April 25, 2007

MarketingSherpa’s Viral Marketing Hall of Fame 2007: Top 10 Efforts & Results Data to Inspire You

SUMMARY: Get ready for some inspiration, folks. MarketingSherpa’s editorial staffers have been busy poring over the 100+ viral marketing submissions for our third annual Viral Hall of Fame. We narrowed the list to 10 inductees this year that span various niches in both B-to-C and B-to-B.

Includes creative samples and results data for viral efforts targeting organic moms, Hong Kong’s Gen Y, America’s Gen X and tight-focus biz professionals. Plus, a nifty way to get celebrities more involved in fundraising.
Yes, it’s 2007 in the viral marketing world, and Internet users aren’t so easily impressed with just any game, contest or video clip. That’s what makes this year’s Hall of Fame winners so impressive -- they cut through the clutter with panache.

What separated these from many of the other submissions was that they tackled a tough issue and got fantastic results. Normally, they accomplished this via elaborate seeding tactics, targeted multichannel placements, strong creative (once again, the importance of great copy becomes evident) and dedicated follow-through. We'll explain more about *why* below, and you can click for a details page including creative samples and results data for each winning campaign.

We have some big brands, such as Levi Strauss and Fox Television; we have upstarts in both the cutthroat tax preparation services sector and the increasingly crowded organic foods niche; and we have nonprofits fronted by the likes of Kevin Bacon who are kicking viral butt.

The superb range of these campaigns proves that viral is not limited to entertainment brands or to sex/games for young adult males. As you’ll see, any demographic can be targeted -- moms, dads, ’tween girls, techies, primetime TV loyalists, city dwellers, rural folk, etc.

Five prevailing ideas:

-> Organizations should take notice that viral isn’t just for commercial marketers. Use Web 2.0 in communities that make sense for whoever’s interest you represent.

Ever get a call from a nonprofit, where the phone rep pushes you too far down the donation cycle/read-script before you can manage to ask a single question? That approach *never* works. You may want to try online communities and viral because they’re the antithesis to hard-sell fundraising.

-> B-to-B viral is gaining steam. This year, we have a winner who used a fun video (check it out, Space Invaders fans) and another that employed a crafty online contest.

It’s worth noting that television marketing is being usurped by the Internet as we speak. Yep, the new primetime is 9-5 and encompasses URLs, not remote controls.

This should be more fun than an amusement park for B-to-B marketers. As one example, software professionals -- who often belong to online communities and have company purchasing-decision authority -- are ripe for offers.

-> As was the case in 2006, we saw marketers thrive despite shoestring viral budgets. Of course, these campaigns are often created by tiny in-house teams.

This is not to say that you shouldn't hire an experienced viral agency to help. But, if you can't afford it and you are a *very* clever and/or lucky marketer, viral can still be a do-it-yourself tactic.

-> Track your results as specifically as possible. One of this year’s winners turned in video numbers from dozens of community sites. His results are already fabulous. But with that kind of tracking, we cannot wait to see what he turns in next year -- because the more you hone in on what works to achieve your goals, the better you will get at lassoing viral audiences by the clusters.

-> Blogs and message boards still appear to be the seeding source of choice. With that said, don’t forget about optimizing press releases. Plant optimized keywords in your headline, opening paragraph and hotlink wording!

Opinions color blogs everywhere, but what the mainstream press has to say still carries a lot of weight. If this wasn’t true, you wouldn’t see online articles from traditional warhorses, such as The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Lucky, popping up everywhere in the blogosphere. *Traditional* publicity bounces like crazy on the Internet.

Now, onto the winners:

#1. Sunflower Market
MarketingSherpa Summary: Here's a colorful online-offline viral combo that introduced an organic foods retail brand to suburban moms. We loved the downloadable (and forwardable) desktop plant that needed to be watered and fertilized on a daily basis. Media outlets were snail-mailed sunflower pots, and the guerilla team *seeded* neighborhood lawns in a three-mile radius with store-branded cardboard sunflowers. Did it succeed? Bloggers picked up on the sunflower app, and they beat their first month's sales goals by 18%. Oh, yeah, and Whole Foods' plans to build a competing store were put on hold.

Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/viralawards2007/1.html

#2. NetQoS' Netcosm
MarketingSherpa Summary: Few efforts can drive a video campaign as elaborate seeding does. For one business-to-business marketer, it really paid off. Netscom placed its video on YouTube and Google Video, as well as on more targeted sites/blogs, such as Digg, Techmeme, Brightcove, Grouper, Motionbox, DailyMotion, GoFish and Veoh. By day four, the video had 49,808 views, answering the question: can B-to-B videos go viral, too?

Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/viralawards2007/2.html

#3. Farm Aid
MarketingSherpa Summary: With no budget, Farm Aid wanted to increase traffic in the three months before their annual September benefit concert. They created a cool microsite and ran a contest challenging fans to upload photos and explain why they were the ultimate fan. Email signup and a tell-a-friend feature also appeared at the site. In response, the site received millions of visits, and paid subscriptions increased 73% for their Farmyard Fanclub membership compared to the year before.

Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/viralawards2007/3.html

#4. The Gobbledygook Manifesto
MarketingSherpa Summary: You know how PR folks like to use buzz-laden words in their press releases -- "next generation," "flexible," "robust," "turnkey," "best of breed." Ugh. Such gobbledygook was the topic of an article by consultant David Meerman Scott, a repeat Hall of Famer, who saw superb viral for his new book -- by simply seeding the piece on his blog, forwarding the article to a few friends and issuing a press release with the most-used offending words. Total cost: a few hundred dollars. ROI: $50,000 in new business. His cleverness certainly caught fire.

Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/viralawards2007/4.html

#5. Levi Strauss Hong Kong
MarketingSherpa Summary: Levi Strauss Hong Kong kicked off a create-your-own-video campaign to promote their TYPE 1 jeans, offering a prize for those who would answer, "How bold are you?" They seeded unbranded viral videos at YouTube before the launch and followed up with banners, a microsite, print ads and wireless ring tones. Within 60 days, the videos were viewed more than 474,000 times on YouTube alone, and marketshare for the jeans in Hong Kong jumped from 13% to 33%.

Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/viralawards2007/5.html

#6. TaxBrain.com
MarketingSherpa Summary: It's not every day that guerilla marketing gets replayed on ESPN over and over. Essentially, TaxBrain.com hired actors to fake the theft of a race car and make it look real, so real that it inadvertently aired as a real news story. Throw in the fact that they were targeting male NASCAR fans (yes, there were women in bikinis in the video, too) and wave the checkered flag, folks, because we have a winner. The effort received thousands of YouTube views and easily topped $1 million in free television advertising for a little-known tax-preparation site.

Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/viralawards2007/6.html

#7. Six Degrees/Network for Good
MarketingSherpa Summary: Lots of causes have celebrity sign-off, but are you using that famous sponsor to the fullest extent? Here's an effort that other nonprofits can learn from. Check out this Kevin Bacon-driven social networking initiative (with smart use of an AIM webpage) that garnered extremely high-end press and hundreds of thousands of site visits.

Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/viralawards2007/7.html

#8. Beacon Street Girls
MarketingSherpa Summary: B*tween Productions wins the try-and-try-again award for this Beacon Street Girls branding effort. To coincide with book releases and school holidays, they launched several games for girls, each tied to a different Beacon Street character. While the first two were mind-challenging (sigh, who wants to think during a school break!), the third game -- Katani's Fashion Frenzy -- created a forwarding frenzy. Noticing the activity, B*tween Productions switched gears and rolled out two more fashion-related games, and more are on the way.

Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/viralawards2007/8.html

#9. Exeros Inc.
MarketingSherpa Summary: What better way to engage a techie audience than to challenge them to a digital contest and dangle a $25,000 prize in front of their noses? Exeros intelligently synched a contest with an upcoming annual conference to create an online-offline bounce. Not only did they receive more attention than they thought they would get, but they also received an unusually high qualified lead rate and a big lift in website traffic.

Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/viralawards2007/9.html

#10. Fox's 'American Dad' DVD
MarketingSherpa Summary: Friend-to-friend is nice, but connecting with international audiences of like-minded interests is truly how efforts go viral. Fox used this concept when they ran the unusual online game American Dad vs Family Guy Kung Fu to promote the release of 'American Dad Vol. 1' on DVD. The game got picked up by humor sites and gaming blogs, but most of the buzz spread through the shows' fan sites and blogs around the world.

Click to view campaign details: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/viralawards2007/10.html

Useful links related to this article

Special Report: Viral Marketing 2007 - 15 Data Charts, Top Tactics & ROI

MarketingSherpa's Viral Marketing Hall of Fame 2006: Top 12 Campaigns You Should Swipe Ideas From

Special Report: Viral Marketing 2006 -- Benchmark Data, Practical Tips & Biggest Change

Viral Advertising Showcase 2005: Top 12 Campaigns & Results Data to Inspire You

Viral Advertising in 2005 -- Top 7 Tactics, How-Tos, and Measurement Data

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