Viral Marketing is Stupid

June 19, 2008

I have to give credit to Duncan Watts on this one.   His presentation at iCitizen a couple of weeks ago got me thinking about viral marketing. His forest fire analogy brought it home for me.

Forest fires start and stop all the time. There are thousands of forest fires every year. Only a few of them become the monster forest fires we see on TV consuming homes and acreage in vast quantities. How are these few mega-fires different from the thousands of small ones? Is it because they started from a really “special” tree? (An influential tree perhaps??)

No. The mega-fires started in a place and at a time where fuel, weather and other conditions were precisely right, and continued to be precisely right to grow into a TV-worthy blaze.

What does that have to do with viral marketing? Well, do you think the Coke-Mentos phenomenon was planned by an agency? Do you think the Blend-Tec videos were planned by an agency? NO, they just happened to appear in the right place at the right time with the right content. And they took off.

Viral marketing is like a baseball team trying to win all their games with home runs.


Figure 1: Credit – Exp. Flickr


Social Media Winner

June 12, 2008

Story in yesterday’s WSJ

When Dogs and Robots Collide, Somebody Needs a Talking To

Fascinating story about the relationship between dogs and robots:

“The trouble started when Mr. Hearn first turned on his Roomba automatic cleaner. When the device started scooting around the floor, Mr. Hearn’s dog, Argos, attacked it.

Seeking help, Mr. Hearn found an online forum dedicated to the hundred-dollar Roomba buzzing with similar stories of pet assailants. Owners were offering advice. Among the most popular: Chastise the vacuum in front of the dog.

And so, with Argos looking on, Mr. Hearn shook his finger at his gadget and sternly called it “a bad Roomba.” Argos appeared to be mollified. “After that, he never tried nipping at it again,” says Mr. Hearn, a software engineer in San Carlos, Calif.”

I am listing this as a social media winner, because Roomba was smart enough to get out of the way and let it’s customers do what they wanted with the brand – and guess what – they ended up with a picture on the front page of the WSJ and were the most emailed story in the WSJ yesterday.

Wow – I would challenge any agency to plan that campaign!


Get Paid to Put Me on Hold

June 11, 2008

OK, this is just a bad idea.

Start-Ups Aim for Consumers on Hold

Like I’m not already p*ssed that I have to sit there on hold waiting in the queue to talk to someone (in the lowest cost location in the world) who is looking at the exact same thing I can see on your web page? Don’t even start playing ads at me.

Like companies need one more reason to increase hold times – let’s not start paying them to put us on hold – please.

I swear I will never support any company that markets to me while I am on hold.


Social Media Madness: Build it & they will come . . .

June 5, 2008

What is it with communities? Seems like every recent meeting I’ve had with both agencies and clients revolves around building communities. Specifically most of these large brand owners want to build and own their brand communities.

NEWSFLASH: Most brands that people care about already have their own self-organized communities. They are not waiting for you, the brand owner to build a community site where they can talk about your brand.

What are communities? My definition:

Communities are self organizing groups of like-minded people who gather to share information & opinions, argue, compete, make suggestions, make friends, get together, etc.

Do you see “to increase the value of a brand” anywhere in here?? NO! Communities are not about you. Communities are about the interests of the members. If you keep that in mind, you can join and participate. If you ignore that – well, you won’t be there long.

No doubt the vendors have been doing a great job selling communities to brand owners, but I don’t think that the effort will deliver on the underlying promise of higher levels of brand engagement and advocacy.

First, listen to understand what the community cares about. Next, learn how to feed that interest and become a valuable member of the community. Finally, if it still makes sense – build a community.