I am increasingly fascinated by the concept of "edge-in" marketing — catering to the fringe vs. the mainstream.
In this era of globalization, when every mall contains the same mass-produced merchandise, each person struggles to customize their look to be a little-bit-different from the masses. The people who live "on the fringe" are typically the most successful in this quest for customization (Malcolm Gladwell’s "Mavens" from The Tipping Point). They may be a little odd, maybe a little intense, but they are alpha-influencers within their peer groups, the drivers of the bandwagon. These "fringe-alphas" are the people most likely to bend the corporate brand to their will, and in the process reinvent it to appeal to new audiences. Their intensity gives them the fuel and desire to do so; their originality appeals to "everyone else." "Everyone else" emulates & passes-along the re-crafted branding.
Check out the new Burger King X-Box games: just $3.99 with your meal and you can play them with scores of other strangers on XBox Live. BK is marketing to a narrow audience niche (XBox owners, aged 8 to 18 or so). This is not only a lucrative audience in its own right, of course, but its also worth considering the "bystander byproduct" — neighborhood kids and parents will crowd around the tv screen, watching the game’s owner take part in a grandiose marketing campaign. If these cheap games are even remotely good, BK’s cool quotient goes up a notch with the game owners, and with everyone within the owners’ social networks.
Think about the Stormhoek approach. It’s so simple yet so brilliant. Offer one free bottle of South African wine to up to 100 bloggers. Don’t require them to blog about the wine; just cross your fingers that they will. Risky. What if they hated it? But there is no real risk if you produce a good product. The only true risk was the cost of producing and shipping 100 bottles of wine; a pittance when you consider the results:
- "Shipments of Stormhoek to wine shops doubled … to 100,000 cases in 2005.
- Flickr alone has more than 600 photos of Stormhoek bottles.
- Technorati reports over 2,100 blog posts mentioning Stormhoek.
- Stormhoek now has the reputation of being the ‘wine of blogging’ and, more specifically, of the Silicon Valley hi-tech crowd. Following prominent mentions in TechCrunch and ValleyWag, (Silicon Valley residents) expect to see Stormhoek at geek dinners, conferences with bloggers in attendance (etc.)"
(Data taken from Stormhoek’s award-winning entry to the Society for New Communications Research’s 2006 awards, which I helped judge. Just a few weeks later there are over 2,500 blog posts — up from 2,100 — containing the word "Stormhoek.")
I also love how loosey-goosey Mentos and Coca-Cola have been about the Mentos videos. The brand is in the users’ hands, and these major-league brands have embraced the concept. They have opened their arms to the lunatic fringe, and profited. (The Coke/Mentos Experiment went from "the edge" to the "Ellen DeGeneres Show." Perfect example.)
These are leadership case studies of PR in the Social Media age.
Compare these examples to Campari’s new campaign, which embraces the whole grab-bag of top Social Media services (YouTube, Flikr, MySpace, del.icio.us). It’s a game attempt, but unlike the campaigns cited above, it fails the sniff test. In fact, the Powers-That-Be at Flikr have already terminated the Campari account.
As I noted at Kari Huyse’s blog, the Campari campaign is notable for its comprehensive use of Social Media tool sets, but, the visionary marketing campaigns that we’ll all some day talk about — the future paragons of this dawning age — will not be about the tools of community, they will be astounding for their ability to build or leverage communities.
Starting from the edge.
Posted on: December 7, 2006 at 9:08 am By Todd Defren