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Have You Ever Considered Humor As A Viral Marketing Technique?

Aug 17, 2007
A study by Sharpe Partners, an interactive marketing agency, revealed that 89% of adult Internet users in America share content with others via e-mail. This is excellent news for those companies who use self-propelling "word-of-mouse" e-mail techniques to sell their products.

The study generated some interesting results regarding the type of content that is most often forwarded, as well. The most popular content is humorous material.

The second most popular category is news, followed by healthcare and medical information, religious and spiritual material, games, business and personal finance information and sports/hobbies ... in that order. So it is easy to see that humor is the best content for your viral e-mail campaign.

Cartoons, jokes and funny video clips are among the things that can be added to an e-mail to ensure that it will go viral. People will want to pass along something that makes them laugh.

They are a lot more likely to hit the forward button and send your email to their friends and relatives if it is an "advertainment" rather than an advertisement.

Not along ago, about 35 million people got an e-mail containing a picture taken in Disneyland. It took a minute to see it but there was Donald Duck lying prone in front of the famous Cinderella Castle. The title of the picture was "Bird Flu has hit Disneyland". It was a viral e-mail advertising Disneyland and used the edgy strategy of making light of what's serious ... and it works.

I'd guess that most people who own a computer have seen that picture ... and thus the advertisement for Disneyland. The bird flu epidemic is newsworthy and has the potential to attract an enormous amount of attention to any brand that might, for whatever reason, associate itself with it.

Remember that people are much more likely to share a joke or a funny picture than anything else so you would be well advised to include humor in your e-mail campaign.

Be careful, however, as some people are offended by certain subjects. Try to maintain a certain level of political correctness and sensitivity. That being said, some make a huge amount of money being the exact opposite. I just depends on how you want to be perceived.

To illustrate the above, have you seen The Subservient Chicken?

Created for Miami Advertising Agency Crispin Porter and Bogusky by The Barbarian Group, the Subservient Chicken is a viral marketing promotion of Burger King's line of chicken sandwiches.

The campaign is based on a web site that features a person in a chicken costume. The actor performs a wide range of actions based on a user's input, showing pre-recorded footage and appearing like an interactive webcam. It takes, literally, the advertising slogan "Get chicken just the way you like it".

There are more than a hundred commands the chicken will respond to, including:

- Michael Jackson dance moves such as moonwalk
- River dance
- The elephant
- Lay an egg
- Walk like an Egyptian
- Yoga
- Rage
- Spank
- Taco Bell
- Fight

When told to do anything the Subservient Chicken thinks is offensive, like perform sex acts or take off his mask, the chicken walks up to the camera and shakes a scolding chicken finger in disappointment. If he is told to eat food from rival fast food places like McDonald's he approaches the camera and places his finger down his throat but when told to eat Burger King he has a more positive response. The chicken responds to the command "smoke crack" by smoking but when told to "smoke a bong" he waggles his finger scoldingly. He hasn't mastered the entire "bad things" dictionary.

Burger King's Chicken Fights campaign was recently introduced. The two cockfighting chicken characters are modeled off this chicken.

There seems to be no end to the variations on the theme from Burger King. There has also been a lot of criticism leveled at the chain about the Subservient Chicken but for now it looks like Burger Kind is crying all the way to the bank.

A successful viral campaign isn't always in good taste ... maybe that's what makes them so tasty.
About the Author
Don Resh is CEO of WebForce, Inc. A more detailed bio is available at:

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