Viral Marketing: Ready For Prime Time With Old-Timers?

Hitwise reports that Office Max’s Elf Yourself viral marketing campaign has been quite the hit this year (would you like to see the version I created of my kids and sent to their grandparents? I didn’t think so). According to Hitwise:

The majority of visitors were aged 55 and over, which suggests that this demographic could be ripe for viral marketing programs.”

My take: How did they come to that conclusion? Hitwise even concedes that many visitors were driven to the site by friends and family (62% of the traffic to the site was from email). So who did the viral campaign really succeed with? Gen Yers, Xers, and younger Boomers (like me) who uploaded pictures and sent links off to Grandma and Grandpa — not the 55 and over crowd.

Based on Forrester Research’s surveys, the rule of thumb is: The older the consumer, the less likely he or she is to recommend products and services to friends and family. Elf Yourself is not an example that bucks that trend.

But more importantly, Hitwise didn’t report the most critical metrics: How many people clicked through to, and then ordered, one of the specials on the page that comes up before viewing or sending the elves dancing?

Office Max has done a great job of driving Web traffic to Elf Yourself, and I hope they do it again next year. But the campaign hardly convinces me that the 55 and over crowd is ripe for viral marketing programs. And until we see the results from the hit counters regarding online sales, or reports from the firm itself that shows the incremental results of the campaign, should we conclude that viral marketing efforts like this drive bottom-line business results.

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