Viral Marketing: Ready For Prime Time With Old-Timers?

Hitwise reports that Office Max’s Elf Yourself viral marketing campaign has been quite the hit this year (would you like to see the version I created of my kids and sent to their grandparents? I didn’t think so). According to Hitwise:

The majority of visitors were aged 55 and over, which suggests that this demographic could be ripe for viral marketing programs.”

My take: How did they come to that conclusion? Hitwise even concedes that many visitors were driven to the site by friends and family (62% of the traffic to the site was from email). So who did the viral campaign really succeed with? Gen Yers, Xers, and younger Boomers (like me) who uploaded pictures and sent links off to Grandma and Grandpa — not the 55 and over crowd.

Based on Forrester Research’s surveys, the rule of thumb is: The older the consumer, the less likely he or she is to recommend products and services to friends and family. Elf Yourself is not an example that bucks that trend.

But more importantly, Hitwise didn’t report the most critical metrics: How many people clicked through to, and then ordered, one of the specials on the page that comes up before viewing or sending the elves dancing?

Office Max has done a great job of driving Web traffic to Elf Yourself, and I hope they do it again next year. But the campaign hardly convinces me that the 55 and over crowd is ripe for viral marketing programs. And until we see the results from the hit counters regarding online sales, or reports from the firm itself that shows the incremental results of the campaign, should we conclude that viral marketing efforts like this drive bottom-line business results.

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3 thoughts on “Viral Marketing: Ready For Prime Time With Old-Timers?

  1. Interesting post, Ron. I agree that until we see holiday sales results for Office Max, we won’t know if the “elf yourself” campaign put $ in the registers at Office Max. I for one “elfed myself” but didn’t buy anything from Office Max.

  2. I received several “Elf Yourself” E-cards, but neither I, nor anyone i have talked to that got one or sent one, bought anything from Office Max due to the campaign. Great gimmick, but i don’t think they saw the real world results they were hunting for.

  3. I think the disconnect b/t dancing elves and office max is strange, and provides little short term value to OfficeMax. I suspect it is a long, LONG, term strategy for brand awareness and differentiation (no – they are not Office Depot), but that they most likely won’t see any real short term foot traffic because of it.

    I did some analysis on my blog on keyword traffic (i wrote a couple of articles about this campaign) and found that of the people that included a company name with their elf yourself search terms, <50% of people associated the campaign with OfficeMax, 34% thought it was Staples, and 16% thought it was Office Depot.

    But I do love seeing my family’s faces on those dancing elves…it cracks me up!

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