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!)

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

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

Dangerous PR opportunity

Boing Boing reports that, due to legal issues with his label, Danger Mouse is to release:

a blank CD-R in a jewel case with art and liner notes. Fans can just download the music off a P2P site and burn it to the CD-R.

I’m sure this is a genuine case of label/artist differences, but if it were a PR stunt cooked up to raise awareness of the album, it’d be genius.

Imagine: once the hype around Danger Mouse’s audacious blank CD release has peaked, both parties could suddenly come to an agreement to release the album for real and cash in on the publicity.

Lost in space

The promoters of the new Star Trek movie hijacked the Lost opening credits to show the Enterprise warping through the logo.

A brilliantly inventive and talkable use of media – playing perfectly to Lost fans’ love of the unexpected.

lost-trek

On your bike

This video of Danny MacAskill doing bike stunts in Edinburgh is utterly jaw-dropping. Had it been a cinema ad for a sports brand, or an energy drink, it would have been a worldwide smash.

But of course, it is anyway. And we all made it so. It’s freshness and audacity screams out to be shared.

Big brands have lost the advantage they once had on finding, sanitising and packaging youth culture for us. A big budget and well-researched ad concept is no match for authenticity and peer recommendation.

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.

Street cred

Google’s amazing Street View coming to the UK is impressive enough, but you gotta love the little touches to make it even more talkable – as the BBC report:

hidden among the images is the popular children’s book character Wally – of striped-jumper Where’s Wally? fame – in one UK location.