"Edge-In" Marketing

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.

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Posted on: December 7, 2006 at 9:08 am By Todd Defren
9 Responses to “"Edge-In" Marketing”


  • Herbert says:

    The amazing thing to me is how
    few companies have experimented with youtube, myspace and blogging. I am also quite certain that most companies never even heard of technorati and deli.cio.us

  • Re: Mentos…good point.

  • Todd Defren says:

    Jesse -
    1 more thing, re: your Mentos comment… To my knowledge, the Mentos/Coke thing STARTED at the edge (consumer generated), and then Mentos/Coke adopted it warmly.

  • Yeah, I hear ya. Although, I still maintain that the the 8-18 year-olds are a PORTION of the mainstream, not on the fringe.

    Again, I’m with you on the edge-in concept being an intriguing one. But not everything that uses social media or has some creativity to the campaign is necessarily targeting the edge. Could just be a better way to reach and motivate the mainstream.

  • Todd Defren says:

    Kari – THAT is an interesting Campari development. Too much work for ‘em? Kicked off of those services? Too controversial?

    Jesse – Your point is well-taken re: BK, but I can’t help but think that those tweener-gamers are noisily demanding a trip to BK that their parents hadn’t planned. And more imptly, if they “stay cool” with those gamers, it could become an aura that extends beyond that select group. Also not every 8-18 year-old is a gamer or owns an XBOX; that base is relatively SMALL (about 5M units sold) compared to BK’s TRUE mainstream audience, eh?

    Kevin – Interesting take on it! Now I feel kinda guilty. ;)

  • Kevin Watterson says:

    Sounds a lot like Karl Rove’s “turn out the base” strategy.

  • I think I’m with you on the concept, but I’m not sure I buy some of your examples. Sure, the BK thing is creative, but it’s not really marketing to the fringe, is it? I admit that I have no data to proove this, but I have to imagine 8 to 18 year-olds ARE pretty mainstream for BK.

    In essence, is the Coke/Mentos challenge all that different than voting for the new M&M color?

  • Kami Huyse says:

    Actually, the entire social media campaign has been removed or cancelled, Flickr, MySpace, YouTube and the delicious page. Only the website remains. Too controversial to keep it up?

  • maninmen says:

    for Edge-In and Social Media marketing, Spokeo might be the next big tool. http://webware.com/8301-1_109-9666794-2.html?tag=blog

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