Posts tagged ‘viral marketing’

Cheeseburgers in Cyberspace

By , 9 January, 2009, No Comment

If there’s one analysis of viral marketing that has really stuck with me, it’s a post my former colleague Burt Helm wrote at Brand New Day in July 2007. He traced the multiple impressions–roadside stands, banner ads, marketing-only websites, special promos, YouTube! videos, a radio soundtrack–it took to persuade him to buy a Wendy’s Baconator! In part, it sticks with me because Burt was my cubicle neighbor, so I got a nice whiff of Wendy’s fast food grease the day he ordered from them.

I thought of that post, and that smell, again today when I read about a new project, this time on behalf of Burger King’s Whopper. We’ll get to the campaign in a second, but first a quick comparison of the advertising interface itself. There’s a mini website, and a promotional deal, but so far no big adverts or street displays. The website is far more understated than the complex design-your-own-burger page set up by Wendy’s last year, and there are few platform’s targeted.

Now Wendy’s and BK are competing for a similar audience of 18-25 year olds, but that audience has dramatically shifted in its attitudes to social media in the time between the campaigns. Where Burt, or I, or our peers were all gung-ho about social media in 2007–more impressions, more platforms was always better–the tide has now turned, with young people annoyed by the frenzy and lack of control that has infiltrated networks like Facebook as they’ve opened up to adult users and corporate sponsors. The personal, intimate connection with real world peers that drew most of us to these networks is fading. Facebook’s not so useful when you have all kinds of ‘friends’ you would never really want to call or see in person cluttering your news feed with their minute-by-minute updates.

THAT’s the key insight, in fact, behind the BK campaign, called the Whopper sacrifice. Realizing that young people are now losing interest in Facebook, BK is offering a Whopper to anyone who will delete 10 friends. In a clever little twist, they’re using a Facebook app to do it.

Put the two campaigns together and you realize what they share is the symbiosis between fast food retailers and adolescent cultures. That’s nothing new: Al’s diner on Happy Days, anyone? Indeed, new technologies aside, there’s a lot in the digital environment that echoes the analog age.

You Can’t Beat the System

By , 1 September, 2008, No Comment

My dad collects coffee mugs. Everywhere we go on a vacation, while the rest of us hunt eagerly for T-shirts and keychains, he shops the international Crate and Barrels for dishes. From London, we have a mug with the Underground map and the tagline “You Can’t Beat the System.” I like to drink from it while I read the financial section of the New York Times…

Thought about the “system” today when I read this story about a McCain aide who thought to juice up Sarah Palin’s Wiki entry before she was unveiled as a Veep choice on Friday. The article takes up the question of whether tampering with Wikipedia is immoral or just smart politics.

That reminds me of the controversy that errupted last year, when viral marketer Dan Greenberg unveiled some of the tactics he uses, or recommends others use, to sell brands online in a tell-all post on TechCrunch. Some of the conversation was about the ethics of individual tactics (paying bloggers to write favorable posts, for example), but much of the dialogue was about the ethics of using the Web to sell things at all.

There’s a lot of hippie culture among techheads, so much so that some of them talk as if making money from online activities is itself sacriligious. As someone who sees free culture as akin to free markets (not free lunch), I’m inclined to respond, “You can’t beat the system.” And you can’t blame Ackerman or the McCain campaign for working it.

McDonald’s might just get it

By , 20 July, 2008, No Comment


So a few weeks ago, McDonald’s joined the legions of companies who’ve used user-generated content to create advertising campaigns. Sometimes, it’s a disaster because users submit videos making fun of your product and the company gets bad press for censoring those clips out. Sometimes, it’s a flop, because all the ads toe the company line but, for lack of a more technical term, suck: they aren’t funny, they’re badly produced etc. What’s a brand to do?

Along with a colleague, I wrote an article offering some advice on this subject last summer, but none of the user-generation attempts I’ve seen since have taken that advice to heart. The McDonalds contest, however, might reflect a change.

See, company judges just announced five finalists and oddly, one of them is a man who tried to job a Mickey D’s in his teenage years. According to TechCrunch, this is a sign that the idiots at McDonald’s don’t know to run a Google background check. But in fact, I think it’s a sign that McDonald’s understands Web 2.0 branding. People are saying things about you–good and bad–all over the Web anyway; so why not bring your “enemies” inside, where you can counter the attacks. Moreover, the ad in question isn’t critical of McDonald’s so it’s the company’s way of saying that even if you hated us at 14, you might come ’round. I gotta admit, I think it’s pretty coy.

Nice Try, Google

By , 1 July, 2008, 2 Comments

Google thinks they’ve struck gold with a new scheme to monetize online video. They’ve hired Family Guy’s Seth McFarlane to produce some short (1-2 minute) webisodes of a new series to run on their AdSense network. Advertisers can run their schtick in the intro to each episode.

Tapping the Family Guy viewers is a good call, and going for short videos, rather than TV-show length episodes, makes sense for the web audience, used to two paragraph blog posts and 140 word tweets. But as an ad project, this will fail. Within weeks, I predict, viewers will be downloading the webisodes, stripping out the ad portion and uploading them to YouTube!, just like they do with ordinary TV shows today. In fact, the best web-video ad-ventures involve putting adverts onto YouTube! as content, a la Dove Evolution.

Not sure if every brand can opt for that approach, but I’ve yet to see another feasible pathway.

Up Close and Political

By , 27 May, 2008, 3 Comments

So Gordon Brown’s Labour got a pretty severe walloping in elections earlier this month. Pundits are predicting a similar defeat for Brown himself in the next general election vs. David Cameron and the Conservatives.

Cameron has been making waves for some time for bringing youthfulness to Mrs. Thatcher’s Tories, complete with a hot pink website. How could Gordon Brown, curmudgeonly and old-school compete?

This week, Brown launched his counterattack: a Web 2.0 version of Prime Minister’s question time. “Ask the PM” is a new feature on YouTube!’s 10 Downing St. channel, where Britons can submit 30 second questions and vote on the questions of their peers. Brown will periodically sign on to give video responses to the most popular spots.

The Guardian, whose editorial line is pro-Brown to begin with, gave the project a rave review. Brown certainly gets points for taking Labour in the right direction, and he’s already got tons of videos from (mostly) young voters.

But can “Ask the PM” become a voter mobilization device? Or, like so many politician-goes-techie ventures before it, is it just a gimmick?