Posted on August 6, 2007
Filed Under Marketing 2.0 |
Viral marketing is an area of great interest to brands today. Services like MySpace and YouTube have created potentially powerful new marketing channels and marketers have shown little hesitation in trying to leverage these new channels to spread their marketing messages virally.
Smirnoff and British ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty are the creators of one of my favorite viral video campaigns. Their award-winning “Tea Partay” ads promoting Smirnoff’s Raw Tea products are funny and entertaining.
This first ad, released in August 2006, parodies East Coast “prepsters” with a hip-hop video and has received over 3 million views on YouTube.
Apparently inspired by the success of this video, Smirnoff upped the ante and decided to parody the East Cost versus West Coast rivalry that plagued the rap music scene for many years.
Following the trash talk, the West Coast responded in true Beverly Hills style.
Added to YouTube on August 2, the scathing response from Boyz in the Hillz has garnered Smirnoff more than 415,000 YouTube views as of this writing.
The campaign has even sparked user-generated responses. One of the more amusing ones was put together by Duke business school students to poke fun at Vanderbilt University’s Owen MBA program.
Needless to say, it would be hard to argue that the Tea Partay campaign hasn’t been successful for Smirnoff from a pure marketing/branding standpoint:
- A campaign with a reportedly small budget has received wide exposure.
- It has resonated with consumers to the point where some consumers have used the content as a basis for their own parodies.
I love content that makes amusing social commentaries and the United States certainly has a wide range of curious cultural aspects to wonder about (and laugh about where appropriate). I think the popularity of Smirnoff’s campaign can probably be attributed in part to the fact that the Tea Party music videos take certain cultural stereotypes and exaggerate them. Exaggeration is a crucial element of good comedy and in this case, the exaggeration is done in an entertaining yet subtly intelligent fashion. For that I give the playaz at Smirnoff and Bartle Bogle Hegarty mad props.
But as I was watching these videos, it occurred to me that I have never sipped Smirnoff Raw Tea. Watching the video got me thinking more about the absurd old money and nouveau riche lifestyles so popularized by the media today than it did about asking the bartender for some Green Tea next time Buffy and I hit the clubs. None of my friends have invited me to a tea partay, so my friends have either remained loyal to the Goose or my less-than-flattering comments about Saab automobiles got me kicked off the Martha’s Vineyard summer party invitation list.
While I don’t know how well Raw Tea sales are for Smirnoff, it doesn’t appear to me that Raw Tea has taken over the market. Obviously, it’s a niche product and maybe sales are strong, but for brands like Smirnoff, there are a number of things to consider:
- Is there an ability to track and correlate sales with the exposure the viral videos receive?
- Will entertaining viral videos really entice consumers to purchase products? A 2006 Fortune article includes a quote from Bartle Bogle Hegarty executive who comments that when leveraging viral video, “you need to play by the rules of entertainment, not the rules of selling.” Obviously, “branding” is important for companies like Smirnoff and entertainment is leveraged to brand, but at the end of the day Smirnoff is in business to move product, not to entertain. If too much focus is placed on entertainment (under the guise of “branding”), is it possible that the entire exercise will be worthless to the company in terms of creating real value?
- As it relates to the above, a commenter posted on another blog that the marketing campaign was a success in his opinion because while he had no plans to become a regular drinker of Raw Tea, he wouldn’t hesitate to pick some up and take it to a party as a gag. This begs the question: even if sales are boosted because of the viral video, is the viral video capable of establishing a sustainable position in the marketplace? Is it even possible that the over-the-top humor displayed in the Tea Partay videos reduces how seriously consumers take the product and relegates it to “novelty” status?
Only time will tell if marketers can squeeze tangible value from viral video. In the meantime, if you ever throw a tea partay and want some company, chirp at me. Buffy and I will be glad to holla back and RSVP. In cursive.Print This Post