A Better Course

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Testing, Testing

January 22nd, 2008 · No Comments

There have been a series of interesting posts on viral marketing recently – advergirl on ElfYourself:

this was not just a random great idea from some creatives loopy on spray glue fumes. It was a the winner of a very well-funded test of over 20 holiday sites – each of which was intended to be viral… it didn’t magically go viral. OfficeMax (and/or Toy) has a strong understanding of how to pounce on an opportunity. They took early adopter posts on Flickr, Digg and Facebook and leveraged them into a PR pitch that landed spokespeople on Letterman, The Today Show and others.

[full post here]

and Brand New on the concept in general:

“If society is ready to embrace a trend, almost anyone can start one–and if it isn’t, then almost no one can” […] Perhaps the problem with viral marketing is that the disease metaphor is misleading. Watts thinks trends are more like forest fires: There are thousands a year, but only a few become roaring monsters. That’s because in those rare situations, the landscape was ripe: sparse rain, dry woods, badly equipped fire departments.

[full post here]

I was interested by advergirl’s post, particularly, because I read a lot about ElfYourself from the American blogs, and almost nothing from within the UK – so it makes more sense that its (apparently massive) popularity was at least in part a result of consistent and targeted PR efforts. Given that it didn’t spread that far, it looks like an idea that was ready to spread, but only just.

It’s also an example of when testing works well. Obviously, OfficeMax had a big budget for this project, and that’s not going to be possible for everyone. But as in Gareth’s post, they took the time to find out what people were the most ready to play with – and, given the alternative suggestions, collected a lot of data on what their customer base likes and disliked.

Of course, all of this leaves open the question as to whether engagement with a brand is what’s actually happening with campaigns like OfficeMax’s. I’m far from convinced that it is; but there’s a lot to learn from how they tested their concepts.

Categories: advertising · branding · marketing
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