Stunningly clever use of viral in a business-to-business setting. If you need to get absolutely everyone in the executive suite (and below) in a particular Fortune 500 to notice you, a targeted viral campaign may be your answer. This campaign infiltrated every desktop at Starbuck's corporate offices back in 1999 using tactics b-to-b marketers could use today (except for the spamming thing - only use opt-in emails please.)
Agency - RichContent.com
Client/company - ExitPath Corporation
Brand campaign was conducted for - QuickyMart eCommerce Software
Launch date of campaign - June 1999
Target audience/demographic - Management & employees of Starbuck's Coffee
We were struggling to find a way into Starbuck's, asking them to become a reseller of our eCommerce software for the small business (we were launching, and loved what Howard Schultz was doing with Cranium and other products in their stores... this WAS 1999, so the whole merchandizing thing was still very green for Starbuck's).
We used a Macromedia Director animation of zooming and spiraling coffee cups choreographed to a Euro-dance soundtrack that sang "come and see the urn..." sent to the key creatives and marketing people at Starbuck's.
We had a developer/artist do the coffee cup animation, set to his own choice of tunes (he's a New York creative, so we figured he'd be on the bleeding-edge. We were correct). Strategy: to get in front of The Business Side of Starbuck's. eCommerce was new, and the next big hurdle for small biz. We had the tool, and Starbuck's had the channel (I was in Palo Alto raising funding, walked into a Starbuck's, and saw a deal go down right before my very eyes, just from a guy yacking about his idea. Geeks clamored for him, and an investor joined the hubbub... it was amazing, and where the idea originated. That, and listening to Howard's book on tape on a drive to Seattle). The artist used Macromedia Director and Lingo Scripting to make a fairly compact but very exciting animation. Our internal graphic designers used Flash to develop the microsite, and then pointed many of the links to email addresses and web pages outside of the microsite, which was delivered as an attachment rather than as a link to a hosted site. We were able to measure how many links came from the Microsite, and any emails from Starbucks.com.
Now, I know this sounds somewhat less than viral, but what happened is totally viral: This little attachment was distributed to every living soul within the organization, and we also found it all over the rest of the planet as well. It was only Mac, so it had some real limitations, but it got the job done. This opened their eyes, in a fun and non-invasive manner. The follow-on was a Flash-based Microsite that used language from Howard's book to address the Starbuck's positioning as "The 3rd Place", between home and work, or home and school. The microsite definitely caught some attention. We expected to at least get exposure in some demo stores with the packaged product (QuickyMart was a very cool little $49 software app for making eCommerce stores. named after the store Apu runs on The Simpson's, it was a hit with the small business community, and we wanted airplay at Starbuck's.
Ummm... Hope? Luck? Crossed fingers? Actually, this was in the days when sending "spam" was much less problematic. We sat down and tried every variation of every name we knew that was inside Starbuck's, so we could get started with SOME potential traction. We hoped we'd get enough interest from high enough on the food chain that we could actually get inside, and not see our efforts taken by some internal creative looking for a raise. As far as we know, it worked in our favor.
As it was a targeted, internal project, the viral effect was limited to inside our company and theirs. So not much outside buzz as I remember. If we were to do it today (not a bad idea, actually), we would use PRWeb.com to drive some funny tale into traffic and then use the follow-up media responses to garner blog activities... that, and we'd seed the heck out of the Blogsphere.
Specific (Goal-Related) Campaign Results:
It took a week to get the first emails back asking what this was all about, and since we also had calls in to the company and other direct mail, we were generating multiple lines of response. We DID see a nice bump in traffic from Starbuck's, and also some outside in the general Seattle area (based on IP addresses). The results came to a head about 9 days post launch, when we had the second piece in their inboxes (the microsite). Traffic fell to almost nothing from that effort within 20 days.
We would make the initial piece pre-branded or custom-brandable so we could find other interested parties in case that deal fell through (mass-customizable products). We were surprised that our company would sell so quickly (within 12 months of startup). So we were never able to actually do the program the way we intended. But I'd absolutely do a similar program, and will be for the 3 products we're currently developing and providing services for.