You didn’t think you’d ever have to consider this right? We’ve never quite had to face a situation where people get mad at you for discontinuing a successful marketing campaign. With communities taking over brands however, this can indeed become a relevant issue, as campaigns themselves become social phenomena. Batman: The Dark Knight campaign was, as most of us already know, a thrilling campaign of unparalleled success. The game gathered millions of enthusiasts around their screens (computer, not tv) and also thousands on the street to play, interact with and collaborate around the world’s most extensive online-offline alternate reality game (read more here). The extent and depth of the game leaves me to think: it must have left the fans feeling a little empty after a one year plus of gaming, when eventually the stream of promotion material from Harvey Dent’s office ceased and the Joker stopped sending them vandalized versions of the Gotham Times with embedded secret messages anymore.
While the Batman campaign gathered mostly praise, Disney had it a bit more rough, as they decided (on schedule and according to initial plan) to close Virtual Magic Kingdom, their 18-month campaign. During this time, the community had gathered over a million users, who in addition were also the best possible candidates to be Mickey Mouse’s own brand ambassadors. Closing down the community understandably inspired some grumbles, as people suddenly lost a place they had built with significant invested time and passion. Even protest sites and petitions were created.
Hasbro now is facing the same situation with their Monopoly brand. In order to promote Monopoly City, the new edition of the board game, Tribal DDB created a campaign called Monopoly City Streets, where the player can buy virtually any street in the world and start building an empire. The mash-up utilizes Google Maps and overlays the buildings and street ownership information on top of Google’s street maps. I also bought my own street and noticed to my surprise that almost every street on my neighbourhood had already been bought. The game has an issue in that it’s growing too big to be stopped now that Hasbro has gotten the message through. There are over 1,5 million players online and pageviews amount to a whopping 15 billion per month. Closing down that amount of activity poses a huge image risk to a company that is all about inspiring to play with its products. The last I heard, Hasbro is now considering expanding the online campaign to a stand-alone product, a wise move and something that can in fact become one of their biggest successes by any measure.
Looking at this in the perspective of modern marketing creates an interesting paradox. On the other hand there is the argument that we no longer can plan our campaigns the way we used to, locking messages, budgets and media types into place a year beforehand. We’re supposed to be able to react more nimbly to what’s happening around us. On the other hand anyway, there is a faction that insists on long term view (as e.g. Anders Gustafsson of Crispin Porter Bogusky Europe recently did) – that we need to create things that inspire our customers for years, not weeks or months. Or is there a paradox at all? Are we really talking about the same thing?
At a time when Facebook is already a favorite hangaround for the young and influential, Volvo has discovered a nifty way to gain attention for its recently updated S60, which will be unveiled next year in Geneva. The company hired a known artist to paint the car and recently published the piece. The interesting thing is that the artist, Esref Armagan had never seen the car as he’s been blind since birth.
On a well-made video on Volvo’s Facebook page we see Esref working with the car, showing small details of the car in numerous close-ups as the painters hands glide on the surface. The campaign has also a participatory perspective in accord with the times: Volvophiles could ask the painter to paint specific parts of the car, which were made into their own videos. The end result is a compilation of small parts of the whole that are quite good at rising expectations and inspiring your imagination. At least my interest got aroused.
Of course Volvo also relies on more traditional PR, taking the story to editors of magazines to build awareness (I read about this from Wired). However, the story wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting without a very creative approach that inspires a discussion (the blind artist) and a modern approach to utilizing the communications system (Facebook and people’s requests of which details they want to see) that preceded the magazine articles. On the age of speed and networks PR and marketing are ever more frequently leaping into each others’ territories and we as marketers and communicators need to appreciate this convergence.
My colleague Riku recently argued that in the future there are only two forms of marketing, on the other hand there are cool extravagant events, and on the other a rigorous system run and maintained by robots. I kinda agree but would like to make a further note. In more and more of effective marketing, we constantly need both: First we need creative ideas that are compelling and don’t fit into any of the boxes we so often like to draw around them. Second, we need a network, a system that we use to communicate our idea. And although there are communicators of our idea external from us in this system, it doesn’t mean that we couldn’t proactively plan and manage this participation – it just needs some scenario planning and reactive processes alongside one-way communications design. This creates the ability for us to react in timely and effective way to all developments, planned or unplanned, as they unfold.
Now ask yourself: do you still do press releases or are you already an active member of the network?
BMW launches their new Z4 (a beauty, although I am lukewarm to private driving) using augmented reality. The TV ad was produced with artist Robin Rhode attaching paint sprays to the wheels of a real Z4 and driving around over a white floor. After a few rounds, joyful figures emerged:
Participation is also utilized. By printing out a fiduciary marker icon and placing it on a surface in front of your webcam, you can command a virtual BMW around your living room or desk and paint it with vivid colors that are imposed on the video footage on-screen. Naturally, the idea is to then upload and share the video with your friends.
Fun and creative, but you need to download a software for this and it is available only in Windows version. As regards the nature of the campaign, it would probably have paid off to produce a Mac version as well as this kind of playing around and tinkering is usually more natural to Mac owners than Windows users. Nevertheless, a fun and bold take on how to use the latest tools in marketing (and I am telling you about it, am I not?)
I help brands grow their Revenue, Profitability and Customer Happiness through Design & Technology.