Don't Get Elfed. Please.
This is one of the better articles I’ve read in awhile, and it has to do with one of the few disturbing things I heard at the shop.org meeting in Orlando last month. People talked a few times about the “Get Elfed!” campaign that I’m sure many of you saw…it was a viral website, where you could put photos of you and your friends on a bunch of dancing elves who jumped around to a silly song. I did it, I received a few of them from friends and yet…if you had asked me what site sponsored it, I never – EVER – would have remembered. More after the fold...
It was OfficeMax, in case you are wondering.
Folks at the conference talked about how great this video was and how it raised their site awareness. And quotes like this gave me chills as if it was 1999 all over again:
“We were looking to build the brand, warm up our image. We weren’t looking for sales. We are third-place players in our industry, so we are trying to differentiate ourselves through humor and humanization.”
That’s from OfficeMax VP of Marketing Bob Thacker.
The problem is, what’s the whole point? As this article shows, the campaign resulted in a spike in traffic, but nothing lasting. And the money quote is here:
Don't get me wrong. I like the elves. It just seems that, since they're already such hard workers, why not put them to work? (Even Santa's got that figured out.)
Before you elf yourself out of millions in missed revenue from a viral marketing campaign, ask yourself: What good are millions of visitors if they don't buy millions in goods?
Sure, it’s nice to have a “fun” campaign and if you are a huge company with an advertising budget you need to shed before losing it at year-end, that’s just ducky. But this isn’t a model for the future – or if it is, I’m missing the point entirely. Engaging users and having them want to spread the word is great – but in some way, it has to correlate to your site, and lead to future sales. There was nothing about these elves that had a lick to do with OfficeMax, and one could argue that if they did (if they were dancing on copiers or something), it wouldn’t have been as fun for users. But perhaps there would have been some lasting impression of who originated the video? Traffic is great, but as anyone who operates a website can tell you – people coming to your site and leaving immediately doesn’t do much for you. In fact, it costs you money. So make it worth it. Using the “Get Elfed” program as a model others should follow is dangerous business – it evokes the memory of “profits? We don’t need no stinking profits!” mentality that sunk hundreds of firms less than ten years ago.
Let’s not forget the lessons of the past, okay?
Perhaps the lesson isn't totally lost on OfficeMax, however. Going to "ElfYourself.com" now gets you the following image: