Marketing moves I wish I'd made
Before I leave for BlogHer on Wednesday, I'll get back to blogger relations and share my thoughts on the recipe for a perfect pitch. In the meantime, though, I wanted to tell you about two marketing efforts that really impressed me this week.
First, Saab's sponsorship of USA Network show Burn Notice. The second season premiered Thursday night and featured just about the sweetest product placement I have ever seen in a network television show. A good friend is in charge of product placement and sponsorships for a computer manufacturer, so I notice these more now than I used to, but this one was particularly good.
Products are mentioned by name in entertainment products -- TV, radio, movies, Internet -- either because the producers and writers feel strongly that the brand is important to the story regardless of promotional consideration or because the company has negotiated a sponsorship and product placement with the entertainment vehicle.When it is a sponsorship situation, the brand name mention can often feel stilted and artificial. This wasn't.
Burn Notice has done a pretty good job overall integrating its vehicle sponsors into the storyline, but the mention of Saab was as sweet as a marketer could wish for. A full sentence describing the Saab convertible that was totally in context and character. Truly, you cannot do better than that.
Next, Stride Gum's sponsorship of "Where the Hell is Matt?" You just have to watch, but the short story is Matt Harding danced his way around the world, and Stride Gum paid the way. Why is this so cool? Because the videos just make you feel good, and we could all use a bit more of that. And that's why these videos have gone so very very viral. Well done to Stride for finding Matt and offering to subsidize not just one but two of these remarkable world journeys.
Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.
It's a model to which consumer companies should pay serious attention. Stride found someone doing something interesting online, decided to sponsor it, but made no demands on the creator. They got it -- association with something so infectious would be beneficial to their brand.
I'll look for the brand next time I pick up a packof gum.
Thirteen to One
In honor of last night's stupendous Red Sox performance in game one of the World Series, here are 13 things that I've been meaning to write about. Mostly social media and marketing related and in no particular order.
1. A new social network The Point attempts to harness the power of collective action to bring causes to the tipping point. People and organizations post their causes on the site as an if/then. The basic idea is that if enough people do whatever the action is – if the cause tips, then some other thing would happen. Once it emerges from alpha, it could be an interesting vehicle for a company that is supporting a charitable cause. If enough individuals/customers do something (volunteer, quit smoking, whatever) then the company would do something as well -- donate money, sponsor an event, and so on. From Jeremy Pepper, who works for the company, via Twitter.
2. Last week Doug Haslam from Topaz Partners emailed me about a social media survey done by his client, community builder Prospero Technologies. What was most interesting about it, though, wasn't the survey. The sample size of 50 from a population of the company's customers is neither large nor random, and the results were pretty much what I'd expect given that population: generally positive about social media with no clear idea of what is working and what isn't. I do however give the company credit for actually asking its customers, rather than assuming. What was most interesting was that Doug was pitching other marketing and communications bloggers; both Shel Holtz and BL Ochman wrote about the survey. If you wanted more tangible proof that the media landscape is shifting, this is it. We aren't just the media relations folks. With a nod to Dan Gillmor, we are the media. Ain't that a kick. Doug also blogged about this phenomenon.
3. "You could be a Durex Condom Tester and Win $1000" Durex is
pimping for recruiting condom testers on-line. Must be that new form of word-of-mouth: virile marketing (seen on Media Buyer Planner).
4. Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules by Mike Moran. Not much news here for anyone already deep into social media marketing and communications, but a good read anyway. I'd recommend this as an intro text for experienced marketers who want to come up to speed quickly and get some practical advice on what they should do next. Plus Moran is funny and he says lots of things I agree with :-) (via pitch from Peter Himler)
5. Society for New Communications Research is holding its annual Research Symposium & Gala in Boston December 5-6.
9. I've been playing around a bit with Photrade, a new photo sharing site. It's now in closed beta but I have three invites. Email or twitter me if you want one.
10. Courtesy of Scott Baradell, a great example of why we should NOT write blog posts simply for search engine optimization.
12. Thank you to all the PR and marcom students who have been reading the blog and leaving comments. I love to hear from you, even if I disagree with you.
13. Are the comment spammers getting a little more clever? Check out this one on an old Marketing Roadmaps post, comment left up purely to use as an example. Someone less suspicious might not catch it as spam, as the comment is pretty innocuous. BUT: I almost always follow commenters back to their sites. It's a great way to discover new bloggers and get to know my readers better. AND: I am always a little suspicious when I get comments on really old posts.
Big Pharma goes Viral..and it's not too painful
Bayer has just launched a viral marketing campaign for its Aleve pain reliever. From the NY Times, July 12:
"By visiting a Web site, www.aleviator.com, Internet users will be able to follow a fictional storyline that leads them through a series of clues, taking them in and out of social networking sites, wikis and blogs.
For each person who clicks through to the end of the game, which takes at least a minute, Bayer will make a donation of $5 to $10 to the Conservation Fund, an environmental nonprofit group. The campaign will last a month.
The gimmick is intended to get people in the 25-to-49 age group to notice Aleve, a pain medicine that was introduced 13 years ago and is used mostly by people over 50 to relieve symptoms typically associated with aging, like arthritis and back pain."
So, given that I am both a marketer very interested in these sorts of campaigns and an Internet user in the target age range, I thought I'd check it out.
Prediction: the campaign will spread and people will click through to the end because Internet users will be motivated by the charity donation. Even though Bayer doesn't advertise the donation upfront on the aleviator site, let's face it, everyone who spreads the word will be prefacing it with the information. And knowing that outcome is going to be what keeps people looking for the links to move forward.
At least that was what kept me moving forward. The story itself was kinda hokey; it was trying so hard to be hip and funny, and ended up not so much of either. While it clearly wanted more engagement that I was willing to give it, it didn't give me a good reason to bother reading or viewing more material. I just looked around for the obvious next link in the chain and clicked.
It wasn't that it was bad. It just wasn't that interesting. For me, the payoff is the donation. As it will be for many.
That said, I wouldn't call this a failure. It will be interesting to see the sales results for Aleve in the target population after the campaign. Even if people (like me) click through as fast as they can, it doesn't mean they won't think more positively about Aleve and perhaps consider purchasing it.
Because that is the measure of success. Not how many people view the campaign. Not how much is donated to the charity, although it is an excellent by-product. How many people actually buy the product.
MISS] No accounting for taste. In the midst of today's viral-marketing epidemic, it's worth noting that funny videos don't always circle back around to the bottom line. That's a lesson Miller Brewing learned the hard way with the "beer cannon" campaign it produced for its Milwaukee's Best brand. Though the videos--featuring cans turned into projectiles and blowing away unmanly items like stacked teacups and ceramic kitty cats--have been viewed more than 4 million times on YouTube, they haven't had much impact at retail. In fact, despite the direct hit with its target audience, Milwaukee's Best sales fell 11 percent from the previous year.
Let's hope Aleve can avoid that headache....
Disclosure: I already occasionally use Aleve when I have a particularly nasty headache.
Viral Marketing: The Great Turtle RaceTip of the hat to Sandy for sending me The Great Turtle Race. This campaign, which supports efforts to protect the endangered leatherback turtle, chronicles the turtles' annual migration from Costa Rica to the Galapagos Islands.
Remember the five Cs of viral marketing? The Great Turtle Race hits on all five. It has the cornerstone pieces of a compelling message, the cause to save the turtles, and an engaged community. And then they successfully weave together the three elements that make viral marketing buzz: contest, comedy and charity.
Contest: the migration is cast as a race, and you can follow your chosen turtle. They'll even email you updates. Go Genevieve!
Comedy: Amusing profiles of the turtles, "live action" commentary and leaderboard with host Mr. Leatherback. The turtles even have MySpace pages.
Charity: There's plenty of information about the cause on the site, at all levels, kids to adult, and an easy way to donate. Why wouldn't you?
All in all, a great viral marketing effort. Kudos to all involved.
New Comm Forum: the 5 Cs of Viral Marketing
The 5Cs of Viral Marketing
I moderated a panel on viral marketing at New Comm Forum: called Viral Marketing: It's the Message Not the Media. We started with a basic definition of viral marketing, and then used case studies to illustrate what works and what doesn't. A big thank you to Andy Abramson, Gary Goldhammer and Chris Heuer for joining me on the panel.
I've uploaded a PDF of the presentation but here's the Reader's Digest Condensed Version:
- In order for an endeavor to be viral marketing, it has to be both viral (spread exponentially and usually with some urgency) and marketing (have a clear and understood business objective).
- You don't have to use video, provided you've got a good story and you are reaching out to the right people, but video certainly magnifies the effects of a message.
- The key is to tell a compelling story to the right community.
- The best campaigns include one or more of the following Cs: comedy, charity, contest.
- Examples and case studies included Weird Al, Will it Blend, Google, Campbell's Chunky Click for Cans, Xbox Colony and AXE.
BONUS LINKS: Not in the presentation, because I got the email minutes before the panel started, SciFi Channel just launched a viral campaign for Battlestar Galactica. Fans can use a whole library of sound and video clips to create their own short Battlestar videos and exec producer David Eick will showcase one during an upcoming episode.
In the Q&A at NewComm, we discussed how this campaign will probably do quite well while similar efforts from car manufacturers have backfired, with folks creating highly negative videos. The difference: SciFi is tapping into a tremendously loyal fan base that is already making their own video mashups. This contest just gives them another outlet for their creativity. Plus easier access to the materials they need to make the videos. And yes, my son Douglas and I have already started scripting our offering!
By popular demand, Will It Blend?
Boston "Bomb Scare" Resolution
"We understand now that in today's post-Sept. 11 environment, it was reasonable and appropriate for citizens and law enforcement officials to take any perceived threat posed by our light boards very seriously and to respond as they did." - Turner Broadcasting Statement
Katie Paine has a post this morning summing up the resolution of the whole Turner/Interference/Aqua Teen mess as "Boston 2 Aqua Teen 1 Turner 0" -- Boston gets $2million in the settlement from Turner and Interference, more people have heard of the show, and Turner will come out fine.She's less sure about Interference, the agency that came up with the idea, but she thinks even they might come out okay in the end.
I agree with her assessment, but am still bothered by the ethics of the whole thing. If the goal of the campaign was to expose more people to the TV show, it had not achieved the objective until the "explosion" last Wednesday. From what I have been able to tell, folks certainly saw the critters in Boston and the other cities, but it sounds like many were taken as souvenirs. Hard to spread the word about something if people are taking the adverts back to their dorm rooms. In fact, if the goal was to reach out to the natural audience for the show, those that already recognized the character, then the logical place to put the devices would have been colleges, universities and so forth.
Not I-93. Yet, the agency specified just those sort of places -- overpasses, bridges and the like. Why? Was it simply because those were visible spots, or did they perhaps have a clue of what MIGHT happen if a device was placed on a key and highly visible piece of transportation infrastructure? Or were they just stupid? We will never know for certain.
We also can't really be sure if the agency realized what was going on in the early afternoon on Wednesday and told the performance artists who placed the signs to keep quiet. Waiting about 3 hours before informing the authorities. The young men and their friends say yes. The agency denies. At this point it doesn't really matter.
What we do know is that the first device reported and detonated Wednesday morning was placed on Monday night, not three weeks ago. And we know that it took a public emergency in Boston for the word to start spreading.
Posts mentioning "aqua teen"
We know, or we should, that it was much better for the authorities to respond as they did, than it would have been to ignore a potentially dangerous situation. Hard as it is for me to read about the comics making fun of Boston, I'd much rather be hearing that than reading about the deaths caused from a bomb exploding in a subway or train station. It happens. Madrid 2004 and London 2005. Tom Menino may go over the top, but it doesn't make the marketing campaign itself any less irresponsible.
That's the ethical issue: what is the responsibility of a marketer to understand the potential effects of the campaign. Not just the goal we set, but the unintended consequences. Where do we draw the line between the responsibility of the marketer to understand and avoid negative effects, and the fact that the response to a marketing campaign is really out of our control. We tell a story and hope it gets the response or action we intended. But there are no guarantees, and the people have all the real control. We just think we do :-)
In the case of Aqua Teen, Turner and Interference should have known better. Even many folks who make fun of Boston for the level of response admit that.
If we want to be responsible marketers, we need to fully understand how our products and campaigns will affect the people exposed to them. If our campaigns will be seen by more than the intended or natural audience, we had better be sure that we are communicating clearly. It isn't sufficient to say, well they just don't get it, or that isn't really for them, or whatever the excuse, if there is a potential for harm.
I leave you with the irony. Although there's a lot of Aqua Teen buzz these days, the Globe reports:
"Though the Cartoon Network received considerable attention after the scare, there appears to have been no short-term payoff. Viewership for the first "Aqua Teen" episode to air after the incident was down 100,000 viewers, compared to the night before, then only rebounded to its average rating the following night, according to Nielsen Media Research, which monitors television viewership."
CODA (added Feb 11): Head of Cartoon Network resigns over Aqua Teen mess. (sources: Boston Globe print edition and John Cass)
Viral Marketing...not: Boston Bomb Scare
Placing electronic devices with magnetic lights under bridges and overpasses is probably not the brightest marketing move, wouldn't you say? Well, apparently the Turner Broadcasting Network (Time Warner) thought differently. They did just that as a national promotion for one of their Cartoon Network adult cartoons.
As a friend emailed me this afternoon, if they gave a Darwin Award for marketing, these guys would get it.
What WERE they thinking? Ooops. I guess they weren't.
At least nine different suspicious packages placed throughout Boston, including the first one that was detonated near I-93 this morning, caused the shutdown of the city's major roadways and subway lines. Emergency responders, bomb squad, police, you name it, were called to respond to this potential disaster. Only to learn that it was a network stunt....
Apparently, similar devices have been placed in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas, and they've been there for about three weeks. I'm not going to get into why they haven't been discovered before today, but I am at a loss to explain why the TV network thought this was a good idea.
We have to take our shoes off to go through airport metal detectors and can't bring water from home on the plane. And they thought it was a good idea to put suspicious looking boxes near bridges, waterways, overpasses and medical centers?
I would not be surprised if the State of Massachusetts sued to recover costs. Not to mention possible criminal charges. From Governor Deval Patrick's statement:
"I am deeply dismayed to learn that many of the devices are a part of a marketing campaign by Turner Broadcasting. This stunt has caused considerable disruption and anxiety in our community. I understand that Turner Broadcasting has purported to apologize for this. I intend nonetheless to consult with the attorney general and other advisors about what recourse we may have."
Folks, this isn't viral marketing. It is just sick.
UPDATE Feb 1, 10:15pm: Lots of commentary on this subject today. I thought about doing another post but decided to just tack it on here. Check out John Cass, KD Paine and Todd Defren for further local perspective.
From this article (thanks Katie), apparently Interference, the agency who planned the campaign, was aware of the situation by the early afternoon, yet Turner did not contact the authorities until 4:30pm. That's a big window of time and angst for the residents of Boston. Article also answers the question about why it took so long for someone to spot these "devices." Apparently the one that set the police response off -- underneath Interstate 93 in Sullivan Square in Charlestown -- wasn't placed until overnight Monday, which is only a day in place before being reported, not 2-3 weeks.
There is now an apology on the Interference Web site; no idea when it went up. Too little too late?
More to come on this very interesting viral marketing story.
Update February 2, 8:10pm - Article in this morning's Globe indicates that in 6 of the 9 other cities, the devices weren't in transportation "danger zones." And even with the list of where the things should be, the authorities can't find most of them, unless they look on eBay I suppose.
I also want to make a general comment to the folks who are making fun of the Boston reaction as over the top. It is very important to not confuse the issues. Just because Mayor Menino has a tendency to chew scenery and over-react, does NOT make the actions of the marketers behind this mess any less irresponsible. Or the response of the law enforcement officials wrong. They did what they are supposed to do. Just because one device was harmless does not make the next one harmless. Until you know where they are from, everything is suspicious. Harmless looking things can be dangerous. Terrorists have been putting bombs in dolls and balls longer than I can remember.
This evening, I will be the guest on Wayne Hurlbert's Blog Business Success Radio show. We'll be talking about viral marketing, and I thought I'd share a few thoughts here on the Roadmap as well.
First, tonight on the program, I plan to mention a couple posts I read this week that hit some important points:
- Mike Manuel took a valiant stab at defining all the word-of-mouth marketing terms flying around these days - viral, grassroots, evangelist, buzz etc. etc.
- Nellie Lide has some great viral marketing tips, and she reinforces a point made here often: you can't make something go viral. All you can do is create something that has the potential. It is the community that decides whether it will embrace it. .
Second, video as viral. Well, yes and no. While it is entirely true that good videos often go viral, just because you do a video does NOT mean that you've created a viral marketing campaign. First, your message has to be compelling and it helps if your video is good quality . And for it to be viral marketing, versus simply sharing, you have to have a business objective.
What makes something viral and marketing? It spreads, and spreads FAST. That's the viral part. It drives people to do something, buy something, watch something, believe something. That's the marketing part.
Finally, regular readers of this blog know that I think we find some of our best examples of effective viral and grassroots marketing in the the science fiction "segment" -- TV and movies in particular, but also comics and novels. Everything from web-only and web-delivered content released in advance of a film or season premiere (examples the R. Tam Sessions for Serenity and this year's Battlestar Galactica webisodes) to how carefully the producers "leak out" spoiler information to build buzz for an episode (check out this spoiler, a YouTube clip for tomorrow's Battlestar episode Unfinished Business) to the pre-screenings done for fans of Firefly and influential bloggers prior to the release of the movie Serenity. Not to mention the numerous fan gatherings and conventions attended by legions of loyal fans, still coming years and years after a show has been canceled. Star Trek, anyone? Even before there was a Next Generation or any movies, people flocked to conventions. In costume.
Why does it work so well in this genre and we don't see a similar effect in others, like romantic comedy or mystery?
Science fiction and fantasy typically create a new or changed world and usually have long story arcs, often told across multiple movies or novels (sometimes both) regardless of whether they are deliberately connected in an explicit series. Think about the novels of Isaac Asimov. He had a few explicit series in his oeuvre, most notably Foundation, but in the end, almost all his tales became interconnected.
To understand the world, to get the story, the fan must be willing to make a certain commitment. Commitment leads to loyalty, and the loyalty of many leads to a community. And once you have community, you have the potential for effective viral and grassroots marketing. Fans to unite in grassroots efforts to prevent their show from being canceled. Fertile ground for the virus to spread.
Oh yeah, and many of us sci fi/fantasy fans are pretty geeky, so we have all this electronic gear and gadgets which helps us spread the word faster.
So in the interest of doing my part to build buzz for Battlestar Galactica (you were right Mary, it is just about the best show on television), I'll end this post on a bit of a tangent by naming the characters I'd like to toss out the airlock and my speculation (NOT SPOILER) about who will be revealed next as a Cylon. If you're not a fan, this won't make sense. Perhaps it is time to start watching.
Out the airlock: Dee followed by Cally. The characters, mind you, not the actresses, who are terrific.
The next Cylon: Anders. Gotta be him, or Dee. The show's producers just love to torment Starbuck and Apollo, and what better way to do it.
So say we all.
Or at least me.
Blog Business Radio
Things have been a bit hectic lately, hence the radio silence, but I did want to let everyone know that I'll be the guest on Wayne Hurlbert's BlogTalk radio show, Blog Business Radio, tomorrow, Thursday November 30th at 8pm. Wayne and I will be talking about viral marketing.
What's so Viral about Marketing?
Just recently, I wrote a blogger outreach strategy for a client. My piece was part of a larger "viral marketing" effort. Which got me thinking.....
What's so Viral about Marketing anyway?
As my readers know, I hate buzzwords. We throw them around as though they mean something Important, mis-use them horribly and in the end they often mean nothing at all. State-of-the-art. Yeah right. Web 2.0. Uh uh. Even our beloved Cluetrain is woefully abused.
Viral Marketing. Hmmm. Seems everybody wants to do Viral Marketing these days. It's the new black. Or whatever.
But the more I think about this, the more I realize we are once again creating a monstrous buzzword and removing the meaning. Viral Marketing (note, with a cap M) is being equated with the tools we are using, not the messages we are sending. When in fact, it is the message that is viral, not the marketing tools themselves. A good (or bad) story about a good (or bad) product will spread no matter what. It's just faster, more efficient and sexier when we use social media than the old way. You know, just talking to people in the (real life) community :-)
MySpace. Second Life. YouTube. Blogs. They are communities, and if we want to market within them, we must learn and play by the rules. Just like in the real world. Or the members kick us out. As they should.
But you are not doing viral marketing simply by having a MySpace page, posting a video on YouTube, starting a blog or creating something in Second Life. It reminds me of the old Mickey Rooney/Andy Hardy movies, where the solution always seems to be "Let's put on a show." Nowadays, the "cool" solution is to do something "viral."
But guess what, campers? You still need to cover the basics. Is this a good story? Who would be most interested in this story? How and where do we reach them? What do they want to know? How can we help them? Are we willing to give up control of the message?
That's the deal breaker, isn't it? Control. If you put the story to the community, you cannot control what it does with it. You can try, but that is just as likely to halt the spread of the message as anything else. People don't want to be used as corporate mouthpieces. They want add their own value as they pass it on, to feel like spreading the word is helping other members of their community.
So, remember: viral marketing (note the lower case) is all about a compelling story told to the right community. Get that right, and then get out of the way.
Other recent posts on this/related topic(s) you might enjoy:
The Dynamics of Viral Marketing (Eric Kintz, HP)
PR Meetup in Second Life (Kami Huyse)
Second Life (Todd Defren)
Text 100 Misses the Second Life Boat (Jeneane Sessum)
Tags: viral marketing