Ideas From Smart Friends

An online discussion led by Indian business school students revisits a Fast Company feature from last year -- and yields some new ideas and insights.

In early August, students at the Institute of Management Development & Research and the Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management in Pune, India, organized a group discussion of several past Fast Company features, notably "Buzz Without Bucks" (August 2003), which attracted about 100 comments in one day on our online Sound Off! feature. The students' ideas show that even older content, when revisited, can still generate insightful debate. Some highlights:

Design for Flexibility

"Regional noodle manufacturers in India such as Elephant Brand have done reasonably well without advertising," Gayathri Raghavan writes. "The secret of their success: They have designed their noodles so they can be used to make a variety of Indian dishes, unlike Maggi [the leading brand], which just serves as a snack."

Friends Recommend

"When was the last time you told your friend about a good movie? You were providing the best mode of advertising," Sonal Sali says. "Your friend possibly dismissed all the Bollywood hype, but would definitely respect your judgment. Effective buzz aligns advertising campaigns with local market influencers, trendsetters, and tastemakers."

When Word of Mouth Fails

"To generate awareness quickly, other forms of advertising are also necessary," Gunjan Rana comments. "This is particularly true for high-priced products where creating a trustworthy brand is essential. Mercedes-Benz can afford to market a new model just by word of mouth because it's already established. But a new company will need other forms of marketing to generate awareness."

Beware the Backlash

"Companies that are totally dependent on buzz need to be careful to understand consumers' needs," Amit Ghidia says, "because if they don't, negative buzz can spread in no time."

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