Viral marketing: Five of the best international campaigns

In my previous post on Memeburn, I outlined some practical etiquette tips for businesses delving into the murky world of social media marketing. But theory can only take you so far. It is in the application of these ideas that real lessons can be learned.

Here are some great examples of international brand campaigns (in no particular order of preference) that have got it right. Tomorrow, I’ll be showcasing another five campaigns that have got it miserably wrong – take heed of the lessons to be learned.

1. Compare the Meerkat
UK-based car insurance comparison website Comparethemarket.com launched its innovative “Compare the Meerkat” TV campaign in early 2009, and followed it up with a companion online social media viral campaign that has been wildly successful. The campaign is based around Russian meerkat Aleksandr Orlov, owner of Comparethemeerkat.com, who is getting annoyed with people going to his meerkat comparison site to look for cheap car insurance, and so launches a campaign to inform people of the difference.

The furry character won viral popularity immediately as viewers got onto the web to visit the Compare the Meerkat mini-site. The campaign was then expanded to give Aleks more personality, a family story, and his own Twitter and Facebook pages where he engages with fans daily, posting amusing updates and answering questions.

The Twitter and Facebook pages do not include any links back to Compare the Market directly, but there are plenty on the mini-site and the campaign is very closely linked to the Compare the Market brand which gives it the power it needs. Simples!

2. Old Spice Guy
Whether or not you’re a fan of Isaiah Mustafa parading his pecs in nothing but a towel, you can’t argue with the success of the Old Spice’s “Smell Like a Man, Man” campaign.

Mustafa became popular doing the brand’s TV commercials, but things really kicked off when Old Spice moved the campaign to the web and invited fans to use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media outlets to pose questions that he answered quickly through 180 videos posted online in a few days. The questions came pouring in and the campaign generated huge buzz worldwide as millions of fans followed the campaign.

Old Spice experienced a 107% increase in short-term sales after the campaign launched, but the campaign is estimated to have cost a modest $250,000 to run, so the ROI is likely to be very positive.

3. Wiggly Wigglers:
What on earth is Wiggly Wigglers you might be asking yourself? It’s a small organic farming and gardening business in Hertfordshire in the UK, that picked up a £25,000 prize from Dell in 2008 for innovative use of web applications and social media. It has grown very successfully since then.

Heather Gorringe, the founder and owner of the business recognised social media as being an effective low-cost tool for spreading awareness of the Wiggly Wigglers brand, seeing as the business could not afford to spend on advertising and lead sourcing. The business had an existing website, so the campaign started with regular successful podcasts by the ‘Wigglers’ on the farm.

They then followed on from this success with videos, a blog, a group on Facebook, and Twitter pages for Heather and “Farmer Phil” which they use to solicit feedback, learn and join in the conversation. Their success shows that you don’t have to be a technical guru to use social media, you just need a good understanding of the purpose of the platforms you are using.

4. Blendtec: Will it blend?
This is a well known series of online videos which first came onto the social media scene in 2006 (not long after YouTube was launched) and has continued ever since. The videos show the Blendtec “Total Blender” blending and destroying various items ranging from golf balls and glow sticks to an iPhone, an iPad and even a vuvuzela. The videos have proven to be very popular, gathering millions of views each and resulting in an increase in home sales of their blenders by more than 700%.

It’s understandable; there is a strange kind of pleasure in seeing an iPad get completely trashed for the sake of it.

5. Zappos:
This is one company that really knows how to use Twitter as a marketing tool. Zappos is an online retailer, and their Twitter account is run by Tony Hsieh, the company CEO and face of the brand. Hsieh shares the day-to-day routine details of life at the company by posting regularly without a “hard-sell”, and in so doing, offers customers a deeper level of engagement with the Zappos brand.

The company also runs the Zappos.com Family Blogs, and a Facebook Page, which each add humour and personality to the brand by giving fans access to the people behind the company. Customers are therefore able to build a level of intimacy with the brand. Twitter is used in this example as an effective customer service tool, and customers feel they are listened to and taken seriously.

I hope you enjoyed these five excellent examples of viral marketing. Tomorrow, we’ll learn from five campaigns that didn’t work out nearly as well as their creators expected.

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