Stop asking for something ‘viral’

SprintThere seems to be a misnomer out there, shared in client circles (and exacerbated by the media), that they can ask their agencies to create viral campaigns for them. Mediapost has just written an article about Sprint’s new viral campaign, on the day it launched. They must know something I don’t because to me, viral is a result, not a tactic. Calling something viral before it has launched is like picking the Superbowl winner in March (congratulations Redskins).

If you’d like to see Sprint’s new campaign, click here – it’s geared towards mobile users who are frustrated with their cell phone carrier. You can get Sprint to change you to their network, and then send your mobile carrier a goodbye song. Not exactly a new idea (and not likely to go viral).

So clients: let’s agree on this distinction. Viral is something you see a campaign do, not something you can request, like out-of-home or radio commercials. And if you’d like to see something go viral, you’re going to have to stick your neck out a little and do something edgy or really innovative. A milquetoast campaign like Sprint’s isn’t going to cut it.

And by the way, I get the irony of distributing the link to a supposed viral campaign I am critical of.

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Is the Skittles brand broken?

skittlesBy now you’ve probably heard all about the new Skittles.com web site, which makes use of social media sites such as Wikipedia, Youtube and Facebook. Good for them, and a great way to save on web development by allowing anyone in the 2.0 realm to contribute. But what is this telling people about the Skittles brand? “We’re the every person brand?” or “We’re the 2.0 brand?” I’m not quite sure.

If you check out their Facebook page, you’ll see that they have over 500,000 friends. And their Wikipedia page is impressively robust. So they’re not all wrong by going this route. But I have to be honest, looking at Skittles on Wikipedia doesn’t really make me crave them.

And isn’t that what the folks at Skittles should want?

The day I was more famous than Steve Carrell

Steve Carrell interviews me for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Steve Carrell interviews me for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

I can’t believe it has been 10 years. Ten years since, as a lark, some friends and I protested at a local television station because they were going to remove a video of a burning log that had entertained us over the Christmas holidays. How time flies by.

For those who aren’t privy to my little stunt, I made a bet with friends years ago that I could get on the evening news. Turns out, my effort s got me more than just a spot on the 6 o’clock local news. Word of our little protest went national, and the next day we wound up on the cover of most major dailies across the country. Even The Daily Show with Jon Stewart took notice, sending out a bright eyed Steve Carrell to interview me and my friends. His finest performance, I think.

To date, it still ranks as my most successful guerilla campaign – and soon after Mr. Carrell was offered the starring role in the 40 Year Old Virgin. Coincidence? History will decide.

How newspapers can get readers under 30

newspaperEveryone is touting the death of the printed word because the audience for newspapers is declining every time someone is born into the digital age. But that doesn’t mean that they have to go quietly into the night. Here’s an idea that could re-engage young readers and leverage the power of the printed word: Use the potential of the internet to boost readership offline.

Here’s how it could work.

One thing that Web 2.0 has taught us is that we love to engage with social media. Part of that is getting our opinions heard (case in point, see: this blog). This is where newspapers aren’t doing a good job. A half page of letters to the editor (often sited as one of the more popular areas of the paper) just doesn’t cut it anymore. What if newspapers used the comments they received online and transferred them to their printed edition the very next day? Users could vote, Digg-style, for the best comments on select editorial pieces or emotionally-charged news stories, and those ones would make the cut.

It may not be a long-term solve, but there is still quite a bit of cachet to getting your letter printed in the newspaper. Avid readers of online editions (which typically skew younger), could make comments online and be drawn to the printed version to see their letter or comment in print. After all, no matter how old we get, we still want mom to have something to cut out for the fridge.

Doritos contest update

Color me impressed. The Doritos contest I mentioned a few weeks ago is bringing in some very good entries. The animated commercials seem to be getting the most views, and it’s probably because they look the most polished. There’s nothing that turns viewers off more than poorly lit, barely audible actors shot on handheld video camera.

However, there are some real gems in there. My favorite so far is Chipacabra.

Is food the new recycling?

recycle_logoA few days ago I was speaking to a colleague of mine about breakfast. He asked me what I ate, and since I recently made the effort to actually eat something in the morning instead of mainlining three cups of coffee, I proudly told him that I eat a bowl of Rice Krispies before work. His response wasn’t what I was expecting.

“Ugh, you eat CEREAL?” he spat out. “Do you have any idea how many preservatives and chemicals are in them?” He then followed by pontificating on why his proper mix of flax and god-knows-what-else he eats for breakfast is the right thing to do. Which made me wonder: Is food the new recycling?

Everyone I know recycles. I don’t as much as I should. Really, when the contest is between rinsing out the tomato sauce can and a Seinfeld rerun, Mr. Seinfeld wins every time. I don’t think I’m alone, either. But I think we all try to recycle more because there is a shame culture behind not doing it, which, as a marketer, I must share some blame for.

Now I’ll make all of you flax lovers a deal. I’ll rinse out my tomato sauce cans more if you lay off the food scrutiny. In 10 years I don’t want to have to walk into the ‘Adult’ section of the grocery store just to buy my Rice Krispies.

Are we the best marketers for Doritos?

250g_doritos_bilingualI’m a big fan of Doritos. Not just their product, which I’m sure keeps my local gym happy, but their approach to marketing. You may recall a few years ago they ran a campaign promoting a contest for the best TV commercial, that would air during the Superbowl. It generated so much buzz that they did the same thing again this year. The winning entry didn’t only win the Doritos contest, it was widely recognized as people’s favorite Superbowl commercial. Take that, Chiat Day.

Well, Doritos has done it again. Now they’ve launched a high profile contest in Canada to name their newest flavor of chips. People are encouraged to name the chips and create a TV commercial. The winning entry will receive $25,000 and 1% of net sales for the brand.

Pretty good tactic. Or is it?

With 10 times the population, it’s a pretty safe bet that in the USA at least one commercial generated from the thousands of entries is going to be worthy of broadcast. But what if we Canadians come up short and produce something god awful? Will Doritos still run the crappy ad that wins by virtue of most online votes?

Or, is the way to look at this exercise that regardless of the outcome, Doritos has created a bunch of buzz around the brand. The proof, I suppose, is in the results.