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Jan 21, 2003
Case Study

Incredibly Unpredictable B-to-B Viral Campaign Results: The Little Snow Globe That Surprised Everyone

SUMMARY: This is the story of a marketing campaign that TANKED, and then
two years later out of the blue became a huge success. Call it
"viral marketing whiplash."

BTW: The folks who ran this campaign are the same ones who did the
now infamous whack-a-flack campaign, which was an instant hit.
Find out what they learned from their follow-up campaign. Includes
daily data showing how visitor numbers grew in a bell-curve.

e-tractions sends out holiday cards to clients and
active prospects every year in hopes of keeping that warm fuzzy
lets-do-business feeling going through the cold winter.

Two years ago, they decided to bag paper cards and send out
hipper-than-heck e-cards instead.

The creative pressure was on for two reasons:

1. Every creative shop on the planet was also sending out e-cards
to look cool that year, so standing out in the crowd would be

2. e-tractions had already had a big viral marketing success that
year with their infamous Whack-a-Flack campaign that helped them
garner massive press coverage and more than 1,500 sales
prospects. (Link to old Case Study below.) Now they had to top

The goal was to impress clients and prospects, and hopefully get
pass-along to press and new prospects that could build business
in the new year.


The creative team invented an e-card game entitled,
"Snow Globe." (Link to sample below.)

It was not exactly full of traditional holiday cheer. The

While annoyingly cheerful holiday music plays in the background,
little children frolic in the snow outside a cottage. If you
"shake" the snow globe with your mouse, they are hurled shrieking
through the air and bashed about. When they build a cute
snowman, it eats them and then explodes.

It is kind of sick. It is kind of twisted. Depending on what
your sense of humor is like, it is kind of fun (or not).

The e-tractions team knew they were taking a chance, but figured
it was the only way to work. Mike Gauthier explains, "We're
pretty good at viral marketing. We've done 60 or 70 campaigns
for clients. The things we find to be most viral are edgy and out

Hoping that the rest of the world would find the card as funny as
they did, the e-tractions team fired off emails to a permission-
built list of a few hundred clients, friends and active
prospects. They also stuck a copy of the card in the archives of
their site, figuring it might come in handy for a presentation

Then they sat back and waited with bated breath for the viral
popularity to begin.

RESULT: It did not. Hardly anyone forwarded it to anybody else
"Try as we might," says Gauthier, "we didn't make it work.
We thought it was kind of fun in a more-than-slightly perverse
way, but even we have a lot to learn. It's pretty humbling."

Then (here is where the story gets wild) this Christmas 2002, two
years after the original campaign bombed and everyone at e-
tractions had forgotten it, it suddenly took off again.

"Sometime around Dec 6th 2002, someone found the campaign in an
archive and sent it to a few people," says Gauthier who to this
day has no idea who that person was. It was not anyone on staff
at e-tractions, nor any clients he has spoken to.

This time the humor was spot on target. This time everyone who
got the card immediately emailed all their friends about it.
This time it viraled out of control until more than 200,000
people on three continents got it in under six weeks.

Gauthier says, "Even more impressive (or embarrassing) is that
the forward a friend feature was broken as we hadn't updated it
when we put out new revisions of our software. People were
cutting and pasting the links and sending however they could. We
even got a teary request from a grandmother who wanted to send it
to her grandson but couldn't figure out how to do it."

Obviously not nearly all of the people (such as teary
grandmothers) who got the card were remotely good sales
prospects for e-tractions viral marketing services for which
clients pay $20,000-$75,000.

Even a handful of impressed potential clients can make a big
difference in the bottom line. In this case, e-tractions
definitely got some qualified sales leads, and one company even
tried to buy them lock, stock, and barrel. (They said no

Lesson learned: Always leave your viral campaign live on the Net
because these things can go on forever.

Also, if you are counting on a super-edgy campaign to impress
business executives, try running a few story boards past
prospects' eyes first. (You can email a couple of current
clients JPEGs of your viral idea before you invest in the Flash
programming, etc.) Gauthier calls it a "mini-focus group."
Because, your sense of humor may not always match your prospects'
at any particular point in time.

For those of you interested in seeing the viral bell-curve as
people tell others about a campaign, here are the viewer numbers
for the Snow Globe. (If numbers bore you, keep scrolling down
for links to the actual creative.)

12/1/2002 0
12/2/2002 0
12/3/2002 13
12/4/2002 2
12/5/2002 2
12/6/2002 10
12/7/2002 2
12/8/2002 3
12/9/2002 3
12/10/2002 30
12/11/2002 35
12/12/2002 30
12/13/2002 13
12/14/2002 72
12/15/2002 23
12/16/2002 57
12/17/2002 158
12/18/2002 555
12/19/2002 2053
12/20/2002 8313
12/21/2002 22375
12/22/2002 7605
12/23/2002 7357
12/24/2002 25883
12/25/2002 18495
12/26/2002 8865
12/27/2002 14639
12/28/2002 12071
12/29/2002 5663
12/30/2002 5416
12/31/2002 13360
1/1/2003 6845
1/2/2003 4024
1/3/2003 8330
1/4/2003 5345
1/5/2003 2559
1/6/2003 2349
1/7/2003 5421
1/8/2003 3974
1/9/2003 3010
1/10/2003 1950
1/11/2003 1670
1/12/2003 951
1/13/2003 1027
1/14/2003 1506
1/15/2003 1070
1/16/2003 911
1/17/2003 913
Total 204,958 viewers

Link to sample of Snow Globe card:

Our original Case Study on the Whack-a-Flack viral campaign:
See Also:

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