Sunday, January 27, 2008

Batman and Cross Industry Viral Techniques

I've been thinking about Batman lately. More specifically, I've been thinking of the way the entertainment industry leverages social media and viral marketing campaigns months (years) before the launch of a movie -- like Warner Bros has with the upcoming Batman movie -- and if this strategy could be used in other industries.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about Heath Ledger and how his death might affect the Batman viral advertising campaign, seeing as how Ledger plays the Joker, and it is largely centered around his character. This campaign, designed by 42 Entertainment, began last May at, touting a Gotham City politician, and slowly blossomed into focus on the Joker.

The campaign is centered on user participation, encouraging fans to learn more about the movie by sending them on scavenger hunts and playing games. Popular film news sites were also supplied with updated viral information, and microsites devoted to different aspects of the movie were created. Participants in the Batman journey were rewarded with trailers, posters and photos.

Viral campaigns are designed to create word of mouth promotion in an under the radar sort of way. It is becoming the norm, especially with big-budget movies, to attempt to generate buzz early on hoping it will help recoup some of the enormous financial costs associated with movie production. TV shows leverage this kind of engagement with the audience also -- both Lost and The Office (two favorites of mine) make use of participation-based social applications to promote their shows.

But I'm wondering if viral advertising like this can be used for non-entertainment industries. It obviously appeals to a certain type of consumer -- one who has a vested (obsessive?) interest in a product/service and who is not only web savvy but is willing to sacrifice his or her disposable time to this activity.

The industry, too, must have a product/service that lends itself to the elaborate, complex, and extended-timeline qualities this type of viral marketing entails.

So, what about fashion? Trends in fashion are not easily predicted a year in advance, but a fashion obsessed consumer might feel privileged to get a sneak peak on the direction of next seasons colors or silhouettes.

Education? Universities may be able to build excitement for prospective students by targeting high school students (male athletes?) with snippets of messages or podcasts featuring prominent athletes and coaches, or encouraging participation in complex online games with rewards like sporting event tickets (I can't help it, I'm thinking of my alma mater, Ohio State University and the football team here -- Go Bucks!). Sporting organizations in general are comparable to the entertainment industry, and could certainly leverage viral campaigns, if they don't already.

Apple, Harley, Disney -- these are some companies where "elaborate, complex, and extended timeline" could fit into their marketing advertising strategies. I'm still fuzzy on how these qualities apply to other industries. CPG? Healthcare? But I just wanted to put my thoughts out there before I move on to my next random idea.