Traditional marketing still works of course, but technological change has both opened up new ways to dazzle its audience and reopened some approaches like viral word of mouth that seemed obsolete decades ago. Still, in principle nothing has changed. The consuming public wants quality entertainment at a reasonable price and the marketer wants to get the word out in an effective, captivating way. Like Tom Sawyer nearly 150 years ago, the secret lies in getting a lot of something for nothing. Here are five key examples.
Barack Obama may not be at the top of anyone’s list of Presidents. He may not even make their top 10, but his campaign strategy certainly should. In the not so distant past, most statewide and Congressional races were won by enlisting grassroots support to both raise money and get out the vote. That changed dramatically in the late 1960s as it became far easier to collect money from corporations and political action committees than to shake hands at bus stops.
It took the Internet and a clever adaptation of the basic contact management system to change that. As expected, visitors to BarackObama.com were given a strong call to action. No political site would be complete without that. However, for the first time in a very long time, they were invited to act on it in a concrete way by volunteering directly with the campaign, setting goals, and using their own contact lists to both push the candidate and raise money for the campaign.
Advertising Age (http://adage.com/article/media/hear-women-suffer-fools/125671/) said on March 13, 2008: “Approaching its first birthday, the site has evolved into one of the few genuinely intelligent repositories of media/marketing/fashion commentary and celebrity deflation.” Jezebel started as a site focused on fashion, but with an eye to how women, and models in particular, are treated. From its launch in 2007, the site now reports 32 million page views per month. At $8-$12 per 1000 views, that’s a lot of trips to the bank.Jezebel’s secret was simple. Rather than the usual fare in women’s publications, that is, formulaic creation of insecurities to solve, Jezebel appeals directly to the whole, healthy feminine mystique. Doing that filled a niche in the 20-35 demographic that all but disappeared after the early 1970s, striking a strong cord with working professional women. A group of aligned publications work together as the ultimate web ring, greatly reducing thecost of content for each participant.
With 4.5 million followers on Facebook, George Takei has become a social media mogul in his own right. The growth in Takei’s network was serendipitous. As he says modestly, he started out trying to raise awareness of the Japanese internment during WWII among his base of SF fans. A little humour later and he learned that his fan base had a significant cross-market with the LGBT equality issues that made him a leading voice in that community.
Nearly 144,000 reviews on the Internet Movie Database give The Blair Witch Project a lukewarm 6.3 out of 10 score (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185937/). Even so, Box Office Mojo recorded a worldwide box of nearly $250 million against a total production and promotion budget of just $60,000. How? The creators of the Blair Witch understood two things before everyone else. First, they recognized the viral potential of the Internet. Second, knowing that audiences love ‘true’ stories, they seeded message boards with rumours and bits of the ‘found’ footage from the film. While the individual-project success of The Blair Witch Project has never been duplicated, the film’s point-of-view approach spawned mega-
successes like YouTube, which investment banker Morgan Stanley expects to generate $4 billion in gross revenue in 2013 alone, all on 3rd party content.
5 Go Pro
Following on the heels of The Blair Witch, YouTube, and selfie-style social media, in hindsight, it only made sense that active people engaging in extreme sports would want a high-definition, hands free video camera of their own. Financing his venture selling bead and shell bands out of the back of his van, annual revenue for Go Pro hit $521 million in 2012. Estimates suggest that inventor Nick Woodman will IPO GoPro for $300 million or more. Like YouTube the extreme nature of helmet-camera video creates its own advertising, much as the handheld cell phone did before it.
Jack is a marketing executive and is always looking for unique campaign ideas to push the brand. He recommends using Fluid Branding to find innovative and quality promotional merchandise to compliment any campaign.
(Photo: “George Takei” by Gage Skidmore, shared under Creative Commons license)