Viral Marketing is Easy, Mac

Monday, 17 September 2007

The problem with traditional advertising is that, well, it’s traditional, which is a synonym for old (look it up if you don’t believe me), and as such it gives you the same old results. Advertisers today are faced with the challenge of marketing their products and services in a way that doesn’t scream “I’m trying to sell you something!” Advertising needs to be fresh, and, if done well, hardly considered advertising at all.

Enter the internet (I know, surprise, surprise, right?) xmas.jpgand the wonderful world of viral and word of mouth marketing. The internet allows (really, demands) so many more types of media than print or television advertising can present. Potential customers and clients can interact with current users and explore new products before they commit to them, taking the “try it before you buy it” gimmick to a whole new level.

The challenge is finding a way to present something that is not inherently fun, or interesting, or sexy in a way that makes it seem like that is exactly what it is; internet advertising is all about covertly shaping perceptions. Sure, this is what all advertising tries to do, but good internet marketing sneaks in the side door, where traditional advertising just keeps banging away at the front like everyone else.

easymac.jpgTake Kraft Easy Mac for example. Macaroni and Cheese (well-known and loved, but boring) that can be microwaved (quick and delicious, but par for the course in today’s instant gratification, no-effort-please culture). Definitely not sexy, or even particularly fun after the first time. However, DraftFCB were able to help propel Easy Mac from ho-hum microwaveable munchies to highly interactive internet entertainment.

The U-Starvin website is specifically aimed at college students, who are known to be microwave masters. The site allows visitors to virtually microwave all the stuff your mother always told you not to, like crayons, marshmallows and…a pineapple? Whatever mom told you (or didn’t), the site is pretty cool and a much safer way to experiment (if you don’t have infinite time to waste, at least nuke the foam and Christmas lights, they’re worth watching).

Kraft went even further in targeting this demographic by partnering with CollegeHumour.com for a series of “Really Frugal Gourmet” webisodes. These didn’t have the staying power of the U-Starvin site, I think because they brought the focus back to the product and are too commercial-y. The draw of the U-Starvin campaign (if you can call it that) is that it completely ignores the product and gives the target something fun to do and watch, instead of offering just another boring ad.

The genius of Kraft and DraftFCB, and any other successful WOMM attempt, is that they realized their product was nothing new or exciting, yet managed to create something that people could, and would, talk about. Viral marketing is all about twisting the expected into the unexpected and turning tired old advertising on its head. This was critical for Easy Mac, whose target was the young and over-advertised, and they succeeded beautifully by making an entire website that it one big promotion, without seeming like it at all.

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