Return to Viral Hall of Fame 2007 Home Page
Viral Hall of Fame 2007

Viral Hall of Fame 2007
#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.

Client/company: in-house
Brand campaign was conducted for: The Gobbledygook Manifesto
Launch date of campaign: Oct. 12, 2006
Target audience/demographic: Marketing and PR professionals and business owners who write about products and companies

Campaign Goal:
I wanted to produce original online thought leadership content that would drive traffic to my blog and showcase my expertise. As a result of people learning who I am, I hoped to generate more regular readers of my blog and, ultimately, book more speaking gigs and sell more of my upcoming book, 'The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to use news releases, blogs, podcasts, viral marketing and online media to reach your buyers directly.'

I got tired of seeing the same overused phrases appearing in company press releases. My campaign involved analyzing press releases for gobbledygook content and then publishing the results.

First, I selected words and phrases that are overused in news releases by polling select PR people and journalists to get a list of gobbledygook phrases. Then I turned to Dow Jones Factiva for help with my analysis of these phrases. The folks at the Factiva Reputation Lab used text mining tools to analyze news releases sent by companies in North America. Factiva analyzed each release in its database that was sent to one of the North American news release wires it distributes for the period from Jan. 1, 2006, to Sept. 30, 2006. The news release wires included in the analysis were Business Wire, Canada NewsWire, CCNMatthews,, Market Wire, Moody's, PR Newswire and Primezone Media Network.

The results were staggering. Dow Jones provided a graphical image that I published on my blog with the analysis. The news release wires collectively distributed just over 388,000 news releases in the nine-month period, and more than 74,000 mentioned at least one of the gobbledygook phrases. The winner was "next generation," with 9,895 uses. There were more than 5,000 uses of each of the following words and phrases: "flexible," "robust," "world class," "scalable" and "easy to use." Other notably phrases with 2,000-5,000 uses included "cutting edge," "mission critical," "market leading," "industry standard," "turnkey" and "groundbreaking." Oh, and don't forget "interoperable," "best of breed" and "user friendly," each with more than 1,000 uses.

Total investment in this campaign was a few hours of my time, a few hours of Dow Jones' time and only a few hundred dollars (for a news release).

Seed Strategy:
The Gobbledygook Manifesto was published on my blog,
I also issued a press release about it:

I notified a few of my blogger friends. Later, I contributed a short version of the analysis to several publications as a bylined article.

Buzz Generated:
I received immediate buzz:
- 8 bloggers tracked back to my original post.
- 18 comments were left on my original post.
- As of this writing, there are more than 1,000 hits on Google for the term "gobbledygook manifesto" (which I made up). There were zero hits the day before my original post, so I can safely say that I introduced this phrase to the Web and those hits are a result of my work. The many bloggers who wrote about my original work created all of the hits.

I am particularly intrigued that The Gobbledygook Manifesto secured a mention on Wikipedia under the entry for "mission-critical":
It is not only cool that someone mentioned my stuff in this entry, but excellent marketing for me, too. Each day, I receive traffic to my blog from this Wikipedia entry.

Specific (Goal-Related) Campaign Results:
New visitors to my blog were instantaneous. My blog ranking on Technorati has improved a great deal (to the 19,000 +/- position).

I can definitely track inquiries from companies and conference organizers back to my thought leadership content (I always ask when new people contact me) and I have booked a bunch of speaking gigs, new consulting clients and corporate seminars as a result. I do absolutely no "traditional marketing" for my business -- it is all thought leadership based in the form of my blog, my books, my magazine articles and my site.

My best guess is that this campaign will be worth $50,000 in new business (mainly speaking gigs) in 2007.

Biggest Learning:
This was a true test of online thought leadership-based viral marketing.

Rather than the old crap about "branding" with slick and expensive advertising that people ignore anyway or being "on message" with the media hoping some journalist throws you a bone, thought leadership based marketing like "The Gobbledygook Manifesto" delivers valuable information that people want to consume, reaching buyers directly and branding an organization as one to do business with.

One particularly surprising aspect was the critical importance of the graph of the gobbledygook terms. People could instantly see what I was talking about in the text. Many bloggers posted the graph directly on their blogs.