artwork by Hugh MacLeod
Interesting post from Fred Wilson, a VC and principal of Union Square Ventures about advertising (he calls it marketing).
This quote stands out:
I’ve often thought that advertising is what you do when a product is either mediocre or commoditized. If customers don’t love your product, give you repeat business and tell their friends, you’ll have to do the talking yourself through paid media. Big brands like Google, Facebook, Zara, Starbucks and Zappos though demonstrate that you can build large successful brands without much advertising.
The thing I could never reconcile in mind were the ads ran by companies like Apple. They have a cult following and products people love and rave about. Why bother with spending anything on paid media? The second part of Fred’s quote is brilliant and makes sense. Advertising can rally your base and pull people of the line.
I’m not claiming advertising doesn’t work. I’m sure that the amount of sham-wows, slap shops and collectable plates sold as a result of their TV Ads makes the producer a profit. But that doesn’t mean its a good product.
A good product sells itself. Don’t fix a mediocre product with advertising, fix the product instead.
This is the story about the ‘Mystery Man’ campaign we ran on behalf of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau last week. It’s a story of the power of social media, passionate communities and bringing people together. We knew it was a great idea but the results exceeded our wildest imagination.
Social Media is about sharing and bringing people together. When the Dallas CVB asked us to design a campaign around Super Bowl XLV we thought ‘Why not use social media to get people talking to each other about Dallas?’.
At Think! Social Media, we work with the concept of passionate communities. These are groups of people connected through a shared passion. Engage a passionate community in the right way by offering something remarkable, and they will do the marketing for you through word-of-mouth.
The Big Idea
Needless to say, every NFL team has an extremely passionate community… and offering a chance to win Super Bowl tickets is pretty remarkable. Remarkable enough get people out into the street talking to each other.
We decided to send a Mystery Man to each city of the teams who made it to the Super Bowl. The first person to find the Mystery Man and tell him the secret phrase, ‘Have you been to Dallas lately?’ would instantly win tickets to the big game, 4 nights accommodation, tickets to the NFL experience and some cash towards travel.
We researched NFL and travel/lifestyle bloggers in each city and asked them if they would like to participate. As “Exclusive Bloggers”, their role would be to share daily clues about the location of the Mystery Man. We were careful in choosing bloggers that have strong social media presences and very engaged readers. We chose 5 in Green Bay and 4 in Pittsburgh. Their role was crucial in tapping into the existing communities and raising awareness about the campaign.
The clues tied in to imagery and facts about attractions in Dallas and became increasingly specific as the weekend went on. By printing the clues on photos they were easy to share through Twitter, and were eye-catching on the blogs and Facebook.
The secret password could only be revealed by ‘liking’ the Visit Dallas Facebook Fan Page. A campaign Twitter account (@DallasSBHunt) was created to coordinate all activities, answer questions and share the latest updates. In addition two hashtags (#SBHuntGB and #SBHuntPGH) were introduced to facilitate discussion around the contest.
The conference finals were played on Sunday January 23. We were prepared for each of the 4 cities. At the end of Sunday we knew the contest would run in Green Bay and Pittsburgh.
We finalized the details of the contest and sent out materials to the bloggers so they could prepare their first blog posts announcing the contest. At this time we activated the contest tab on the Visit Dallas fan page which only had 600 fans.
By noon, the bloggers in each city had announced the contest.
Slowly the word started to spread. At the end of Tuesday, the fanpage had grown to over 1,000 fans and the followers of the campaign Twitter account began to grow.
We continued to build awareness over the next few days. By carefully listening in on Twitter, tapping in to relevant communites and joining the conversations where appropriate we were able to rapidly spread word of the contest. By Thursday, traditional media had gotten wind of what we were up to and a few stations began to report on the contest on the the nightly news. By the end of Thursday over 3000 people had liked the Visit Dallas page.
At 9am the Exclusive Bloggers announced their first clues and the contest began. We quickly learned that we had struck gold in both cities. The streets were full of people searching for our Mystery Man, many tweeting as they went and following along on Facebook. By Friday @DallasSBHunt was trending in both Pittsburgh and Green Bay.
Best of all, two whole cities were out on the streets talking to each other about Dallas.
That night, the hunt for the Dallas Mystery Man was the headline news on all the local stations (this is my favourite). The Visit Dallas Fan Page had grown to 8,000 fans and the campaign Twitter account had well over 1500 followers.
We were lucky that Friday’s clues had been vague enough for our Mystery Men to keep from getting caught, but by Saturday the amount of people on the street made it significantly more difficult to make it through the city unnoticed.
Just after noon our Mystery Man in Green Bay was found and not long after our man in Pittsburgh was caught as well.
The hunt was over, but the ride wasn’t. The winners were invited on news shows (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and countless blogs, websites, radio stations and news papers were reporting on the contest and its winners.
Sunday and beyond
The winners in Green Bay turned out to be a couple who are homeless and live in a local shelter. They were invited on Fox 11′s morning show to tell their story. Shortly thereafter CNN picked up the story and we had reports from our contacts all over North America (even as far as Australia) who saw the campaign on the news.
We definitely succeeded in getting people talking about Dallas. We also proved that when you run a Social Media campaign within passionate communities, you don’t need a big media budget. And, if the community is passionate enough, you’ll even make it on the news.
We grew the Visit Dallas Fan Page by almost 10,000 fans in three days. The fanpage received about 100,000 pageviews and generated over 500,000 news feed impressions.
But what we’re most proud of is the incredible positive reaction from the people in Green Bay and Pittsburgh. We received many messages from individuals telling Dallas how much they enjoyed the weekend.
We want to thank the Dallas CVB for giving us the opportunity to execute our crazy idea and give a big thank you to all the local bloggers and the great people of Green Bay and Pittsburgh. May the best team win on Sunday!
This entry is cross-posted on the Think! Social Media blog.