When a parody goes viral: a marketing strategy

Forget infomercials- or paid media. Here’s a story where a serious attempt at selling a product was a third less successful than the parody.

Cami-secret is the brand name of a piece of cloth that attaches to bra straps to cover cleavage. The 2 minute video is perfect for over-night TV spots at $10 ea.

The video is professionally produced- and they did the right thing- posting the spot to youtube

as of today - it has 1.8 million views.

However, a guy with a little bit of video know how hit the jackpot when he redubbed the VO - with a lot of obscenities- calling the product a “Boob Apron”

His video has 3x the views-

I ran across it on Facebook- watching it had me laughing so hard that tears came to my eyes.

Do you have a product that’s prone to jokes? Would you, should you, embrace your products less than serious side? Are three times the views worth it?

Many businesses take themselves way too seriously. I wonder if Cami Secret sales bumped after this parody was launched?


Associating your brand with $h!t (shit)

When your brand is shit, what do you do? Make a sophomoric joke? Apparently, the K-Mart marketing department was willing to try anything and went along with an agency idea that, while well executed, and amazingly went viral, was a bad idea. But, if you read the trade press, it was a great campaign:

How could a “best of the year” rundown be complete in 2013 without Kmart’s “Ship My Pants”? DraftFCB made brilliant use of sophomoric humor to create one of the year’s biggest cultural moments from the ad world, which comes in at No. 9 in the TV/film category. It all began with “Ship My Pants,” although the gag later extended to “Big Gas Savings” and “Ship My Trousers,” too.

via Creativity Best of 2013: Kmart’s Foul-Mouthed Viral Hit | Creativity Pick of the Day - Advertising Age.

While it may be funny- it’s not making people shop at K-mart.

a 2.1% decline(d) at Kmart

via Sears posts wider loss as same-store sales drop - MarketWatch.

No, customers generally don’t think shit is funny when it comes to where they spend their money- unless, you run a comedy club. Or run a commercial where you never say the word and do it elegantly like Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.

A local middle Eastern themed QSR, “Shish Wraps” try’s the same gimmick- “Shish Happens,” “Don’t let Shish Happen to you on this Friday the 13th,” and “Get your shish together and stop in today for $5.00 wrap or bowl” the message is shit- especially when the shop is tragically empty and they have a special selling all wraps for $5 in a high rent location.

While humor, irony and exaggeration are all perfectly acceptable foundations for great advertising, the most critical, fundamental piece of the package is a strong brand to begin with, and K-mart hasn’t had that for years. Our local restaurant- never even had the chance to get there. Shit may be funny, but, it’s not a good place to take your brand.

McDonald’s brand managers are fanatical about protecting the brand and the image. No birds ever appear in a McD’s commercial- “rats with wings”  as one campaign concept was shot down to a friend in the business. McDonald’s knows its brand is built on family friendly wholesome happy times. K-mart’s marketing is now built on a pun? Not happening.

Brands that understand their brand equity and work to build it, know that being funny is great- but, always where your brand isn’t the butt of the jokes. It’s time K-mart rediscovered the blue light special, and figured out why dollar stores are beating them at the game they created. As to Shish Wraps, it’s a little harder than just taking the shish out- we’d recommend adding a Gyro to your menu, since people already know what that is, and focus on the healthy Mediterranean diet as an alternative to burgers and pizza. “Welcome to healthy” anyone?


Advertising is plastic surgery for business bullshit

Guy Kawasaki once wrote that “Advertising is the plastic surgery of business,: a procedure to make ugly and old products look good” in his book Selling the Dream

However, the business of business has become corrupted by charlatans practicing what can only be called some kind of voodoo economics- be it in banking, insurance, or even selling cars. We’ve started taking our own economic buzzword driven drivel and packaged it into arcane business models- ones that suggest that selling “Credit Default Swaps” is actually business instead of grand theft.

I recently questioned if Venture Capitalists, as they practice their craft now are anything but parasites. With the casinoization of Wall Street- where stock prices can drop by half, even when a company hasn’t changed it’s products- business model or suffered from any change in demand (Google during the current financial meltdown), is there any reality attached to the very real and tangible ways to define and guide business?

Either you have solid financial goals, objectives and strategies- with real products and services that fill a need, or you don’t. Back in the dot.com bomb of 1999-2001 we had VC backed online companies opening only to go out of business the next day (www.bigwords.com ended up at a local liquidator- the breadth of the offering was amazing- Amazon like, when all indications that laser focus is the key to most online success).

I lay the blame purely on the shoulders of Wall Street and Bull Speak. You know, the ability of CEOs with no “skin in the game” who are able to “push the envelope” inventing new “ecosystems” for “profit optimization through….” while forgetting the basics of business, which is providing goods and services that fill real needs.

So, I was ecstatic to find this:

Bull has become the official language of business. Every day, we get bombarded by an endless stream of filtered, jargon-filled corporate speak, all of which makes it harder to get heard, harder to be authentic, and definitely harder to have fun. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

via Fight the Bull - Why Business People Speak Like Idiots.

Which besides having the book: Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide

Also comes with a downloadable BullFighter software program, which allows you to analyze your Microsoft Word document for a BS quotient. If there is one thing that stops advertising from being able to do its job- making the “ugly and old products look good” it’s the clients inability to clearly describe the market, and the product without lapsing into bull speak.

Copy god, Howard Luck Gossage once famously said “people don’t read ads, they read what interests them- and sometimes it’s an ad.” If you try to read some of the horse hockey coming out of our corporations, talking about “making paradigm shifts” when what they really mean is we can’t clearly tell you why we do what we do, but you should still believe our CEO is worth $2K an hour- and we’ll be lining up for a bailout from the Federal Government as soon as we figure out how to explain what we’ve been squandering our stockholders money on.

Business and advertising both are easier without bullshit. So go get your Bullfighter now- and lets work together on selling stuff.

We won’t confuse you with anything that won’t directly impact your bottom line (translation- make you money).

What’s being mistaken for “revolutionary” car advertising

There must be a school of stupidity where automotive marketers all study.They apparently have two steadfast rules for TV spots:

1) They must show the car driving in (pick one):

rain soaked streets at night, across the salt flats with a plume of dust behind them and camera angles from a helo or down a twisty road.


2) the car must revolve.

Lately, the “revolution” seems to be winning.

Ever since the Arnold agency introduced the New Beetle with a rotating CGI car-

and “Turbonium”

We’ve been doomed to watch cars, spinning, cameras revolving around them, and ridiculous effects as the car transforms from the rain soaked streets at night to across the salt flats onto a twisty road. (Update 2017- this spot has been removed- and I can’t figure out which generic spot I was mentioning).


The third option is to pick some neat music and do the glamor shots. However, we’re not making music videos- we’re trying to sell cars. (update in 2017- I’m not sure if this is the same spot I picked in ’09, which was removed).

(and for some odd reason, Ford put an expiration date on the URL for this Flex ad- DUMB)

Watch your commercials carefully. They either fall into the above category- or they may actually be advertising, that tells us something about the car and why we might want to buy it.

This may be part of the reason people don’t feel compelled to buy a car lately.

Low budget ads to start a medical practice

Doctors spend a lot of time in school learning how to diagnose our ills. They run up big school debt. Then they are expected to start a business, usually with very little capital.

Even if they do have money- medical office marketing, as practiced by most physicians maybe one of the boringest categories of all. A picture, a name, a location and “now accepting new patients” makes up 90% of the ads. A few might say something like “specializing in smiles” or provide a laundry list of services or accreditations. Of course, comparative advertising is verboten by the medical society- because as my friend who failed the bar exam 7 times and is now driving a truck says: “what do you call the guy who graduated at the bottom of his class from Medical school? Doctor.”

So, if you do happen to have an exceptionally talented physician, who graduated near the top of his class, and you’ve known since he was just an Air Force captain working on bomb carrying model airplanes and was the kicker for the Air Force Academy, and is a really nice guy with a down home touch… and a small budget to create ads- what do you do?

Have fun!

Who wants to go to a doctor who is already going to bend you over- who runs an ad that looks like he has a stick in his ass before he’s even met you?

Meet Doctor Christopher Blasy, DO, who will not only be your favorite general practitioner if you live in Hinesville Ga, right outside Ft. Stewart and close to Savannah Ga. Besides giving Dr. McDreamy a run for his money- Chris will make you feel comfortable- even if he does have a rubber glove on and is coating it with KY. We had to make that come across in an ad- before he even had his formal “I’m a doctor” picture had shown in our e-mail:

No photo, no problem. Dr. Chris Blasy opening office ad.

No photo, no problem. Dr. Chris Blasy opening office ad.

The people at the publication got the ad- and offered to insert a bad photo that they had of him- they didn’t get the ad.

When the “official looking” photo came in- with the white lab coat- a standard medical ad didn’t seem right either:

Find the Doctor. This is your first exam.

Find the Doctor. This is your first exam.

While it doesn’t exactly say “now accepting new patients” this ad also serves as a social filter- making sure that his patients have a sense of humor (science had already proven that people with a sense of humor live longer) thereby guaranteeing his patients will live longer than the competition. Good marketing can even improve your patient mortality rates- but don’t tell that to the hospitals who still like to run ads inviting sick people in for the highly risky procedures as opposed to working on preventative medicine.

There will be more ads for Dr. Blasy- but we thought we’d share some of our ideas for medical advertising to help other doctors realize your ads don’t have to be as boring as your med school text books.

Guerrilla ads for a guerrilla political campaign: how to wow on the cheap.

I’m not going to go Sun Tzu on you, but a guiding principle in warfare is to attack where your enemy is weakest. In judo, you try to make your weakness your strength. Political advertising may be one of the areas where this is toughest- since incumbency and large campaign chests are considered prime indicators of product value. Shrewd political contributors don’t give to longshots, they bet their dollars on who they think can win. It’s the nature of the game, and a very hard marketing battle.

Think of it as launching a challenger brand, with no money, no time, and a very absolute deadline to dominate the market (election day). Can you imagine Procter and Gamble launching a new detergent and having to have 51% of the market make a purchase in two months?

Here is our first shot at launching a local political activist into a National Congressional race. Please note, not only did the candidate star in the ad, he wrote it himself (unlike his competition) because of course, the candidate is the same person writing this post.

it is also available as a downloadable iPod version here: http://esrati.com/?p=490

One of the keys of viral marketing and leveraging your low budget campaign is getting others to talk about it- the “word of mouth” factor. You can’t count on this happening automatically. This is where your established network of customers can make or break you. First, you have to actively tell them that the campaign is out there. Digitally- this means sending e-mails, posting appropriate comments in appropriate places, and reaching out to people who think as you do. It used to be marketing to the influencer or early adopter- now, it’s to your social network either formal (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace) or informal as I did. Here is what creative genius Ernie Schenck said about the spot:

Ernie Schenck Calls This Advertising?
Seriously, people, show me a spot in this already tired political year that comes close to this simple little gem from Dayton ad guy, David Esrati, and I will eat my moustache. Attention, candidates: A little imagination, a little self-deprectation and a little ability to lighten up can go a long way. The man ought to get elected on the spot alone. Nice work, Esrati.

A client, and really smart guy, Charles Halton posted on his Awilum site:

it’s the funniest political ad I have ever seen. If politics were more like this it would make election season actually fun!

Another client, who happens to be a member of the Democratic Underground site posted it here:
which quickly became the highest click through on YouTube- even though the numbers are very low for what it has to do. (more…)