Happy Freakin’ Monday Ep 36 – Endangered Syndrome Generating Buzz

The Canadian Down Syndrome Society has launched a campaign to apply for endangered species status with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). I didn’t intend on talking about buzzworthy advertising again this week but I really want to talk about this controversial move from a charity that knows how to get people’s attention.

In full disclosure, I happen to know the Executive Chair of the society. I am in a networking group with her and so I’ve had the chance to get a little bit of insight and hear what it’s like to live through that tornado of a media frenzy which is fascinating to me. That being said, these are 100% my own thoughts and feelings on this campaign.

*CORRECTION THE AGENCY IS FCB CANADA... NOT WHATEVER I SAID.

In my previous videos about generating buzz, I mentioned that doing something controversial is one way to get people talking but that I don’t recommend it because it can be a fine line to walk. Plus if you’re not prepared to deal with the fallout, it can be devastating to your brand. The Down Syndrome Society's new campaign falls into the category of controversial but it is generating conversation, has been viewed over hundreds of thousands of times (and counting) and has been covered by most of the major Canadian Media outlets so in a lot of ways, it’s working.

Before we talk about why the new campaign is controversial, here is a little background. The new campaign, launched at the beginning of this month to kick off Canadian Down Syndrome week. The video features Men and Women with Down Syndrome dressed as endangered species to announce their very real application to be the first humans to apply to be on the endangered species list.

The entire campaign was produced by their agency FCB Canada and it was done pro bono. That’s right, the agency has done multiple campaigns for the Canadian Down Syndrome Society completely free of charge which is really amazing to me.

You may remember their very popular “anything but sorry” campaign from last year that featured a similar cast providing suggestions for what to say to a someone giving birth to a new baby with the syndrome. The point was that you should be happy for them, and say anything except “sorry”. It went viral because it made an excellent point and the suggestions included a lot of swearing which made it funny but I think really challenged a general perception as well. That is that people with intellectual disabilities are seen as sweet and innocent and not capable of such language, which is obviously wrong. Here is that spot for your viewing pleasure:

Here is the Endangered Syndrome Video:

With the new campaign, the controversy is obviously around this perceived comparison of people with Down Syndrome to animals. This is what the media has latched onto, and what some people feel when they watch the video. I say “perceived comparison” because there is a lot of context around the campaign that I think most are missing. Here is what I think that the  Society and their agency did right to get ahead of that negative controversy for a successful campaign.

  1. They launched a website www.EndangeredSyndrome.com that provides more context and rationale for this campaign. They share a variety of facts to support their position that their population is shrinking and therefore so is their support. You can sign the petition and read their full application to the IUCN.
  2. They have taken the media head on doing a variety of interviews since the launch. I was told that they also intend to respond to CBC for what the Society felt was “unfair coverage” of the story. So instead of staying out of the spotlight they are using this opportunity to have that discussion and try to educate people about their cause.

So if you intend on going the controversial route with your marketing campaign, you better be prepared. 2 weeks ago I shared the example of the video game company who offered to buy ad space on peoples tombstones. That failed miserably because there was no rationale other than a cheap ploy to get attention. However, In the case of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society they actually have a point to make and they have done their homework. While it may be a controversial point, they are willing to fight for it and I for one think they will come out on top.

Have A Great Week!

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Happy Freakin’ Monday Ep 35 – Generating Buzz Pt2

Last week I dressed up as a really lame bee for halloween to talk about generating buzz with your marketing. I shared 2 ways to appeal to your audience in a way that will get people talking about your brand and you can find that post here: How To Generate Buzz Pt 1. This week I am sharing 2 more ways to generate buzz.

The first one I shared was do something controversial, one that I don’t always recommend because it can be effective if it is strategically aligned to your brand and your audience. The second was do something extraordinary. This is one that can be more costly or difficult to pull off but with some creativity, anything is possible.

The point of buzz marketing is to do something that not only gets people talking about your brand but that is newsworthy where that word of mouth is amplified by the media. The key to buzz marketing is that people love telling good stories so you need to create a story worth telling.

Here are two more ways to do that and generate a whole lot of buzz:

  1. Do Something Secret or Exclusive

When most social media platforms first launch, they try to get people talking by making it exclusive. People want what they can’t have. By only allowing subscription by invite only, it makes people want it more and talk about it, especially when they do get in and others have not. Being in the know is social currency and that is what makes great buzz.

A great example is a speakeasy in New York called Please don’t tell. It’s actually a hidden bar that you find through a phone booth that you step into and dial 1 to reach the operator who lets you in.  Even though it’s out of plain sight, it’s not really hidden. By creating such a fun secret experience, it’s bound to get people talking. Also bonus points if your business concept itself is buzzworthy like Please Don’t Tell.  

  1. Do Something Absurd  

Absurd, hilarious, completely off the wall and unexpected. That’s what gets people talking. It’s also at the core of many viral videos. When doing something absurd and unexpected, guerrilla tactics are often best. Take for example this campaign from Goldtoe breiefs who dressed the charging bull statue in New York in a giant pair of boxer briefs. As you can imagine it was quite a spectacle and definitely buzz worthy.

The best thing about doing something public like this is that it gives people who witness it the opportunity to be a social media star. Again it comes down to social currency and allowing your audience to capture something no one has seen before. When people want to take photos and videos and share your campaign with their networks, that is the sign of a buzz campaign done well.

Have A Great Week!

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Happy Freakin’ Monday Ep 34 – How To Generate Marketing Buzz

Generating Buzz is essentially word of mouth marketing but with a loud speaker. When we talk about generating buzz, we’re not only referring to getting people talking about your brand but doing something that is even newsworthy where that word of mouth is amplified by the media.

This approach is obviously appealing because the media and word of mouth exposure is free. That doesn’t mean that generating buzz itself is a cheap form of advertising. It can be quite expensive but here are some ways to appeal to your audience in a way that will get people talking because people love telling stories. So create stories for people to tell by doing one of 4 things (that I will share over 2 episodes). Here's are the first 2 ways to generate Buzz:

If you’re really brave, do something controversial. Not always a great tactic but if calculated well it could work in your favour. One of my favourite stories of a controversial buzz campaign was from a video game company called Acclaim Entertainment. They created a series of games around a character named Turok who was a Dinosaur Hunter. But they launched a campaign in the UK around the a new Turok game and they announced that they would pay any new Parents £10,000 to name their newborn “Turok”.

As you might guess this caused quite a buzz. It was kinda funny, kinda stupid, and only really harmful if anyone took them up on it. As far as I know, noone did. The thing about this story however is that Acclaim pushed the envelope with another campaign and not only found the line of controversial buzz marketing, but they crossed it. They took the same approach with another video game launch and they offered to buy ad space on people’s tombstones. The public had a hay day with this and they were forced to quickly revoke the offer and I’m sure it was a pr nightmare. So bottom line is that I don’t recommend this tactic often.

Something I do recommend is doing something Extraordinary - Something your audience has never seen before.

Ok this one can be difficult and costly. Like one of my favourite examples that fits this category is Red Bull’s Stratos stunt. Remember when that guy jumped out of a weather balloon from the stratosphere, over 36,000 meters above the earth and broke the sound barrier as he fell to the ground? Ya you can’t afford that but what an awesome way to generate buzz. Here is the highlight video from that event, in case you missed it.

Something more budget friendly and realistic might be a flash mob. All you need are a couple of actors/singers/dancers and someone to film it. A flash mob can be a great way to give people an immersive and unforgettable experience that they are sure to talk about. Here is a flash mob campaign from T-Mobile: 

And here is a pretty buzz worthy campaign from ING Netherlands, promoting an art exhibit where a famous painting comes to life: 

Next 2 ways to generate buzz coming next week. See you then!

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