Whereas “Bob just checked in to North Acton station” is so what, “Bob just watched Madmen episode 4×10 can elicit real interest for a conversation – “Ooh what did you think of the bit where…?”
I suspect we’ll see a slew of other non-location check ins – sports games? fashions? video games? books? I can imagine “Dave just checked into The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” being a basis for a conversation.
One of my favourite NPD tricks is Break One Rule – take a successful formula and change one thing. I think Miso does this well.
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.
 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
I recently found two pieces of viral marketing that I commissioned at lastminute.com 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.
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:
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
Hard to repeat
We tried to follow up the flirt test with something similar six weeks later. It went nowhere.
Keep an ear to the ground
Good marketing always taps into emerging memes – so subscribe to lots of quirky webfeeds.
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.
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!!”