low cost marketing productivity surprise

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.

low cost marketing surprise viral

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.

low cost marketing viral

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.

low cost marketing 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. 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.

low cost marketing viral

snow business

As Britain gets giddy with it’s once-a-decade proper snowfall, it’s nice to see enterprising brands having fun and creating free marketing.

Here’s a snow sofa (or ‘snofa’) created by mydeco in Hyde Park.


And Innocent Drinks are joining in the spirit by publicising a Twitter snowball fight

low cost marketing viral

Squirrels, saunas and office flirts

I recently found two pieces of viral marketing that I commissioned at around 2002/2003.

The Office Flirt Test


The idea was to mash up the Excel-based quizzes doing the email rounds in those days and the “how sexy are you” questionnaires omnipresent in women’s magazines – no-one can resist finding out just how fabulous they are.

The fact that the generated flirt profile was 100% random (irrespective of the boxes ticked) just made it all the more marvellous.

Office Flirt Test was conceived and written by Jon Davie and myself. It cost £10 all-in (for the URL) and generated over ten million visits.

Disco Squirrels

The marketing team had loved the then-new breed of barmy animations doing the rounds (especially this one) and wanted to do something similar – again for Valentine’s Day . I commissioned Rob Manuel of b3ta fame to generate something that was both noticeable and loved-up. The result was the quite extraordinary Disco Squirrels…


Learnings I took from these experiences:

  1. Gotta make the sender look cool
    Virals only propogate if the person emailing it thinks the recipient will think them that bit cooler for introducing them to something remarkable
  2. Hard to repeat
    We tried to follow up the flirt test with something similar six weeks later. It went nowhere.
  3. Keep an ear to the ground
    Good marketing always taps into emerging memes – so subscribe to lots of quirky webfeeds.
  4. Push the boundaries
    Both of the ideas would never have got through blinkered management or focus groups. Sometimes you’ve just got to take a flyer. Remember – the great thing about viral marketing is that if it’s rubbish, no-one will know.
    I always loved this unhinged techno remix of the Michael Winner e-sure ad. At the time I was managing the Johnny Vaughan launch campaign and still wish I’d given our Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner ad the same treatment.
  5. Product viral
    Truly effective viral marketing is not something separate – it’s embedded in the product. A good example is how “sent from my iPhone” is appended to every email.
    The sender doesn’t mind the marketing message as it tells everyone “Look I’ve got an iPhone! Me!!”
low cost marketing

Boob aerobics, the shag workout and 100 other classes not to write home about

January is awash with health and fitness products, often poorly differentiated, and all seemingly promising “new year, new you”. Yawn.

So praise be to gymbox for thinking harder and achieving genuine stand-out. It’s not the startling black/yellow visual identity or the distinctive product experience (live DJs in the gym), but the category-smashing copy that really gets noticed.

Finally. An ad about getting big and hard that didn’t originate from a Russian spam account

Whether you approve of the tone or sentiment employed, it seems pretty clear that this is low-cost, high impact and certainly against the grain. Hurrah.

gymbox leaflet

low cost marketing

There’s never been a better time for a recession

More than any downturn before, there are readily-available opportunities for savvy marketers to use new tools and techniques to gain a relative advantage. For example:

  • have conversations with your customers via Twitter (Dell have apparently made $1m sales this way). It costs nothing and you can get kudos, feedback and insight. Is it mainstream enough? Check out Stephen Fry’s account or Britney Spears‘.
  • Turn your press office into a blog. They cost little or nothing and allow instant publication of news. Core journalists will subscribe to your feed and you can give them useful embedded multimedia content via YouTube and Flickr. Tech companies have been wise to this for a while.
  • Set up a Google Alert for your brand. What are people saying? And spend time in forums where comments crop up regularly. People love it when company representatives respond to their concerns. Just tell the truth and be polite.
  • Is your company’s Wikipedia entry accurate? You can’t put a sales pitch there, but you can ensure it’s fair.
  • Use Monittor to track real-time what’s being said about your brands on the web
  • Conduct simple surveys for free or build friendly customer contact websites using Google templates

There are many more ideas out there. Get over the ‘geek’ imagery; not knowing about these things is nothing to be proud of. MDs expect their marketing departments to understand PR and advertising. If they don’t already expect them to understand the opportunities and cost-savings of social media, then they soon will.

Maybe you can lead the way.