Walkin’ on water

These days you can’t just sell a product by starting a marketing campaign. To sell a product, you have to create a phenomenon and sell a lifestyle. The trick is creating the phenomenon and selling the lifestyle without anyone realizing that you’re also trying to sell a product. Enter Hi-Tec’s Liquid Mountaineering ad campaign.

Back in 2009, a video popped up on Youtube introducing the world to the newest extreme sport sweeping the world, Liquid Mountaineering. In other words, walking on water. The video was shot like a documentary and ostensibly filmed in Portugal featuring a number of foreign athletes who helped “invent” the sport. The video interviews these athletes and they talk about how the sport got started and then show a number of attempts to liquid mountaineer. In the video, the athletes are all discretely wearing T-shirts and sweatshirts branded with Hi-Tec. A few of the athletes make mention the fact that the sport became possible due to their discovery of a pair of 100 % water repellant shoes. The video gained over 4 million hits. Suddenly everyone was talking about Liquid Mountaineering. If this all sounds a bit fishy to you, it should. A lot of people fell for the video. It was shot documentary style and seemed plausible enough. A Facebook page and a blog were made in homage to the new sport and the “athletes” were obscure and foreign enough that any person on the internet would not be surprised if the only mention they found of them was through the Liquid Mountaineering sites. When a few people noticed the Hi-Tec branding and questioned them about the video, they at first denied any involvement. It wasn’t until some time later when they acknowledged that yes it was an ad campaign and yes the videos were not real.

When asked about the campaign Simon Bonham, the head of marketing at Hi-Tec, explained that the goal of the videos was to “capture the fun, spirited side of our brand.” Bonham and Hi-Tec wanted to sell the Hi-Tec “lifestyle,” as the most extreme of all the extreme sports clothing brands. To do that, they invented an outrageous sport and sent into the blogosphere where they got all the free publicity they needed. When a video goes viral there’s no telling how large the audience and the exposure will get, certainly more than any commercial on a hit TV show. And you can bet anyone that saw that video wont be forgetting who orchestrated the gag.

Check out the video:

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Murketing and the Movies

Murketing is one of those catch-all phrases that we can apply to a number of marketing tactics these days. However, one of the most common murketing techniques is viral marketing. Viral marketing is the sort of marketing that we see most often in entertainment these days. Its the subversive advertising that does not always even say what its advertising but is catchy and provocative. Because of that, it gets you to find out what they’re trying to sell you. Its the integration of the real world with the fake world of their movie. And no is one better at that type of marketing than Lost’s J.J. Abrams.

 

J.J. Abrams is the producer of Lost, Cloverfield and Super 8. His marketing schemes for all of them are nothing short of genius. Abrams released a Cloverfield trailer along with one of the most popular movies of the summer, Transformers. The trailer never said the name of the movie and instead featured only a date. If viewers went to the movie site (which was only the date in the trailer 1-18-08.com) they were treated to only a series of photos and random audio clips that were just as mysterious as the trailer released. What did all this do? Help generate huge buzz as to what the movie was about. By the time the movie released, viral tie-ins were everywhere including websites for a drink company called Slusho! and a Japanese drilling company called Tagruato, all to further the mystery of the plot. The film ended up grossing over $170 million dollars.

Another example of viral film murketing is the marketing scheme for 28 weeks later. If there’s one thing we know, its that everyone loves zombies. To market the film that depicted Britain as a giant zombie apocalypse, the marketing team in charge projected a massive biohazard sign onto the White Cliffs of Dover, ramping up speculation as to what it was for. Then across the cities of London and Birmingham, the marketing team spray painted biohazard signs in random locations with the web address ragevirus.com (the name of the disease in the film). All of these are just short intriguing buzzwords  to get people to start asking questions about the ad and then the movie. By the time you go to the web address, they’ve already got you hooked. And that is murketing in the movies.

Blending entertainment and advertising

Effective murketing is about getting the kind of exposure that you cant “tivo” out. With DVRs, cable tv, and internet, entertainment is more on-demand than ever. People fast-forward through commercials, watch television programs on their laptops and turn to alternative sources of entertainment such as youtube. To get people to pay attention to your product, you really have to cut through the noise and capture the zeitgeist. To do this, you have to turn your commercial and your product into something more than an advertisement. You have to turn it into entertainment.

One of the most famous examples of this type of marketing is the Will It Blend campaign by Blendtec. In this popular series of youtube videos, Blendtec founder Tom Dickson puts various items in his sturdy Blendtec blender to see if it will indeed blend. Some of the items include iPods, golf balls, marbles, Nintendo Wii, and even a car, a Ford Fiesta. The Will It Blend series is popular (all of its videos have a least one million hits) and irreverent. It features the type of off beat dead pan humor that sells so well on the internet.

So, of course, the campaign is impressive for getting us to want to watch its commercials. But that is only half the ingenuity of the campaign. What has made it so popular is that we get to watch Dickson blend various brand name items that we know such as the iPhone, the iPad, and the Wii. Free advertising and brand exposure anyone? If anyone had any doubts about just what Tom Dickson is up to, then check out this video where Dickson attempts to “blend” a Ford Fiesta. The video is essentially a three minute Fiesta commercial with the punchline of Dickson blending the various items in the backseat of the Fiesta for “roadtrip smoothie.”

The Blendtec videos have become a phenomenon in many circles. They are a perfect example about how to create grass roots brand exposure that spreads through “word of mouth” faster and more effectively than any traditional means of advertising. Instead of spending millions on commercials during peak TV hours, Blendtec made a series of cheap, clever videos that pay for themselves. I bet the guy who came up with that idea got a big raise.

Here’s the video that started it all:

 

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