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July 13, 2004

BzzAgent BuzzKill???

Last week I was invited to participate in my first BzzAgent campaign. The campaign is for a new Visa card issued by the First National Bank of Omaha.

If you’ve been following Brand Autopsy, you’ve read my criticism of BzzAgent’s seemingly artificial process of seeding word-of-mouth and my intrigue in how the BzzAgent process can potentially help to turn less loyal consumers into more vocal evangelists.

So with great interest, I opened up my email invitation to participate in a BzzAgent campaign.


As I perused my email, a few words popped … One of a Card Visa … next generation of credit cards … fully customizable picture card technology … ability to change the image on the credit card up to four times per year … “Now, that’s a Bzzable credit card!”

After perusing, I paused and rephrased what I just read. Hmm … it’s an affinity credit card that I can personalize up to four times a year by putting a photo on the card. Okay … s-u-p-e-r.

Is this One of a Card credit card compelling enough to evangelize? There are other photo personalizable affinity credit cards on the market. And, why would I want/need to monkey around with changing the photo on my credit card up to four times in one year? The 7.9% APR for the credit card is good, but not good enough to be buzz-worthy.

I am not alone in my skepticism for the buzz-worthiness of this BzzAgent One of Card campaign. Since initiating the campaign, BzzAgent has received inquiries from their field of BzzAgents questioning the motives and the genuineness of the campaign.

On the BzzAgent blog, Dave Balter, the founder of BzzAgent, replied by explaining the thought process behind deciding if the One of Card was (a) buzz-worthy and (b) consistent with the values of the BzzAgent business.

His reply is fascinating and well worth reading. One has to respect Dave’s transparent look into the BzzAgent business. The comments from the BzzAgents in the field are also fascinating. The most poignant comment so far is:

“… stop using the BzzAgents to make money; use them to create the bzz from which money is made”

Wow! Poignant is an understatement ... that comment was downright lethal.

Further Learning:
For a primer on BzzAgent, read the Fast Company article from April 2004


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» Kudos to BzzAgent on Transparency from Crossroads Dispatches
I've already noted my kudos on BzzAgent's corporate blog transparency. And they seem to be continuing the trend (via Brand Autopsy): I am not alone in my skepticism for the buzz-worthiness of this BzzAgent One of Card [a new client's] [Read More]

» Brand Autopsy: BuzzKill to Bravo from | Bzz on the Street |
A great debate took place over at Brand Autopsy surrounding our One of a Card campaign, which we recently relaunched with the feedback of our Agents, friends and creative critics. Though initially critical of the way the campaign was first [Read More]

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Central Hive? Is there a peripheral hive?

Or perhaps it is one of a group of "hives" as in "uticaria: an allergic disorder marked by raised edematous patches of skin or mucous membrane and usually intense itching and caused by contact with a specific precipitating factor (as a food, drug, or inhalant) either externally or internally." (

Buzzagent could be another precipitating factor.

BzzAgent must have been so anxious for the payday on this one that they forgot to simply ask a sampling of their agents to see how they would react to this assignment. They probably would have discovered many of these objections if they had tried to understand their agents a bit better.

Seems companies think they can make all of the analysis around their own conference table when what they need to do is ASK their employees, agents or customers more questions.

BzzzAgent is one of those ideas that just wants SO DESPERATELY to work...

It's got the worst excesses of Dotcom stink all over it. But somehow seems incapable of smelling it for itself.

Peter … great insight. New revenue stream aside, BzzAgent should look at setting up a BzzAgent Advisory Board of field Agents to help them analyze the buzz-worthiness of potential client’s offerings. Who knows, BzzAgent may already do this.

Just as BzzAgents in the field can be quick to evangelize products/services, they can be just as quick to de-evangelize them as well.

I was also excited when I saw my first invitation to participate in a BzzAgent campaign. I've been wanting to see from the inside how this thing works and "feels". So imagine my disappointment when I found out my first opportunity was for a credit card. You see, I'm weird...I don't do debt anymore (except perhaps a mortgage). And I certainly refuse to saddle my family with debt so I can Bzz a Visa credit card! There is really NOTHING BzzWorthy about this deal.

I don't know. While BzzAgent should always listen to and consider the input of its agents, I think this is being blown out of proportion.

When I got the invitation, I decided not to sign up for the campaign because I didn't want to sign up for the credit card.

That's the decision point: As an agent, do you join the campaign and sign up for a credit card?

If you do, you do. Your decision. Your choice. If you don't, you don't. If BzzAgent doesn't get enough people for a campaign, they go back and say, hey, retool the deal so signing up isn't necessary.

Seems sensible enough. When I got the invitation, I didn't feel marketed to, betrayed, or anything. I weighed the product, service, and campaign on its merits and decided not to participate.

Regardless, the idea of photo credit cards -- full bleed, full card -- is indeed buzz worthy. And if a credit card I already have offered to change to that, I would in a minute.

Hear that, Working Assets?

Heath, I understand your point … BzzAgents can simply elect not to participate in campaigns if they don’t feel jazzed about it.

However, success at BzzAgent is predicated on the passionate participation of its field BzzAgents. And if you lose the trust of your field agents by presenting them with campaigns they believe are not genuine or buzz-worthy, then that skepticism can erode the BzzAgent business.

I’m not sure if this issue is being blown out of proportion because without active, engaged, and trusting field BzzAgents, BzzAgent has no business.

Notice that Dave Balter's reply that you link to has been removed from the Bee-log!

In this instance, Visa (or its agency) sees buzz not as an authentic, grassroots system of connectors and evangelists who spread the word, but as a channel you buy.

The future of word of mouth marketing is in danger of being marginalized into just another media tactic or affinity program.

OK, clearly none of you get this concept and you probably make awful bzz agents.

This is an amazingly fun idea to bzz. I've had my card for a week and I've had the most fabulous conversations with people. They are amazed and excited about being able to put a picutre on their card.

So bzz asked you to get a card to truly experience the product and be a better advocate. As Darrin says, you don't want to do it, don't sign up for the campaign. Isn't that the way it works with every campaign?

Get over yourself and have some fun with this. It really is awesome!

Happy ... thanks for adding your voice to the conversation.

To clarify, I Buzz but I don't Bzz.

To Bzz means to experience and evangelize a product/service after receiving a BzzKit and to accumulate BzzPoints.

To Buzz means to experience and evangelize a product/service naturally and organically where the quid pro quo for buzzing (not bzzing) about a noteworthy product/service is emotional compensation (pride) and not material compensation (BzzPoints).

Folks -

Thanks so much for the energetic debate about the One of a Card BzzCampaign and BzzAgent. While we don't agree with all of the hypotheses, we appreciate the perceptions and - in the end - this type of feedback helps us learn how to build a stronger company.

What many people seem to have missed is that credit cards themselves aren't bad – it's how people choose to use them that is often an issue. Regardless of that, I think the main point is that we structured the campaign inappropriately, and it appeared as though we'd changed our model and lost our respect for honest word-of-mouth all in one shot.

I'm proud to announce that your opinions, and the voices of thousands of the BzzAgents, haven't fallen on deaf ears. We've worked with our client and have relaunched this campaign so that individuals may sign up without having to have the card. Why, because we know this is an inherently Bzzable product and one that is worth getting to know. The Official One of a Card Relaunch Announcement tells you more of the story.

Thanks for starting this post, John, and thank you again for all of your comments. It really helps!

Dave Balter
Founder, President
BzzAgent, Inc.

Putting your own picture on a credit card is a nice feature but I'm more amazed that when I apply, I get to choose what rate or reward program suits me rather that the credit card company assuming they know what's best for me. It seems to me that this prodct, One of a Card, is all about giving me choices. Personally, I've never seen that from a credit card issuer before. Options are something I like. One other thing, no other card offers a personal, full face, customizable picture. I bet other issuers will follow suit.

Just perusing the whole Buzz site and came across this. Wow.

When the One-of-a-card campaign first appeared on my home page I inadvertantly did something and lost it, never to return. I was intrigued by the thought of choosing my own favorite picture to go on a credit card. Naturally I was furious at myself for losing it. Next thing I know, I hear that the campaign is pulled because some agents resented having to get the card. Duh... I guess it was supposed to be like TLC's "What Not To Wear "and we were to get a preloaded card. lol

Anyway, I've since found the card and can't believe how anyone can find fault in it. Choices in programs as well as the picture. Its a dream come true.

Now all I need to do is pick my favorite picture. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the biggest problem with One-of-a-card.

"Now all I need to do is pick my favorite picture. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the biggest problem with One-of-a-card."

Congratulations! You're a great "Bzz" agent. I hope you get a lot of points

People I can't trust in this thread:

Happy Bzz ( "It's really awesome!"
ali106797 ( "It seems to me that this prodct, One of a Card, is all about giving me choices. Personally, I've never seen that from a credit card issuer before."
Bulldogge ( "Anyway, I've since found the card and can't believe how anyone can find fault in it. Choices in programs as well as the picture. Its a dream come true. Now all I need to do is pick my favorite picture. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the biggest problem with One-of-a-card."

Hello! Check...check...Is this thing on? Real people who are passionate about things that matter for them *do not talk like this*. Everyone talking about the same features? C'mon folks. Have at least an iota of self respect...

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