The Rules Of Viral Web Success (My Foot)

According to an Adweek article called The Rules Of Viral Web Success, At Least For Now:

…the OfficeMax “Elf Yourself” campaign, which wrapped up last week, drew more than 110 million visitors. The secret [to its success]: Keep it dead simple, make it personal and give people a reason to pass it on. These sites might not win awards or wow other creative directors, but they draw big audiences by eschewing the urge to add on features and functions. “Digital agencies often get wrapped up in thinking it won’t be interesting if they don’t use the latest and greatest technology,” said Daniel Stein, CEO of EVB. “That’s a fallacy.”

My take: This is the stuff that drives CEOs/CFOs crazy. Nowhere in the article does it mention metrics like incremental awareness, improved brand affinity, or [heaven forbid] incremental sales as measures of success. According to the article, Alexa ranked Elf Yourself as a top 1000 site in 50 countries. OfficeMax does business in five.

You want rules of viral web success? A viral web effort succeeds when it:

1) Attracts consumers relevant to your firm’s product/service offering. According to OfficeMax’s SVP of Marketing “Eighty-year-old women are sending these out and 8-year-olds are doing it.” Great. But how many 80 year old women and 8 year old kids shop at OfficeMax or influence office supply purchases? Viral web efforts can be deemed successful when they connect with your firm’s customers/prospects.

2) Is relevant to your business. Elf Yourself is great — I did it myself with my kids and sent it on to their grandparents who got a kick out of it. But I can’t help but wonder how many of the 110 million visitors knew the site was sponsored by OfficeMax, or remembers a month later. Give OfficeMax credit for offering online deals in the middle of the experience, but that’s not enough of a connection. Any business could have done Elf Yourself. A viral web effort is successful when it reminds participants of the sponsoring firm.

3) Supports the brand. If OfficeMax’s brand positioning was the “fun place to get your office supplies” I’d be more willing to call a Elf Yourself a successful campaign. But in 2006/2007 OfficeMax launched a rebranding effort (with its new rubberband logo), promising an “efficient marketing model” with a “focus on efficiency and return”. Elf Yourself doesn’t really support these objective. A viral web effort is successful when it does support your firm’s brand goals.

The problem isn’t agencies getting wrapped up in the latest technologies, it’s losing sight of the business goals and objectives. And you wonder why marketing is facing accountability issues?

Technorati Tags: Marketing, Viral Marketing, Elf Yourself, Office Max

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