About a week ago, the news about a falling meteor that created a 27 feet wide crater in Latvia was spread across the world. It was in all the major newspapers, all the TV channels, and of course, on every major social media site. The phenomenon was named Splatvia.
The crater was big, 27 feet (9 metre) wide and 9 feet (3 metre) deep. Scientists rushed to investigate it, and the military tested for radioactivity. It was a major buzz everywhere.
A few days later, it was discovered that it was never a meteor, but a hoax, a PR stunt, created by the marketing director of a mobile phone company. It was the Latvian branch of Swedish-owned Tele2.
The reason they did it
They wanted to draw attention away from Latvia’s economic crisis and toward something else more interesting. Well, they managed to do that.
Was it a success for Tele2?
If they define success as if they got attention, then it was a major success.
Did they do it for Latvia, or for their mobile phone company?
Either way, I don’t think of it as a success. Because you can’t define success as being just about attention and change of focus. Because, in the end, hoaxes will always be discovered.
A hoax is never ever a good thing. Well, unless it is really funny.
The Elements of Viral Marketing
My first question when I heard of this PR stunt, was what does this have to do with their product or service? I believe that you should always include your product in some way. If not, you’re campaign have to be really good in order for it to be a major success.
There are three main elements (and many subelements) in a viral marketing campaign:
In order to create a message that will go viral (across the world), you need to understand people, and what motivates them to spread something. Usually, it needs to be free. It needs to be something related to one or more emotions/feelings (like sad, funny, romantic etc.. check out this list of types of emotions)
The message you are creating needs to be easy to transfer. Usually, people should be able to spread the word by one or two clicks. Ordinary people should be able to explain what it’s all about. It should be as easy as possible to spread the word.
You need to be prepared for success (and failure). If a viral marketing campaign is successful, it might be very successful. Your webhost will get a lot of traffic, your phone might never stop ringing, your inbox might be packed and so on.
When you experience success, you need to convert the viral marketing success into sales. How do you do it? How did Tele2 plan on making more sales by spreading the news about the crater? When you get massive traffic to your website, or at least massive exposure, you need to convert it into sales.
How to promote your product using a hoax
A hoax is never ever good marketing, unless, it’s a really really good one. Usually, a really really good hoax is a funny one.
If you’re trying to create something that will go viral, like Tele2 did, and it did go viral, I think that you should always include your product in one way or the other.
Let me give you an example. I’m not really sure that this one was a marketing hoax or not, but I’ll use it anyway, because it’s a great example.
One of the most viewed videos on YouTube is of a girl playing Nintendo Wii in her underwear. The rumor is that this is a viral publicity stunt by Nintendo, and not just an amateur video. As far as I know, Nintendo have denied that they have anything to do with it.
The reason this is awesome viral marketing, is that the video is related to the product. It’s interesting, funny and different. Because it’s not the way you would expect a person to play WII Fit.
Another interesting example is “Guy catches sunglasses with face” a campaign by Ray-Ban.
Where did Tele2 go wrong?
It was a hoax. They knew that it would be discovered, sooner or later. Then, their message “focus on something other than the economic crisis in Latvia” is a lame excuse. The focus will change to even worse than before the hoax, for Latvia and for Tele2.
They should have created a viral video instead, a funny one that would get spread around the world. This way, they would get a lot of attention, and in the end, when the hoax was discovered, people would laugh and think of them as a cool company.