Virile and Viral – our blades are f’ing great

This splendid video for the Dollar Shave Club has lathered itself all over the chin of the internet and it’s offering a serious disruption to a high-margin sector. Note:

  •  A nostalgic nod back to no-nonsense times (shaving as virility)
  •  Humility: he’s rubbish at anything involving throwing or catching (this brand is reachable by you)
  •  Clear repeated branding and the dead simple proposition (why wouldn’t you?)
  •  “The party is on” – hints at peer approval and that it’s an OK gang to join
  •  Acres of humour and likeability (use this and have more fun!)

Shockingly good or shockingly bad?

Opinion appears divided on this campaign for an anti-landmine organisation. Rip the sachet and red spills out of the leg.

I’m not usually a fan of shock tactics for charities and causes, but I think this is such an unexpected medium, and the experience so tangible, that it compels people to take notice and discuss it.

Ketchup

clinginess is the new spam

Quite rightly, forward-thinking brands are connecting with their audiences via facebook fan pages. It’s a readymade network of peer groups and allows saliency and reputation to be built. It’s a social database that can be accessed for commercial means – to announce a promotion, drive traffic to a site or augment another brand experience.

ITV’s X-Factor are doing this especially well. By crafting provocative, open-ended questions and posting them while the programme is on air, they are tapping into increasingly popular TV+laptop behaviour and creating real-time water cooler moments. I saw one thread about the twins have over 10,000 comments in it. That sort of engagement has never been possible until now.

Picture 1

Unlike email newsletters, publishing content onto fan pages can and should be done quite regularly – certainly at least once a day.

And this is where brands need to spot the danger. All new media bring new communication opportunities. You can speak to your fan base whenever you like. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Just as no-one wants to receive too many (any?) emails from you, over-communicating on facebook risks flipping the consumer’s mindset from “I love your brand!” to “hmmm… stop talking all the time. You are so needy.

Clinginess is the new spam

Nano-fame: one line on the Sopranos

So you’re a.n.other actor wanting to be famous, and you get a minor part in a major show.

Is it possible to use that fleeting moment to market yourself globally?

Sure is. As the b3ta newsletter* explains,

You probably don’t remember Erik Weiner’s performance in The Sopranos. His single line was, “Leon, take your break at two.” Erik is now stretching out his small moment of fame, for comic effect, and thereby making himself much more famous as a result. Clever stuff, Erik.

* often nsfw

The early days of viral marketing – pure Genius

Way back in 1994, I was Assistant Brand Manager on Draught Guinness. I was dutifully learning the blue-chip marketing ropes, but really far more captivated by this fledgling thing we then called, wonderfully, the Information Superhighway.

It’s to the eternal credit of my then manager, Jason Nicholas, that he signed off a £25k budget to investigate further. Over the following months, I worked with great people at Ogilvy & Mather (especially Saul Klein) to create Guinness’ first website. We didn’t have the brand domain, so it was hosted at the clunky URL of http://www.itl.net/guinness (sadly not captured on archive.org’s wayback machine). We stretched the limits of  Mosaic/Netscape to offer not only images (woo) of a pint, but also an animated gif (double woo!!) of, er, a spinning globe. We even put that address on a TV ad.

But by far the most successful and illuminating piece of work was the Guinness Screensaver. As a format, screensavers went on to be be hackneyed quite quickly, but at the time it was wildly original. It’s not too much of a brag for it to lay claim to being one of the first pieces of viral marketing.

Guinness had just launched a new ad, Anticipation featuring a guy dancing round a pint to infectious mambo music.  The idea was to bring to life his inner excitement while waiting for the pint to settle and be ready to drink. It was fresh and wildly popular.

O&M created the screensaver and we put it on the website. But back then, very few people had internet access and this file was a mammoth 1.3 megabytes(!) In the end, we branded up hundreds of 3.5″ floppy discs and put the file on there (it just fitted, thankfully). We seeded a few to friends and colleagues and suddenly the requests came pouring in. By letter! I had a box under my desk and spent most of my day stuffing envelopes. People would take the discs and pass them around friends and colleagues. People loved having beer imagery in their workplaces. There was a point in 94/95 when it seemed every office had screens saved to Joe McKinney dancing round a pint.

[edit] thanks Leo for the screencap!
Can anyone help preserve this small piece of web/marketing history? It’d be great to screencapture it to a movie file and put it up on YouTube for posterity. The .exe file ran under Windows 3.1 and if you’d like a copy, please email me hello (at] contrarymarketing dot com or via Twitter @cslyons

Eat my feeds

If you’re a regular reader of RSS feeds, you’ll know they’re the easiest way to enjoy a sumptuous spread of blogs. And though I rarely visit my favourite websites, I never miss an article.

I use Google Reader and it’s the first (and often only) page I check on the web. There are good offline readers (eg, Vienna for the mac) but Reader is web-based and thus syncs across all your home/work computers. There are also a growing number of iPhone apps (Byline being the best to date) which let you continue reading on the move or when offline (eg, on the tube).

It takes a while to find the right feeds for you, but I’ve put together a selection of my favourites in the tech/marketing/thinky space. Right-click here and save this file. You can then easily import this ‘opml’ file into Reader (settings>import>).

Do let me know your suggestions for great sites/feeds I’m missing. Thanks.

Going the extra mile

I’ve mentioned before how Nine Inch Nails are heading the pack for bands (and brands) in turning forces usually seen as disruptive to their advantage.

Well, they’re at it again. As reported by the splendid (and often outlandish) B3ta newsletter:

we have to salute former Nine Inch Nails drummer Josh Freese. You can download his album for $7, but the more money you pay the more additional goodies he’ll throw in. For $50 he’ll call you up and thank you personally. For $1000 the extras include him coming round your house and doing your laundry.

The full list is here. Whether this is a genuine offer or just some guff to get people talking, it works and it’s marvellous.

Watch this

Publicity for the Watchmen movie is in full swing. I enjoyed the spoof news wrap around Metro this morning, but even more the free sheet of blood-splattered smiley stickers I was handed at Charing X.

Simple, iconic and highly viral.

Hashmemes – catch one if you can

As Twitter is invaded by the masses and loses its cool, experienced users are parading their know-how by littering tweets with increasingly arcane codes: RT for re-tweet of course, L: for location and # for hash-tagging a post with a topical or popular word – #iphone or #lost for example.

Some of this is the simple fun of working within short sentences – the Twitter equivalent of OMG! txt spk – but I think hashtags mean something more.

Hashtags allow people to join a virtual club easily and temporarily. And to leave it just as quickly. People can just dive into a conversation, make a pithy observation about the #brits and dive right out again. No need to subscribe to an email list, no forms to fill in, no facebook group to join. It can be a no-complications, one-tweet stand.

They are perfectly suited for an world where attention is ever-more scarce and people are wary of sharing personal data. But they’re also wonderful fun – the ideas flitting in and out of existence in perfect harmony with their true value and popularity.

They’re hashmemes if you like.

Right now #oscars is in vogue but once the red carpet is rolled back up, it’ll disappear as a living idea until the next time enough of us shine a torch on it.

Hashtags.org allows anyone to see what’s hot at any moment, and even includes graphs describing most hashmemes’ beautifully short lifespans.

Marketers have to work pretty hard to jump on such fast-moving bandwagons. Indeed the only way to do it is to keep running. Only if you’re already up to speed with the conversation can you expect your brand to contribute something useful and credible.