Saturday, August 4

Going Viral: From Soflow To Jericho

BusinessLine recently published “Why Viral Marketing Fails" that represents some business backtracking on the concept of consumer marketing. It was reposted by Charles Cook as "the lights were going out" on the Adrants' Solfow forum.

Of course, Soflow wasn’t really closing as much as it was morphing into but the viral “closing” campaign seems to have been more successful for other networks than Soflow. Competing networks quickly offered up they were sad to see it go but were happy to accept its refugees. This left Soflow inc.’s new platform with fewer members than if it had not mismanaged its message with the hope of going viral.

But can the misfire really be pinned to the concept of viral marketing? Is it really true that most consumer marketing campaigns are destined to end up with a whimper? BuisinessLine seems to think so as the article questions everything from the name “viral marketing” to the very “ethics” of it. Yawn.

Any time viral marketing (though “consumer marketing” does sound better) fails, the failure can be traced back to a flawed strategy more easlly than a flawed concept. You see, the best consumer marketing — the kind that Hotmail originally used to become a success story — cannot be “forced” upon an unsuspecting public. For marketers, the simplest solution is to have a plan B in the event the viral plan A doesn't work.

Even better, if you’re lucky, consumers might kick off a viral campaign and all the company needs to do is nurture it. The question isn't how this happens as much as how it is happening. One of the best consumer success stories currently in progress is the once cancelled, now resurrected television series Jericho.

CBS never asked for a consumer campaign; the consumers did it on their own. The long and growing list of consumer marketing credits now include: Shaun OMac’s BlogTalkRadio show, fan-generated Web sites like Jericho Lives; forums like Jericho Rally Point; and Radio Free Jericho; an upcoming J-Con convention; fan groups like Jericho Coalition; and blogs like Jericho On CBS, The Jericho Bulletin, and Jericho Monster.

Jericho Monster, hosted by Jane S., demonstrates why consumer marketing works: it has a strategy driven by common sense. Without mapping it out like a communication consultant or marketing guru, her blog(s) have an unwritten work plan. Here’s a thumbnail of what she is doing (based on observation and not any formalized plan):

Introduce non-viewers to the show.
Educate fans how to do the same.
Increase viewers for Season 2.
Launch multiple interlinked blogs.
Make connections across the Web.
Expand the content to increase interest.
Early Results
Growing presence beyond Jericho fans.
Increased blog traffic driven to Jericho site.
Expanded content that caters to diverse interests.

It’s smart. And it demonstrates the best of consumer marketing. Through it all, CBS and Junction Entertainment have been increasing their efforts to assist the fans without attempting to “control” them or the proliferation of their content. On the contrary, they have taken to praising it (the image above, framed by a CBS Jericho widget border, is one of several created by Jericho fan Rubber Poultry), linking to various blogs and forums, and offering widgets fans to add anywhere they like online.

At this rate, Jericho stands to have a sensational return for its short-run seven episodes next season. And if it proves successful, it seems very likely that it will be on the verge of a complete renewal.

There isn’t any mad marketing genius behind what is becoming a viral phenomenon — just fans with a sense of passion and purpose. That’s true for all consumer marketing. It’s less about gimmick and more about allowing something to catch consumer interest. And, if that doesn’t work, you might be best served to have a plan B.

There are thirteen days left to enter Copywrite, Ink.'s contribution to consumer-generated Jericho buzz:. The free “Expanded Universe Short Story Competition” entry deadline is Aug. 17.



Sweet Tea on 8/4/07, 11:18 AM said...

Thank you and I'm thrilled that you took so much time to notice all the wonderful sites available for everyone. Jericho is the kind of show that can appeal to such a wide audience.
I'm flattered that you have taken the time to notice and comment on my blogs. You give a much better description than I ever could. I hope everyone will visit all the blogs and all the message boards and let our numbers shine through.
We can have Season 3 and only we can be the ones to make sure that happens.
P.S. I think CBS finally realizes how valuable we all are which leads to more content for us.

Unknown on 8/4/07, 11:35 AM said...

Thank you for another great Jericho article and for mentioning all the great sites to visit.

Rich on 8/4/07, 4:17 PM said...

Thank you both. I know I did not include everyone, but I'm sure they'll find the various links from there.

All my best,

SaveJake on 8/4/07, 4:20 PM said...

It is great to see credit given for all the hard work that has been done!
It is amazing to see what a passion driven campaign can produce from great people.

Thank you for shedding light on this incredible group of fans!!!

Jayhawkgirl on 8/4/07, 4:23 PM said...

Another great article, and loved that you mentioned many of the Jericho sites out there. The CBS boards are great, but there are alot of other important Jericho sites as well. Thank you for your continued support and advice for the Jericho faithful.

Rich on 8/4/07, 5:27 PM said...

Thanks SaveJake and Jayhawkgirl,

Sometimes the best campaigns are those that are allowed to happen. CBS too; they have done a fine job renovating the site and engaging fans on a new level.

I hope they keep it up.

Best, Rich

Skeeterbit on 8/4/07, 7:26 PM said...

Thank you so much for supporting the show and our efforts. You are a wonderful asset to this campaign. I have faith that Jericho will have an extraordinary season and be renewed. How can it not with such passionate, devoted fans. If I recounted some of the things I've done to increase ratings, I'd either be arrested or committed!

Rich on 8/5/07, 7:02 AM said...

Hey Skeeterbit,

Thank you. And I loved your interview on Jericho Monster.


Andrew Payton on 8/5/07, 5:23 PM said...


I like your blog. It's smart and informative, especially for those of us still in Internet 101.

Reading about this viral marketing stuff made me wonder what you would think about these new Intel commercials(?) I just saw on YouTube.

My friend sent them to me because he knows I love Christopher Guest. I watched them, (a bit reluctantly because I pretty much hate Intel's advertising - Blue Men, anyone?) and I have to admit, I was pretty much blown away. If "viral" advertising means more commercials like these, I hope the trend continues for a long time.

Thanks and keep it up,

Rich on 8/5/07, 6:26 PM said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for dropping by. I'm glad you like the blog. (Sometimes Internet 101 works for guys taking Internet 301 too because if it doesn't work with simplicity then it won't work with complexity.)

I think the Intel experiment has some merit. It seems a little bit too niche to become a viral success story, but obviously works for some people within a niche. Whether that met Intel's expectations, I don't know. But here's the thing...

I wrote a campy little country western jingle for casino in Laughlin a few years ago; something that would play on the casino floor every now and again. Outside of Laughlin, it would probably be dismissed. But inside the casino, it was much loved by the patrons (enough so that some asked for a CD and even invited friends just to hear it).

The funny thing is (to some people), I really wasn't in the target audience (but understood the audience). Sometimes that is enough.

So really, if I was going to rate the Intel YouTube ads, I would have to know if they 20,000 hits on the first and a drop off to 9,000 on the second met their expectations. Based on the comments and your testimonial, it certainly worked among Christopher Guest fans.

So "viral" might indeed mean more commercials like these. Not all of them will become SNL's "D*ck in a Box" success stories, but some will. And for those they do touch that mean might more than front end numbers.

Case in point (from YT): "Just sent this to both my ex-gf's. One's an arbitrager, the other's a hairdresser. They both loved it. Carrie even sent it to her Mom! Christopher Guest rules!"

All my best,

Gale on 8/5/07, 6:56 PM said...

Thank you, Rich, for another great article about Jericho, and recognizing all the work that went into saving it, including all the great sites to visit.

Rich on 8/5/07, 7:18 PM said...

You're welcome Gale. Thanks for visiting. :)

kestral on 8/9/07, 10:00 AM said...


Thank you again for another great article. Your support has been invaluable to our campaign for Jericho. Thank you for taking a moment to mention some of the many wonderful sites created in support of Jericho. I know those people work very hard and deserve a very big thank you from us fans, as do you!

Rich on 8/12/07, 8:05 AM said...

Thanks Kestral,

The pleasure was mine. It's all about the fans!



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