kentucky kicks a**

One of the very first blog posts I published in 2005 was a repurposing of an op-ed article I wrote for the Courier-Journal about the failure of the Unbridled Spirit “rebranding” of Kentucky. I’ve used that story many many times since then. It’s featured prominently in Brand Zeitgeist. I use it in my marketing keynotes when I speak about branding. Because I’m from the Bluegrass State, it’s one of my favorite ways to talk about misconceptions on brand strategy.

branding keynote speechAfter seven years of lackluster response to Unbridled Spirit, someone decided to do something about it. A group calling themselves Kentucky for Kentucky has taken the task of reimagining the branding of the state commonwealth.

They’ve replaced “Unbridled Spirit” with “Kentucky kicks a**” (no asterisks) complete with a YouTube video that’s gone viral and related merchandise.

Their campaign, which is only a few weeks old, has already outpaced the real campaign run by the Kentucky Department of Tourism in Facebook likes, video views, etc. It made a big jump when it picked up national exposure in the USA Today this week.

Many have faulted the state tourism department spokesman for their response, but I can see the point of the tourism bureaucrats trying to distance themselves from this homegrown branding effort because of the vulgarity of it. It plays well with certain demos, but will turn off others which is a death knell for tourism.

While I’ve gone on record against vulgarity, I do like the fact that this campaign does something right. It has emotion. It has personality. Instead of trying to cram a corporate brand message down someone’s throat, it takes the brand equity that is there and translates it into something people want to share and experience. State leaders should take a lesson of how to properly translate a brand message into something people want to share.

(btw. KY does kick a**.)

my God, they’re throwing guitars out there

So over the course of about two weeks, a Canadian folk singer has brought United Airlines to its knees with over 3 million views (and growing) of this viral video:

There’s been lots of talk online and in the MSM about how this is a great customer service lesson in the new economy. And it is. United has even said they will be using it in their internal training.

The customer service angle is the most important, but I think there are four other big lessons here:

Presentation counts.

There are thousands of consumer gripes at this very moment on twitter, facebook, youtube, individual blogs, and every other web thingy you can think of. What made this one stick and go national?

It’s because it’s well done.

The first time I watched the video, I watched the entire 4:36 (and then watched it again) and you probably did too. By comparison, see how long you can make it through another United Airlines consumer complaint video.

Unless they have no life and unlimited time, people will choose to spend their time with engaging online content instead of stuff they have to struggle to digest.

And the important part for online virility: they won’t pass it on unless it’s really good. Think about your other WOM recommendations to friends. “That restaurant is awful. You should go!”

You still need big media to make a big impact

The video got a response from United within a short time of being posted, but it didn’t really take off into the stratosphere until several new and old media like the Consumerist, LA Times, NY Times, CNN, and other “big guys” featured the video. It might have taken off itself, but these Digg/Oprah-type spotlights amplified the user-level passalong effect to make it go viral. It also helped that Sons of Maxwell already had a fanbase that could help spread the message.

You have to have a base to push off of — if you’re going to jump high.

Don’t back down

United has offered Dave compensation for his guitar and he refused, requesting that United give the money to charity (United is donating $3,000 to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz). And he is going ahead with the other two songs of his promised United trilogy.

In the end, he is going to come out way ahead. Taylor guitars has offered him some new guitars, other airlines are offering seats, and he and his band now have tremendous publicity.

Learn from your mistakes

It seems that United has no choice except to assume the Duck and Cover position for now. They’ve made the donation. The other songs are coming. (I hope one of them explains the sombreros.) At the minimum, the upcoming second one will get publicity. And United has said they are going to learn from the experience

Rob Bradford, managing director of customer solutions at United, called Carroll Wednesday to apologize for the foul-up and to ask if the carrier could use the video internally to help change its culture.

(My first suggestion: eliminate stupid titles like “managing director of customer solutions”)

I’d love to see a case study or something come out of United on how they handled this. I think they actually have an opportunity to shine here if they don’t mess it up. The best thing they could do? Offer to help Dave to make the third video a happy ending.

UPDATE (7/17/09): I have thought of a fifth point. From my perspective, Dave Carroll seems like a nice, decent genuine guy. Being a good guy counts probably more than anything.

sacrifice your friends for free meat

This month, it will be six years since Crispin Porter + Bogusky took over the Burger King business and started serving up quirky and viral campaigns that have been critically acclaimed by those in the ad biz. Coq Roq, Whopper Virgins, the Subservient Chicken, the resurrection of the “king” and more — it’s all from CP+B and has definitely brought the buzz to BK.

And yet — six years ago, Burger King was the #2 fast food outlet in the US. Today, Burger King is the #2 fast food outlet in the US. Advertising admired by the advertising community is not always the key to success.

But there’s part of me that actually likes the concept behind CP+B’s latest creation. It’s a Facebook application called Whopper Sacrifice. (Find the microsite at http://www.whoppersacrifice.com/)

Basically, you load the app; delete 10 of your “friends”; and BK sends you a coupon for a free Whopper. The app also lets those “friends” (please use airquotes) know they’ve been deleted for a burger to perpetuate the viral effect. It’s top notch Burger King classiness.

I think BK and CP+B have tapped into the Facebook backlash that’s simmering under the surface of the masses. Everyone has a few pieces of dead wood that they could let go.

And just in case you do actually need all your “friends” (airquotes again) or if you’re like me and just like to scam corporations doing little tricks like this — there’s already a group of people on Facebook who are willing to be your “friend” just to be sacrificed.

Obviously, there have been viral campaigns played out on Facebook before, but none aimed so directly at the Facebook experience. It will be an interesting one to watch.
———————————
UPDATE 1/14/09: Facebook has removed BK as a friend – http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/01/14/facebook-blows-a-whopper-of-an-opportunity/

brewed stupidity

This happened today:
–Well established local media organization wants to shoot video of the Starbucks coffee for votes promotion (which btw could be illegal)
–The barista-in-charge won’t allow interviews or footage to be shot in the store.
–Free coverage and promotional value to a large captive audience goes out the window

If you’re trying to embrace viral marketing, you can’t be scared of cameras and people who are wanting to spread your message.

And beyond viral issues, you just need to teach common sense to local employees so you don’t miss out on opportunities like this. Corporate won’t always be there to dictate. Employees should know how to handle unique situations.

While I understand they may be trying to limit their legal snfau, shutting down coverage isn’t going to help. This is a news story today (albeit a minor fluff one), SBUX should have issued talking points and done a heads-up to local stores about media relations.

In fact, organizations should make sure each and every person in your organization is familiar with the current marketing plan and know how to handle media interviews. (or in today’s world, anybody who comes in with a camera.)

a conversation that’s happening somewhere RIGHT NOW

Clueless Marketing Guy #1 — We need to synergize our viralness on the web2.0 gravytrain.

Clueless Marketing Guy #2 — What?

#1 — We need something cool and interactive on the web that engages our customers.

#2 — Let’s put our :30 ad that we’re running on TV on our website.

#1 — Hey, we could also put it on that TubeYou thing.

#2 — (smugly) You realize this makes us cutting edge.

Mr Splashy Pants

Greenpeace has been running a poll to name some whales that are traveling in the Pacific.

29 of the 30 nominations are for either mythical, Zen-ish, or new-age-type names like Kaimana, Shanti, and Aurora.

And then scanning down the list, you see “Mr. Splashy Pants“.

And he’s winning the vote. Overwhelmingly.

While there was some noted vote tampering (votes that are not going to be counted), the reason that Mr. Splashy Pants is winning is because he went viral on the net through blogs and other forms of social media.

Greenpeace saw the opportunity and grabbed it. They’ve extended the voting to capitalize on the buzz. They quickly mobilized to develop Mr. Splashy Pants merchandise. They’re embracing it on their blog.

The entire affair is getting lots of press and it will probably pop up in the MSM in next few days. It’s an immeasureable PR coup for the cause.

But when you read through the comments on their blog and posts on other blogs, you’ll find some Greenpeace supporters who are not happy at all about the name.

One of the main reasons that so many non-profits (and for-profit businesses) languish is that they spend most of their time talking to the people who are already familiar with the cause and are already ardent supporters. While it’s important to cultivate your core, you have to find new people in order to grow. For some of the inside core, this feels like outsiders are hijacking the organization.

Some people are so comfortable and locked up in the “normalcy” of the cause or the business that they can’t see the massive opportunities right below the surface.

This seems obvious — but the best way to get attention is to stand out from the crowd.

Names

I just wrapped up 2 exciting action-packed days of analyzing data from a survey. Between walking around bleary-eyed with Excel speadsheets imprinted on my retinas, I noticed something.

The concept of the survey was for people to answer (open-response) what their top preferences were in defined business categories in a certain geographic area.

While most respondants gave a clear answer, there were several of these…
–“that place over on main street”
–“that restaurant over on Samsville Road”
–etc

And even out of those respondants who could name a business…several were misspelled, not exactly the right name, or corrupted in some other way.

Remember, these people are saying this business is their “favorite”. They are self-professed “fans” of this establishment. And yet, some of them can’t properly tell me what it is.

These are the same people that are now being recruited by businesses to be “buzz marketers”, “viral marketers”, “citizen marketers” and whatever other name we can come up with.

Back in the day, if you hired a “spokesperson” and they couldn’t get your name right in the commercials, you’d have fired them. Now you’ve got people you’re encouraging to create marketing content about your business and to spread it. And you can’t fire them. How do you make sure they’re sending the message you want them to?

You can’t. Word of mouth has always been corruptable and always will be. Try to provide the tools that your self-professed fans need to spread the message. The best you can do is to have a strong brand strategy to make sure that your base knows “the story”….and that they at least get your name right.

tags::

Diet Coke Says “Drop Dead” to CGC

In yet another example of companies that “just don’t get it”, Coke is giving a chilly response to some free publicity as some Diet Coke and Mentos fans have used the two products in tandem with some entertaining results. The video of this phenomenon is spreading virally across the internet.

Here’s what the Coke old spokes-fogey Susan McDermott said in the article…”It’s an entertaining phenomenon. We would hope people want to drink it more than try experiments with it.”…McDermott also said that the “craziness with Mentos … doesn’t fit with the brand personality” of Diet Coke.

Let’s see. Some of your loyal customer base is generating free publicity for your product and spreading it virally. Those people and others they inspire are buying OVER 100 2-LITERS each of your product to pull this stunt off. This CGC has reached over 800,000 people so far FOR FREE. But you’re acting like a strict mother at the dinner table saying “Quit playing with your food and drink it” If some of my customer base is helping me to sell over 100 bottles of my product at a pop AND generating free ad/PR value…..I wouldn’t care if they bathed in it.

And by the way…the “brand personality of Diet Coke” could use some freshness anyway. Yet another example of what I beat my head up against the wall saying everyday…You are not in charge of what the brand stands for. You can nurture and help shape the brand. But in the end, the consumer dicates the brand.

The WSJ article compares the actions of Coke to that of FedEx when they cease&desisted themselves out of the free publicity they were getting from the FedEx Furniture guy. The comparison is straight on. It looks like Coke would have learned from the bad PR that the FedEx incident generated. When will companies start learning the lessons of the new marketing framework from other companies’ mistakes?

Mentos is embracing this, encouraging it, and riding it for all it’s worth. Good for them. (The Fresh-maker!)

Coke is not it. (The Stale-maker!)

tags::

UPDATE:: Sorry. I got so carried away with the rant that I forgot the fun part. You can view the original video here. It’s supposed to simulate the water fountain show in front of the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Brilliant Marketeer

Flattery will get you everywhere….especially with viral video. This email and link made my Monday morning.

Shotgun Marketing Blog Reader Howard Mann sends the following email….

Hi Chris,

I’m a big fan of your blog. Your latest post “4 8 15 16 23 42” shared a similar theme to a project we launched just last week so I thought you would get a kick out of it. It’s an animated movie/song called “The Brilliant Marketeer”. The twist is that the star of the movie comes from a picture the viewer uploads.

So.. Here it is using the pic from your blog. Presenting Chris Houchens, The Brilliant Marketeer – http://a.muglets.com/CA-10CHJ-A

Hope you enjoy and thanks again for sharing your thoughts and ideas through your blog. Best regards, Howard

I’ve got some weird hair in the video, my voice is a little high-pitched, and I seem to have lost some weight….but this is fabulous.

The cool thing (other than being in the video) is the theme that Howard picked up in my 4 8 15 16 23 42 post about the decline of traditional media and RELEVANCE of ad messages. Marketers are going to have to start using these new tools of marketing. If you’re a marketer who is Web2.0, you should definitely make your own Brilliant Marketeer video and include in your online resume.

tags::

Denny Crane

There’s a neat marketing tactic involved in the promotion of the new season of “Boston Legal” which premieres tonight on ABC.

There have been banner ads popping up that look like typical law office advertising. The ads promote the firm – Crane, Poole, and Schmidt – with the text…”What’s Your Problem? Call 1-877-SUE-2-WIN”. The animated gif then flashes the promo details for Boston Legal.

Call the toll-free number. It’s entertaining…and not only is it enertaining…it’s viral…and it’s trackable.

BTW…does anyone else think that Boston Legal is David Kelly’s 2nd try at Ally McBeal? The characters seem similar…
brashness = Richard Fish = Alan Shore…
quirkiness = John Cage = Denny Crane…
Ken & Barbie = Billy & Georgia = Brad & Lori…
Tough woman = Nell = Schmitt (Candace Bergen)…
Tough assistant/girlfriend = Ling = Tara…
Sexy Secretary = Elaine (Jane Krakowski) = Catherine (Betty White)…well…maybe not…nevermind

tags::