Aug 27

Marketing Campaigns that Spread Themselves

You know these people. They go to every social media conference. They write books on the subject and speak and get interviewed constantly about it. They network CONSTANTLY and rant about companies that don’t “get it”.

Guess what? They don’t get it because a bunch of people sitting around talking about social media is pretty lame. This is why I never have random tweetups unless there is an actual topic of conversation. It just makes life infinitely more interesting. I also like to promote things *gasp* outside of Twitter, and to people who wouldn’t even think to use such tools.

The cornerstone of every good social media campaign is a message. I am lucky to have learned this from Whurley, who was tweeting before you were knee-high to a grasshopper (well, not really, but he’s been on Twitter for a long time). If you are new to social media or just want a little inspiration, I suggest listening tothis podcast he’s in.

Marketing isn’t about meeting everyone and going to every conference and writing every book on a topic. It’s about sharing your voice and your message with others, and then hearing theirs. If done properly, even an old school TV advertisement can be something customers can embrace and actually champion. If you don’t have a brand or a message people want to share, you will be working a lot harder than you need to reach people.

Rather than go on and on about this for ages, I’m just going to show you three examples of brands that are easy to share:
1.) Hugh MacLeod’s “Microsoft Blue Monster”
Good branding turns into a tattoo
If you can’t tell, that is a tattoo of a cartoon Hugh did for Microsoft. Someone got a tattoo of a marketing campaign. I’ve heard of Apple tattoos as well. Now bear in mind that the first prerequisite to getting your brand tattooed on their ankle is to not suck as a company which is a bit out of marketing’s hands, but having a symbol that people can proudly share with others is key.

2.) Icanhazcheeseburger and the notorious lolcat
Tons of people can talk about building a community. Ben Huh and the gang at Pet Holdings Inc. just do it by uniting people around funny content. You know you have a happy community of users when someone gets this license plate:
This is when you know your brand rocks

3.) Amy’s Ice Cream
2009-01-10 13:44:12 -0600
I actually take pictures of their street signs and tweet them. I posted this pic to Flickr and it was viewed almost 300 times and favorited three times. It’s a tip jar. Rather than containing her employees, Amy lets them have fun with the place. They flip your ice cream like Tom Cruise in “Cocktail” and crack jokes. I know Amy’s Ice Cream is expensive for what it is but I don’t care. The experience, which in part includes the marketing, makes it a place you want to take your friends and family to.

A good brand is a thing of joy you give to someone so they can share with others. It says something people aren’t already hearing and fills a void.

  • Tom Limongello
  • Sean Lukasik


    Thanks for this post. I sent a thank-you note recently to my college marketing professors for doing a great job at teaching the basics, which is what you’re driving home here. Despite any technology or media advances, it’s always important to remember that the message and brand comes first.

    Great blog – keep it up!


  • Noah Kuttler

    Back in the day, Nordstrom’s employee manual was one basic rule: Use your good judgment in all situations. Which is why I agree with you about Amy’s Ice Cream. By allowing her employees to be themselves it elevates the customer experience. More companies should trust their employees. Establish guidelines with them, sure. But then let them do what they feel is the right thing. I suspect they’ll be satisfied with the results…

  • Earl Mardle

    Here’s something else you do.

    When your customers become fans and appropriate your brand for their ankles, their cars, their websites, you DON’T SUE THEM FOR BREACH OF COPYRIGHT.

    You feature them, you invite them to your conference, you link to them and you THANK them for their support.

    The biggest problem with marketing people is that they think they can control the message and that they OWN the brand. But their brand is always owned by their customers.

    And companies think they have to control their employees because, at heart, most companies don’t trust their staff and for good reason; they are projecting.

    This is so right, “great marketing is hiring good people & trusting them to take care of customers”


    And your point about having a company and a product that doesn’t suck? That’s the other problem, we have shifted to an economy where “getting people to buy our stuff” is all that matters.

    There was a great cartoon back in the build-it-and-flip-it stage where some staffer suggested the company build a great product that everyone needed and loved. he was laughed out of town.

    Says everything.

  • Michelle

    Earl & Noah,

    One word: AMEN.

  • Lyndon

    I can only say; “Yay!”

    Many thanks. The message is always important. People ultimately decide on what the final result of a campaign is; and the marketing team is only the tip of the iceberg. What forms the rest of the mass the proverbial iceberg are – wait for it – the consumers / customers. Most marketing teams still don’t seem to get this. Anyway, one day, they will. They will.

    My only addition to what lies here is that I am a practitioner and I’ve had to slide in innovation under the guise of creativity, often not making myself terribly popular, however I’ve done it and the results have spoken for themselves. It has been worth it. I’ve served international brands and agencies. I’ve been using the internet since I was around 14. I’m now 35. I think I sort of get it. 😉

    I can’t add much more to this post, other than … thanks, Michelle.


  • rodney rumford

    Nice blog post. You might also mention the brand that gets tattooed the most is Harley Davidson. It is a brand that people feel that they own and identify with. It is a lifestyle brand unlike any other.


  • Michelle


    GREAT EXAMPLE! Thanks for checking into my blog.

  • Matt Galloway

    I’ve heard Harley Davidson actually uses the number of photos they receive of Harley tattoos as a metric for success.


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