Recently, while scrolling through my Twitter timeline, I saw a particular hashtag – #WinnerTakesEarth. Not knowing what to make of it, I followed up the link, which eventually took me to a news article on Goal.com, a popular football news website. The article spoke about how on a billboard at Times Square, one of the busiest places on Earth, mysterious symbols suddenly started appearing. This was eventually replaced by a message that read #WinnerTakesEarth and a mysterious logo with a football at its center. Times Square, New York was apparently the third place to be struck by this mystery campaign. After running a Google search about the hashtag, I found out that similar incidences had happened at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the mysterious logo had appeared on Sugarloaf Mountain, an iconic location in the city, and at Hackney Marshes, UK. People have already started talking about this on social media and on forums. This particular campaign seems to be an attempt by some organization at ‘Buzz Marketing’.
According to Techtarget.com, Buzz marketing is a viral marketing technique that attempts to make each encounter with a consumer appear to be a unique, spontaneous personal exchange of information instead of a calculated marketing pitch choreographed by a professional advertiser. In short, it is an attempt by an organization to generate word of mouth for a product or service or even a brand, and make it go viral. Though the concept has been around for generations, it was not until the advent of the internet that marketers were able to harness its full force. With social media tools like Youtube, Twitter and Facebook, many companies have found that it is easier to go viral nowadays and create a buzz in the market.
Many brands have used this technique effectively over the years. Google ran a buzz marketing campaign when it launched Gmail. The company did practically no marketing. All the company did was create scarcity by allowing only a handful of people the accessibility to Gmail. These “power users” could invite people they know to open accounts on Gmail. The campaign went so viral that there were even bids on EBay for invitations to Gmail.
However, sometimes buzz marketing efforts go horribly wrong. For instance, in 2007, Cartoon Network, in order to promote its show Aqua Teen Hunger Force, planted boxes with blinking lights on bridges and buildings in Boston. The people immediately called in the police thinking that they were bombs. In addition to sending out a barrage of apologies the channel and it’s parent company – Turner Broadcasting, had to pay a fine of $2 million. On top of all this, the channel’s Manager Jim Samples also had to resign. The incident was labelled the 2007 Boston Bomb Scare. It led to a lot of bad publicity for the channel as well as the show.
So I would say that going for a Buzz Marketing campaign can be tricky and marketers should tread lightly. Unless absolutely sure about the time and the place, it is safer to stick to traditional formats. Like any other investments, the higher the risk factor, the better the returns, but only if it is successful. Otherwise, you might be awarded with no returns or worse case scenario, like in the example of Cartoon Network, huge losses.
Coming back to the #WinnerTakesEarth campaign, it is obvious that it is a football tournament of some sort. This theory is supported by their website as well. And given the timing, my guess would be that the unveiling would be done on Halloween, i.e. 31st October. Till then be on the lookout for their next hit and let’s hope that the final delivery lives up to the hype that is created.
Author: Arko Mukherjee