We're a small software company with an incredibly boring product (reporting & document generation software). And we compete against Microsoft, Oracle, & SAP. Yet one week in 2006 – we had over 1 million unique visitors to our web site. And in this process we moved from no brand awareness to over 60% with our target audience.
How? By trying something different. Any company, no matter how small, can find a way to break through all the clutter out there and get noticed. There are a million ways to do it. This is one that worked. Here's the story.
Back in 2006 I saw a video on YouTube named Mother's Day that I thought was very clever. So I emailed Joe & Luke and asked if they would create one for us (for a fee). My only requirements was make it very funny to programmers, and mention our company. They came up with Cubicle Wars (part I).
When I first received it, I was really nervous. I had spent a lot (by our standards) and didn't know what I would get. So very nervous, I played it. And I was laughing so hard that I couldn't breathe. Ok step 1 was good – it was funny. Or at least I thought it was.
So we pushed it up to YouTube. And we crossed our fingers. It was a gigantic hit. It made the front page of Digg and YouTube. It made the opening paragraph of the MSDN newsletter (sent to every Windows developer). It was forwarded and referenced and copied everywhere. Ok step 2 was good – it went viral.
But that still left the question, did it help us. The old Joe Isuzu ads were hilarious, but they didn't sell any more cars. So what did we get? Well over the next couple of year we found:
So earlier this year we asked Joe & Luke to do a sequel. Once again make it funny and mention Windward. And once again they came through. Every bit as funny as the first.
There's a lot more competition for attention today. A lot lot LOT more. We didn't get the front page of Digg (yet), but we did get the front page of FunnyOrDie. We weren't on the front page of YouTube 100% of the time, because nothing gets 100% today – but we were there at times. So we were not front and center everywhere as we were in 2006, but I don't think that is even possible anymore. We are in a lot more places this time, because there are a lot more sites today (there was no HuffPo back then).
Every day getting attention is harder. Every day all kinds of marketing is harder. The trick is to keep trying new things. And when repeating efforts that were previously successful, learn how to use them better. You also need to realize that it's impossible to predict what will resonate best with people, and in what way.
So how did it work out? Our biggest worry when we first did this was would a successful video lead to more sales. That turned out to be an easy yes. If you make developers laugh, it turns out quite a few will look at your product. Our biggest issue this second time has been getting it in front of people – we were spoiled by how easy it was the first time. I think this is just the state of the Internet today – even more sites, even more content, even more competition for attention. So we've had to work a lot hard to get equivilent attention.
This second time we also had Joe & Luke create a 30 second ad. The idea behind it was that people who saw the video would want more, and would then watch the ad (not labeled as an ad). So it would be a mention of Windward Reports followed by a clear sell of Windward Reports. And again, the requirement was the ad had to be funny.
These guys are geniuses. I think it is one of the best ads for any product I have seen. It sells the fundamental concept of our system, and does so in a way that has you laughing. So good in fact that we are putting the ad out on websites as a click ad. It is pulling people in by itself. The combination of the ad along with the video makes up for the more challenging marketing environment of today.
If you are trying to get word out about your product, and you are drowning in the sea of noise that is the Internet, look for a different way to break out. It could be a video (Joe & Luke are available). It could be a free computer game. It could be a free quirky iPhone app. But I think the key point to focus on is you have to create something that gets the widespread attention. You then want it to link back to what you are selling – but that can be a light touch. The key challenge is getting people's attention. Because if 1 million people watch your video, 1% looking at your product is 10,000 potential customers.