How to create a buzz – Dr Leonie Baldacchino, UoM interviewed by Monique Chambers.
Originally recorded and broadcast by CampusFM
Full transcript of the audio is below:
Monique: You’re listening to Entrepreneur Clinic on campus FM with me, Monique Chambers and my guest this week Dr. Leone Baldacchino from the Edward de Bono Institute here at the University of Malta. We are discussing how to create a buzz around your offering.
So Buzz how does one create it around a new offering is the startup?
Dr. Leone: Hi, Monique and well creating above is always very, very important in startups and established businesses alike because you could have the best product in the best service in the world. But if nobody knows about you then of course, nobody will buy your product and service, so you will have no customers. Speaking about customers, it is very important to identify your customers, your target customers and understand who they are and what they will be looking for. Because that will definitely influence where you will be trying to create a buzz, because of course, there are different platforms which we will go into later on. But why is it so important to create a buzz? There are different stages, different phases in promotion. First of all, one needs to create awareness about the product. As I said, if nobody knows you’re around then nobody would buy you. But even beyond creating awareness, you need to also enable customers to make an evaluation, ideally, a positive evaluation about your product and service.
Monique: Before they have bought it indeed?
Dr. Leone: Before they have bought it. They can only buy if they have made a positive evaluation, whether that’s explicit or implicit, whether they’re aware of their evaluation or however the evaluation has to be made.
Of course there you need to provide some degree of information about the product. And after they have bought the product, they need to have some sort of after sales reassurance or after sales relationship building with the entrepreneur in order to create a loyal customer base of people who will come back to buy your product if your product lends itself to repeat purchases. But even if not, you still want to create a positive word a word of mouth because it’s then supported by various studies with entrepreneurs that word of mouth not especially in a small place like Malta about not limited to small places like Malta, it’s the best way of promoting one’s business or one’s products. There is no better way than having somebody you know telling you how great particular product or a place or a business is then you know getting it right from somebody you know and trust as opposed to hearing a channel on traditional media. So I think in reply to your first question about how do you create a buzz? The first thing you really need to do is to get people to talk about you. Now, how do you do that? [Laughs]
Monique: Yes exactly, positively obviously. [Laughs]
Dr. Leone: Yes positively. I think the key to that is creativity. And this is a term that has become a buzzword. And everybody’s talking about how important it is to have creative products, creative services, to be a creative individual indeed, but what does it really mean?
The term creativity refers to the generation of ideas that are new and useful. So it is definitely about being different from an original so different from what everything that’s around and also in original in the sense that it’s create some sort of surprise, however, it’s also nice to have an element of relevance, something that is useful to the user, something that is going to stand out. So buzz marketing campaign doesn’t really need to be expensive, which is a very important learning point for the entrepreneurs out there, because many startups are concerned with the fact that they don’t really have any resources, financial or otherwise to create any sort of promotion campaign as opposed to multinational corporations or really large organizations, as we know, invest millions of euros, dollars, whatever they are in promoting their products. However, with an element of creativity, and you know that if they are really smart about how to do things, they can really create a buzz marketing campaign without spending very much money at all.
Monique: So how can a small company or an entrepreneur startup create this buzz? How do they go about doing it?
Dr. Leone: Right, so as I said, the key is creativity. And as opposed to a misconception that many people believe that some people are born creative while others are not, creativity is a skill that can be learned and that can be improved with the use of tools and lots of practice. As I said earlier, we are from the Edward de Bono Institute and Edward de Bono has come up with a number of tools and techniques that enable people to be more creative. And these include lateral thinking and a number of others. And therefore practicing with these tools can help people come up with many different creative ideas and come up with ideas on how to really be different and stand out.
Monique: Okay, so this is something that you actually teach there at the institute as well?
Dr. Leone: Yes, indeed. The Institute was set up in 1992 in collaboration with Edward de Bono with the aim of teaching his tools and techniques. However, over the past several years, we have really grown and diversified our activities and we are now based on what we call our four pillars. The first remains creativity because, as I said, we strongly believe that is something that can be taught and nurtured.
Our second pillar is innovation or innovation management because we believe although
creative ideas in themselves are very important and they are the root of all innovation and overall entrepreneurship. However, there has to be a system in place where these ideas are evaluated, developed, channeled and eventually put into place implemented for any sort of value to come out of them.
Our third pillar is entrepreneurship, which as we are discussing today involves the stocking up and running of one’s own business. But it involves also developing an entrepreneurial mindset which is very important for people coming from different walks of life.
And our fourth pillar is foresights which involves taking a look into the future, trying to imagine what the world will look like in ten, fifteen or fifty years time in visiting positive scenarios and visiting negative scenarios and then trying to create strategies in the present in order to achieve the desirable scenarios and offset the undesirable ones. And on these four pillars, we offer a number of courses including a mastering creativity and innovation which also touches upon entrepreneurship on foresights. We offer a number of undergraduate study units which are also open to the general public. And we are currently planning to launch a new part time, evening Diploma in creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship to help those people who have other commitments therefore can’t take on full time course at the university or perhaps don’t have an undergraduate degree therefore would not be eligible to start a Masters but this would be one good way of letting creative thinking skills and to help entrepreneurs not only create a buzz around their ideas and their businesses but also how to improve their entrepreneurial skills in different areas as well.
Monique: So you said something about entrepreneurial mindset. What do you mean by that? What would an entrepreneurs mindset be like?
Dr. Leone: Okay, so mindset is essentially a way of thinking and behaving in a way that is a little bit different from the traditional or from the everyday way of trying to stick to the routines or trying to maintain the status quo. So an entrepreneur is very different sort of individual. An entrepreneur is a person who is always looking out for new opportunities, actually seeing opportunities where other people only see problems and coming up with ideas, with solutions, to these problems and offering them in the form of a product or service on the market. And of course, if it is a widespread problem, and many people are complaining about these problems, then there is a real pain out there. Therefore, there is higher likelihood stuff the market with the receptors to the receptive to such a solution, a product or service.
Monique: So can you give us any examples of good cheap buzz marketing campaigns? [Laughs]
Dr. Leone: [Laughs] Yes, I should have a very interesting example in mind. And this actually came from a group of students I had a few years ago. As part of the Masters, our students are asked to come up with a business idea and to work on it. At the time, it was a project that they needed to work on for a week. So they came up with a business idea and developed their business idea. And at the end of the week, present, pitch the idea together with a brief business plan to their lecturers who were kind of sitting in the seat of investors. At the time we didn’t have you know, we now have our take off business incubator here on campus, which is a really really great venue and we now do the sort of thing here at the incubator, but back then, venues are always a problem at the university and we did wish to have uninterrupted lectures for the whole week which was quite impossible to get here on campus. So we were asked to go to the junior college and our initial reaction was, of course, getting out of the university campus and to go to the junior college will be quite inconvenient, but we said we’ll go with this and we’ll see how it goes. We were assigned a couple of classrooms in one what was then a new Annexe, so it was as
part of the junior college campus but slightly to the side. And we went in and we gave the students their assignments on the first day, they looked a little bit dull students and on the second day, as soon as we arrived in the morning, we found a little note attached to the wall addressed to Val to name the just the one of the one of the students, one of the guys in our course very, very flowery language and all the students were wondering who is this because it was asking the students whoever it is to please call me My name is Alice I can’t stop thinking about it this is my number and so on. And as you can imagine, everybody was extremely curious as to hey who the object of Alice’s attention was and who is that is probably you know, one of the six year old students who have fallen in love with one of our handsome.
Monique: I was thinking of the smoky song actually. [Laughs]
Dr. Leone: Yes. So on the third day, we came back and there were several notes actually attached to the wall. This time, I’m getting a little bit more the tone, you know that the pitch had been increasing a little bit and still insisting that whoever this handsome young male students was, should be calling Alice. By the fourth day everybody was talking about Alice, and in one of our lunch breaks we found a little box of chocolates with a note again, please call me I can’t stop thinking about you, I can’t live my life without you, and so on and so forth. Everybody was thinking, well, you know, pointing fingers and accusing different people who Alice might be. I can show you that within four days, everybody was talking about who Alice, everybody was talking to their families, about their friends on Facebook, anywhere you can think of. On the fifth day when the students who were there to present the business idea it turned out that one of the groups had them wanted to set up a buzz marketing company and this was their way of telling us, hey! this is what we can do in five days like getting everybody talking about our company without a budget, they spend, like for the maximum of three, four euros on a couple of printouts and some sweets and they have it. So as I said earlier, the keys a) to get people to talk about you, which they did very successfully and the b) use a very simple but creative idea on how to do that.
Monique: So teaching that kind of creativity, you’ve sort of gone through the four pillars. But can you give us an example of an exercise that one might have to go through to be on the good not to be on the calls, but one of the elements of the course. How would you how do you teach creativity?
Dr. Leone: As I said earlier, there are various tools one very popular and very simple tools to help people create come up with new ideas is the random word by Edward de Bono. And this works on the principle that our brains are self patterning systems in the sense that we are predisposed to always think in terms of patterns. So this is actually adaptive in our everyday life. Because if, for example, every time we wake up in the morning we have to go through all the different combinations of trousers and shirts and socks and everything else, we would never ever get to work. Therefore, being able to take these shortcuts enables us to live our life in a functional manner. But those very patterns, those very routines are blocks to our creativity. So
having a random input having random stimulus, which in many cases is simply you’d have a list of words a list of nouns and you will pick one at random and use that to trigger an idea in response to a particular situation. And that would help individuals break out of their patterns and come up with creative ideas and response.
Another very simple tool is called SCAMPER. And this takes rather different approach. This takes an existing product or an existing service or indeed an existing campaign. If the aim is to come up with a new ideas for a new campaign, and incidentally, the random word is very very effective to come up with marketing campaigns as well. And in SCAMPER, you can look at an existing concepts and use the acronym SCAMPER, which refers to substitute, combine, adapt, modify, put to another use, eliminate or reverse. And using those seven categories of change, you always look at components or elements of that particular concept, product or service or campaign and be able to tweak it in a way that is then going to be more creative, more innovative and enabling that product or campaign to stand out because essentially that is what you’re aiming to do. You’re trying to get to product or service to stand out and in a world where we are bombarded with huge amount of information, messages all the time, most of us tend to tune out, we stop listening, don’t we? And we only tune back in; we only start to listen again when something has attracted our attention because it surprises us perhaps because it shocks us, right? So it’s very important to be able to identify how to do that.
Monique: It’s quite fascinating that you can teach, I’m still overwhelmed with the thoughts that you can actually teach creativity because you do look at people and think, how do they think of that even because especially the most successful ideas are always the most simple indeed, you kick yourself when you see somebody else doing something that you see is absolutely unique.
Dr. Leone: Of course, when something does stand out, it then lends itself to things like viral marketing for example, and even if it wasn’t necessarily originally designed to go viral and the online sense of the words, it will still lend itself to this contagious effect. So viral marketing attempt comes from, the notion of a virus, like having the flu. Like if somebody goes into a room and sneezes and likelihood is that most people will walk away with the cold and in viral marketing the aim is to create a message, to create some sort of message that stands out to the extent that it attracts people’s attention, triggers some sort of emotion and then so the emotional aspect is also very important and it really it forces them or makes them want to share this with other people and nowadays with the internet, with social media, this is so easy because all you need to is, well I know it’s not straightforward but well you have to come up with a killer idea or a killer message but then everybody else will do the work for you.
Monique: Because they start to spread, your mom, your dad, your sister.
Dr. Leone: Exactly. In the past the companies had to go through very expensive channels, TV and so on. Whereas nowadays, although there are possibilities also and there is potential also in the traditional media but it might not be as affordable to sort of some smaller companies as they might help therefore the online channels are very important and should not be overlooked. I
know this might sound a little bit obvious, but there are still many companies who overlook online media or for example, they create a Facebook page but then don’t keep it up to date.
Monique: Or respond to messages, that drives me insane.
Dr. Leone: That’s even worse. So it’s better than not to have an online presence because if you do have an online presence it’s very important to make sure that you are online and there and on top of things all the time.
Monique: Is there a checklist that people can work towards for creating a buzz? Ss it part of it? Is this getting to be an entrepreneur in the first place?
Dr. Leone: Yes, of course, being an entrepreneur in the first place and having a good product or service in the first place because if it’s not so good, then the buzz that will be created will be negative. And as important as I said, word of mouth is and all this viral marketing and buzz marketing, if the product or service or the customer service is not good, then the repercussions are going to be, of course, very negative on the entrepreneurs.
Another idea that entrepreneurs could possibly consider is to involve their customers in their business; also in creating content that they can use there for the marketing; for the buzz marketing campaigns. This is called crowd-sourcing and this is becoming much more popular. Numbers of companies are using this to their advantage. So there what you would do is you would issue a call or some sort of a competition for customers or members of the public to send you photographs or video clips or even simple ideas that can be used by your company. And of course those especially the ones that are selected will feel as though they are part of the business, it will create a positive emotion. There was a recent very successful company here locally where members of the public were invited to send in their photographs and their photographs were then used on billboards and magazines and so on. And of course that saves you the trouble of having to create your own content though you might need to edit and so on but it also creates this very positive community feeling amongst your users or customers
Monique: And not only the customer have had their photograph made into a billboard with then all of their friends know etc etc. So there comes a viral effect together but I just realized I’m a victim of the Marmite Facebook page. I’m always going on and posting recipes and things. [Laughs]
But yes, sometimes actually you don’t realize you are victim to it actually yeah, crowd sourcing you said?
Dr. Leone: Yes that’s crowdsourcing.
Monique: So okay. and Instagram?
Dr. Leone: Well yes, of course Instagram, especially with the younger generations nowadays, I think it’s really exploded and I find that every year more and more students when I get them these sort of assignments and know come up with a good marketing campaign for your innovative entrepreneurial idea, more and more students are coming up with Instagram ideas or you know getting people to take selfies. [Laughs]
I have my own views about selfies, but I won’t go into that at the moment. But you know, for the younger generation especially, they like taking selfies or taking pictures of their food or taking pictures of interesting places that they have visited or doing fun stuff with the product or service.
Monique: They have visual content again, more content created for you. And it is that where like I see a lot of magazines online and their readers try to get in with them there’s no real reward like I said, apart from just being part of the gang there’s no real reward.
Dr. Leone: It’s just fun isn’t it? And this reminds me of an initiative called the fun theory. This simply states that you can change people’s behavior simply by making it more enjoyable and this started off as a safety campaign and so trying to get people to engage in behaviors that are far more secure more safe by making it more fun so for example this was initiated by Volkswagen; the car makers for example getting people to abide by speed limits so usually use if you speed pass the speed camera, you get a ticket but if you don’t you go unnoticed; so part of this idea related to the fun theory was that right if you speed you of course get your ticket but if you don’t, your photograph is still taken and you are entered into a lottery and if you win you get some of the speeding tickets fines as a reward.
Monique: That’s fantastic. Dr. Leone: I know. [Laughs]
And there are other initiatives like how to get people to use the stairs instead of the elevator. Monique: Tell me that one. [Laughs]
Dr. Leone: So they had the piano stairs, it was in a subway, they literally put play piano notes on the stairs. And they found that because it was so much fun, you know, stepping on the steps and making a to tune, many more people started using the stairs as opposed to the escalator. So, you know, for all the entrepreneurs out there, how can you use the fun theory to engage your customers, engage people, even if they’re not yet your customers to attract them to your product or your service or your business and making it fun and then you know, going on after you’ve engaged them on retaining them.
Monique: Okay, that sounds like really, really good fun as you can get to look at more of these things. So with fun and everything else considered when should you actually start to market your product or service, when should you start this campaign?
Dr. Leone: As soon as possible, as soon as you have the idea. Monique: Really?
Dr. Leone: Yeah, it is very important to get your idea out there as soon as possible, because all the feedback that you can get is going to be very very helpful for you to continue to develop and improve your idea. So the initial idea that you come up with might sound like a fantastic idea to you as an entrepreneur. In fact, when you speak to many entrepreneurs, they speak about their ideas, their businesses, as they’re speaking about their babies, their kids, they get very very emotionally involved. However, very often there is a divide between their perception of what the market wants and what the market actually wants. Therefore, a very important exercise to carry out is to do a feasibility study. And a very useful tool that I find and that I use with my students is called the Business Model Canvas, and it helps you consider the different elements of different factors that should be considered before a person actually launches a business.
Part of this looks at actually testing and developing the concept. So you start off by looking at the value proposition, what are you offering that is different from and better than what is already available on the market. Right? And then taking that concept and actually speaking to people, speaking to potential customers, receiving their feedback and adapting and modifying the concept in response to what they need. And that is essentially your first stage in marketing.
Monique: Yes, your research and development essentially.
Dr. Leone: Exactly. However, I believe it is extremely important always to be authentic and always to be transparent and honest, therefore, don’t lie about what you are currently offering. If you don’t have a product yet, it’s good to create a buzz you know, some companies go so far as to create a waiting list, to create that illusion perhaps of exclusivity or urgency around the product. However, it’s very important I believe, this is my personal opinion that an entrepreneur should always be honest, should always be authentic because people need to trust you. People need to trust you because that is the only way they will then trust your business and your product and service. Not anything else. It’s the only way you can create a loyal customer base of people who are going to create this positive buzz and this positive word of mouth. Therefore, although it might be tempting to embellish, try to be as authentic as possible.
Monique: So could you just tell us again, how budding entrepreneurs can benefit from your courses? How can they apply? Is it an annual courses it?
Dr. Leone: Yes, applications are open in October each year. And the Masters in creativity and innovation is open books on a full time and part time basis. The full time option is spread over three semesters, excluding the summer semester. So it takes until today year and a half, whereas the part time option is still a daytime course. So the lectures are still held at the same time, but it’s spread over three years. So having said that, the first two thirds of the course is a taught component so they will need to attend lectures for as the third part of the course would be a dissertation. The diploma on the other hand will be a part time evening course. And applications will also be open in October. And if they are interested in further information, they are more than welcome to like us on Facebook, since we are talking about Facebook and online campaign.
Monique: And they’ll be able to keep themselves updated.
Dr. Leone: Exactly and you also have our website, we are part of the University website and we
are at um.edu/create.
Monique: Excellent, so thanks to this week’s guest. That’s Dr. Leone Baldacchino from the Edward de Bono Institute here at the University of Malta. We’ve been discussing how to create a buzz around your offering. Next week I’ll be talking to Stephen Dullaghan about apps; what you need to do to create one.