Hut and Domino’s, but there are a few key differences that lead to a disagreeable result. First, in the successful examples everyday consumers were targeted. If I am a pizza lover and someone secretly served me a Pizza Hut slice, I wouldn’t be offended whether I like it or not. But these bloggers were not likely in the target audience of the ConAgra product to begin with. Second, I doubt anyone in the pizza examples was mislead into thinking that respected, celebrity chefs had a hand in the product. So perhaps this simply went too far.

I don’t blame Ketchum for getting this one wrong — we’re pushing the envelope and testing the new world order of digital marketing and social media. But I do hope we all learned a lesson about how far we can and should go for a good marketing story.


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