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.CAMPAIGN
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.)
Total 204,958 viewers
Link to sample of Snow Globe card:
Our original Case Study on the Whack-a-Flack viral campaign: