viral marketing

Dumb Ways To Die campaign man explains the method behind the magic

This is a great piece from Mumbrella.

Remember Dumb Ways To Die? If not, take a moment to familiarise yourself with it.

John Mescall, who made the ad, loaded up this piece with a bunch of really handy, and easily transferable, bits of advice for communicating with the YouTube generation.

A couple of samples.

Not many advertisers allow themselves to be that honest about things, but Metro did and that’s a great starting point. In a world dominated by spin, honesty in itself can be disarming and refreshing. I think the title helps. I’m a big believer in titles, and as advertising moves from paid interruptions to a storytelling model, it’s something we all should pay much more attention to. Titles sell books, and they sell movies. Your campaign needs a good title.

Dumb Ways to Die is a good title because it’s succinct, evocative and very suggestive of reward-for-effort. Who wouldn’t click on ‘dumb ways to die’? If we titled this piece ‘Be safe around trains’ would it have worked as well? Not a chance.

And the clincher – it’s about telling a story, and doing it with authenticity.

Ultimately, it’s an ad that doesn’t feel anything like an ad. It’s happy and silly and joyful and clever and more than a little odd; the intangible things that are so hard to rationalise, but so very important.

And finally, but very importantly, we made sure the campaign was easy to share and discuss. That meant turning the whole thing into animated gifs for tumblr. Making the song downloadable via iTunes, soundcloud and our website. Not disabling comments on youtube. That kind of thing.

When crowd sourced campaigns attack

Savvy user generated content is pretty much the holy grail of social marketing – or marketing of any sort – generating “buzz” also known as “word of mouth” also known as “having other people blow your trumpet for you” is the best, and most cost effective, way to spread the word about your product, cause, church, or company.

But boy can it go wrong. The Qantas Twitter fiasco is a testimony to that, as is the time Justin Bieber let people vote for where his next international tour would take him – the denizens of the Internet made sure North Korea topped the vote.

There have been a few funny campaigns like this in recent weeks, where the collective imagination, or hive mind, of the Internet has turned on a couple of campaigns – in the crosshairs, in the United States, weighing in as one of the biggest companies in the nation, is Walmart, but Australia is not immune to such frivolity, as Queensland Rail can attest.

Walmart ran a vote to sent a hip hop character known as the Pit Bull to any of its stores, well, the store that gained the biggest number of likes. Voters jumped on board to send him to the smallest, and most remote, Walmart in the country with a campaign called #ExilePitbull. At Kodiak Island. Somewhere in Alaska. Where Russia is visible from the sporting goods department. The campaign seems to have originated from a Boston website called The Phoenix.

Walmart embraced the result, so Pitbull is off to Kodiak Island. has a good little analysis of the Walmart situation as it pertains to social media marketing for churches.

A couple of months ago QR launched a train etiquette campaign, where its online followers could generate, or customise, their own “Super Simple Stuff” campaign poster. The interwebs took over, many of the posters that resulted are far too crude to share, but it’s fair to say the campaign backfired.

Here’s a relatively tame example. Via Know Your Meme.

Queensland Rail responded pretty much the way they had to when the Courier Mail turned the campaign’s memeness into a story.

“The etiquette campaign has encouraged customers to be aware of their own behaviour and think about what is socially acceptable behaviour while on the City network,” he said.

“Since its launch in September 2011, our campaign has sparked a lot of interesting discussion on train etiquette faux pas.”

The third little example is slightly different – Shell Oil is facing a parody campaign, some environmentalists have created a page that looks very similar to Shell’s own website. The parody site gives people the chance to generate an ad that looks a lot like a Shell ad – and these have spread around the net.

Here’s the ad I just made.

Image Credit: Arctic Ready Generator

Some “social media commentators” couldn’t tell the difference between satire and real life, and slammed Shell – who have been forced to be pretty gracious about the whole thing. This confusion was exactly what the campaign was designed to achieve. The campaign even involved setting up a fake Shell account to respond to the campaign…

That reaction highlights something interesting about playing in this sphere. If someone has it in for you online – like Greenpeace do with Shell – there’s not a whole lot you can do about it to come out a winner. The SMH piece has a few opposing perspectives on the issue…

“As an observer it would seem Greenpeace actually wants Shell to take legal action, which of course would draw even further attention to their campaign,” said McDonald.
“For Shell it’s the nightmare of juggling perception and reality and right now they are probably damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
“My only advice to Shell in this instance would be to suggest that they launch a fake Greenpeace site and laugh it off.”


“”It’s behaving, smelling, looking as though it was Shell under siege so the only way that you would ever know that it wasn’t Shell is through the Twitter ‘verified account’ but I know that a lot of brands haven’t gone through the verified account process.”
Gloria said she saw a real Shell “Let’s Go” banner advertisement on a US site that “looks identical” to the spoof Arctic Ready site.
She said Greenpeace had realised that it was much more effective to campaign online rather than appearing as “hippy do-gooders”. Why chain yourself to polar bears in the Arctic when you can create a fake Twitter page and do more damage?
Gloria criticised Shell’s response, saying it was behaving too “corporate” and not adequately responding to the campaign in the channels where the hijacking is occurring.
“They mistakenly believe they will give Greenpeace traction by ‘dignifying’ a response. Unfortunately the opposite is occurring – by not responding, Shell look corporate and out of touch,” she said.

I tend to sit somewhere between the two – Shell needs to do something funny and brand salvaging, in a voice the collective mind of the internet will appreciate, or it needs to issue a mea culpa on its practices and promise to change, and then actually deliver (a bit like Maccas have done with responding to rumours and criticisms about their burgers in Canada)… This is partly to do with having thought out a Crisis Communication Plan for social media stuff – which the books I reviewed last week touched on, and also with figuring out your “voice” or personality online so that you can respond accordingly.

Of the three situations, only Walmart has come out a winner, QR hasn’t been particularly damaged, but at the very least their campaign shows that not all publicity is good publicity, and the Shell situation surely demonstrates the utter foolishness of that idea – their brand is being hammered and laughed at, with no potential positive outcome, unless they think that motorists are more likely to think Shell when their “fuel empty” light flashes up on the dashboard on their next drive, and less likely to think about dying polar bears.

Spicing up viral marketing with Old Spice

This Old Spice campaign is going to be dissected by social marketing students for years to come. It is almost perfectly executed (I can’t actually think of a flaw yet).

It all started with this critically successful commercial launched during this year’s Superbowl. A commercial which has now had more than 13 million views on YouTube.

It’s a one shot shoot, here’s the explanation of the process:

Here’s the accompanying 15 second ad.

Then there was an equally well executed follow up (with 7 million views).

That was apparently also shot in one take. Isaiah Mustafa, the actor (an ex NFL player) explains…

This was the point at which the Old Spice campaign went from well executed and hilarious commercial to social media phenomenon. They organised an online campaign where the Old Spice Guy responded, in video, to interactions from around the internet. Here he responds to popular tech blog Gizmodo:

Here he helps someone propose to his girlfriend:

Here he, as Old Spice Guy, responds to himself, Isaiah Mustafa…

Here’s a great article unpacking the process of responding in real time (it’s obviously a massive, and very impressive, task).

“In the room there are two social media guys and a tech guy who built a system pulling in comments from around the web all together in real time… We’re looking at who’s written those comments, what their influence is and what comments have the most potential for helping us create new content. The social media guys and script writers are collaborating to make that call in real time. We have people shooting and we’re editing it as it happens. Then the social media guys are looking at how to get that back out around the web…in real time.”

Here’s his sign off from a day of answering the audience:

It’s a campaign where everybody wins. Old Spice, the Creative company Wieden + Kennedy, the writers, Craig Allmen and Eric Kallman, the director and production company, and finally the actor himself.

Successful viral campaigns strike the right balance of humour, production quality, strategy, and level of interaction with the audience. If they’re pitched right they become juggernauts – like this one has – inspiring users to generate their own content. This is the Holy Grail of viral marketing. Getting people past talking about your product and into participating in your conversation.

Here’s an almost equally well produced parody.

This campaign, coupled with Tourism Queensland’s “Best Job in the World” campaign from last year, will set the bar for thinking about integrating marketing campaigns across traditional and new media. It’s an amazingly well executed feat. To close, here’s an analysis of where advertising might go from this point, complete with a nice little quote about the social medium:

“Start here: as it became apparent that this wasn’t just a one-time media drop, but instead an ongoing live performance—a spectacle in progress—I was reminded of some thing that I heard Rex Sorgatz say years ago. I’ll paraphrase, broadly: blogs are actually more related to live theatre than they are to, say, newspapers. The things that make a blog good are almost exactly the things that make a live performance good—and the most important, the magic cata­lyst, is the interplay with the audience.”

Get elfed

Elf Yourself is a cool viral Christmas greeting card generator. You should check it out.

You should also check out the Flash Mob inspired ad the service put together…

The Chicken Dance

This “Subservient Chicken” will do just about anything you ask it to. Provided you use words that can be generally applied and don’t want him to adhere strictly to a literal translation of your instructions.


It’s clever. And an ad for Burger King. Tell him to punch himself in the head. I did. And was pleasantly surprised.

Get cremed

Cadbury Creme Eggs are a masterpiece of Eastery goodness. There’s a Facebook group calling for them to be sold all year round – and I’m all for that.

Cadbury ran a pretty awesome “egg death” marketing campaign where fans had to bring about the untimely demise of their favourite culinary creation.

Here’s something special – make sure you watch right until the gooey end.

Will it blend: coffee

Will it Blend is the viral marketer’s dream. Who’d have thought getting the managing director of the company to blend cool stuff with this magic blender would capture the attention of hundreds of thousands of regular viewers. 

Now, Will it Blend’s Blendtek blender takes on the high end coffee grinder market. 

Scroll to Top