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Viral Hall of Fame 2009

Viral Hall of Fame 2009
Rita's Italian Ice Mystery Flavor Naming Contest

MarketingSherpa Summary:
The team at Rita's Italian Ice wanted to build demand for a new product, create a positive brand experience with consumers, and build their email file while they were at it. Their strategy involved a multi-channel push both online and off. Their social media efforts helped the campaign grow to a larger-than-expected size, and 76% of those who entered the contest also opted in for emails.

Agency: Lorel Marketing Group
Client/company: Rita's Italian Ice
Brand campaign was conducted for: New product launch
Launch date of campaign: March 20, 2009
Target audience/demographic: Rita's Fans -- skews to teens/young adults who are online

Campaign Goal:
The team developed the "Mystery Flavor Naming Contest" to create a fun way for Rita's customers to interact with the brand while capturing valuable information to build the Rita's email and mobile database.

They also wanted to increase interaction with the brand, (by giving brand enthusiasts the opportunity to feel part of the Rita's culture by helping with a product launch), and create excitement and sales of the new "Mystery Flavor" Italian Ice.

Creative:, a Rita's microsite, was launched on March 20, 2009 and the contest ran until April 17, 2009. Fans could engage with the site on multiple levels, including:
  • Flavor name submission
  • Voting
  • Quick polls
  • Forward-to-friend
Voting for multiple names was encouraged. Non-registered guests were allowed to vote. However, a nag feature was added to solicit email/mobile sign-ups from users after each five votes if they hadn't already registered.

The site was supported with in-store collateral, product sampling, radio, email, online promotions, as well as on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter pages. KPI's were established to track and measure media impressions, product sales, website/email traffic and response, quick poll responses, forward-to-friend, WOM buzz, social fan page activity, and database growth.

Seed Strategy:
They announced the "Mystery Flavor" contest through multiple media channels, promoted it through press releases, and engaged fans on the Rita's social fan pages through posts, comment responses, and tweets made multiple times daily on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.

Fans campaigned for their name entries to friends and family by emailing and posting to blogs, Facebook, and other social sites

Buzz Generated:
Steven Colbert's community forum "Colbert Nation" nominated multiple names. Four of those names were in the top 10 at one time, and the name "Colberry" ended up in the top 10 finalists with just under 160,000 votes:

The contest made Top Trends on Twitter on multiple days throughout the contest.

Approximately 52 entries on blogs such as Brand Freak, FlipSide, Thrifty And Chic, WOMMA blog and 937 Moms were written.

Google Blog Search:

Specific (Goal-Related) Campaign Results:
Results were immediate in the first weekend of the contest, with just under 10,000 names submitted. Overall, Rita's fans submitted 30,092 unique names for a new product

Best results were:
  • 30,092 total names submitted
  • 1,989,606 total vote
  • 23,727 total email registrations (76% of contest registrants opt-in for email)
  • Averaged 5,101 web visitors per day, visiting 42 pages a visit resulting in an average 189,075 page views a day and spending just over 7 minutes on the website. (Note: the site design consisted of 4 pages, and additional pages were generated with user generated names.)
  • 58% of traffic came from referral sites such as Facebook and other blogs
  • 31,276 total contest registrations
  • 1,865 total mobile registrations
  • Received hundreds of comments/posts on Rita's social pages

Biggest Lesson:
Our biggest lesson was that we did not anticipate such a large volume of participation in the contest in such a short period of time. We initially expected to receive 5,000-7,000 entries over the course of the contest. We surpassed our goal in our first weekend (March 20-22) where we received 10,000 name submissions. The server that hosted the website could not accommodate the bandwidth from traffic coming to the site causing a loading lag time. The solution was a frantic weekend re-developing of the site to meet the demand.

Another problem we encountered was users hacking into our code to allow themselves to vote for their product name multiple times. Through daily monitoring of the contest, we were able to remove any fraudulent voters and view this problem as more of a compliment.