TED is a great site for great videos – serious videos about how people can change the world. This video is pretty appropriate following the theme of my last 2 posts. First personal social networking, then social media for marketing your organization.
In this video Alexis Ohanian of Reddit tells the real-life fable of one humpback whale’s rise to Web stardom. The lesson of Mister Splashy Pants is a great example of how powerful the internet can be as a marketing tool. Even by accident! Green Peace almost didn’t catch on! They tried to control the outcome which just gets the internet audience more fired up.
Green Peace was fighting the Japanese government, who were actively whale hunting. They were tracking humpback whales, and decided to have an internet poll to name one of them. Mister Splashy Pants was a proposed name for the whale, along with some different culture based names. Now it doesn’t say how that name came to be part of the poll, but suffice to say that the internet loved it, and at the end of the contest, “Mister Splashy Pants” had 70% of the internet vote. The internet audience got on board and the name went viral on the web.
Well when Green Peace didn’t like the results, they extended voting, which only got people more fired up. At the end of that week Mister Splashy Pants had 78% of the vote (119,367 votes) compared to the next highest name at 3%!
Green Peace learned their lesson, it’s okay to lose a bit of control, and were successful in getting the Japanese government to stop the whale hunt.
The lesson for us re-enforces the comments I made in my last post – If you have a great idea, it has the potential to go viral, and really help market your brand. Seth Godin calls it an “Ideavirus” . Notice that Green Peace was totally taken off guard at the success of this campaign, and tried to control its outcome. They did not purposely try and create a viral campaign, it was genuine. Companies that try too hard to create a viral internet campaign usually end up with bad publicity. Anyone heard the story of Wal-mart’s fake blogging exploits?
You are at the mercy of the entire internet community! And for every good success story, I bet there are hundreds, probably thousands of ideas that flopped and never took off.
Hey, I never claimed this Web 2.0 stuff was easy!