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‘Inspired by Kittens’ – Five branding lessons from social media

I always keep an eye on what my friend Laurence Green’s company Fallon is doing (disclosure: our elder daughters have known each other since they were about three weeks old and still seem to be best friends).

The reason I keep Fallon in sight is that they’re a pretty smart bunch and the company behind many top-notch, super-creative ad campaigns here in the UK, like the Cadbury’s Gorilla, the latest Eyebrows work, as well as the truly great Sony TV campaign (though Laurence would always say that great work comes from having great clients). And they aren’t just big budget only TV-oriented Mad Men: they’re really exploring the range of social media techniques and applying them to consumer branding and promotion. For example, they took advantage of a a clamour from consumers on Facebook for the return of the Cadbury’s Wispa chocolate bar with a clever FaceBook group, website and ads.

Here’s one of the really interesting examples of that. Fallon’s Aki Spicer has done a great presentation on a social media experiment conducted by one of his colleagues. In September 2008, Fallon’s Executive Creative director, Al Kelly, posted a video to YouTube called ‘Kittens Inspired by Kittens’.

Kittens Inspired by Kittens

Within five months, the video had had 4.8 million views on YouTube, 95,000 references on blogs around the world, 64,000 Tweets and 1.5 million Google searches (and had inspired 28 traditional media stories). Aki’s presentation identifies five lessons we can all learn from this feline story when developing conversational ideas for brands. The thought process is obviously aimed at consumer brands (you don’t really get those numbers in B2B), but the five lessons nevertheless feel important:

  • Never underestimate the power of networks
  • You never know where the social network fire may get lit, so be generous with the matches – allow people to steal liberally
  • Social media groundswells tend to bubble up in the fringes, among nerds, geeks and weirdos, before spreading to the mainstream (and then back again)
  • Don’t be bland or grey – embrace your creativity and prepare to be outrageous
  • Broadcast-level style and glossy production values simply won’t cut it.

Lots of our clients are asking us to get involved in viral marketing now and this Fallon learning is instructive. What’s cool about the video is the spontaneity  of the little girl (she’s so fluent, but can you script someone so young?) combined with the hand-flung, but sophisticated camera work. A hard act to follow.

Check out the presentation…

Five branding lessons from social media
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5 Responses to “‘Inspired by Kittens’ – Five branding lessons from social media”

  1. Aki Spicer

    Thanks for the post.

    I would clarify my 5th point a bit…while “imperfect” production isn’t a mandatory (I’m not saying lets all go out and shoot our work crappy cuz Kittens and half of YouTube’s users do), the notion of “Perfectly Imperfect” is a new option/permission for us advertisers. All ideas on the web don’t have to be glossy-perfect today, and “Perfectly Imperfect” can sometimes hit the spot in an age when speed and efficiency may take priority over the traditional TV model. If the idea is right and well-executed and adds value, people forgive a few rough edges that result from the web’s “always in beta” mentality.

    I will post the video speech presentation that we made to the agency at this link later today http://fallontrendpoint.blogspot.com/2009/02/fallon-brainfood-inspired-by-kittens_27.html

    thnx:aki>

  2. Stan Woods

    Aki
    Thanks for the clarification. I guess I over-simplified. You’ve caught exactly what i meant to capture in my bullet. I’ll check the video later.
    Stan

  3. John

    Hey stan,

    Great post and you know i’m a big believer in all this stuff – but i’m wary of a one-size-fits-all 10 commandments. Was it important that this was sourced by Fallon, connected to a bunch of 2.0-savvy interweb warriors to light the viral fire, or would ABC Inc. diesel engine manufacturer got the same result? Not all networks are equal you know…

    It does also raise the question, so what? i.e. great that the video was replicated and networked, but to what end? Quirky videos are great to experiment with – the question is in the B2B world what measurable business impact does all this networking deliver, apart from marketers like us discussing the coolness & potential of it all*

    john

    *see twitter for more on that.

  4. Stan

    John
    Agree with your one size fits all comment.

    I guess what I found interesting about this was how the whole thing transpired. Sure Fallon have more leverage that a West Midlands widget manufacturer, but what this points out to me is that without great content (and whatever you think of the video, it’s undeniably cute), then none of this activity starts.

    How the tsunami of views and linking happens is the great imponderable. Is it the law of unintended consequences at work? What would be really interesting would be if someone were to try and catalogue the types of content that really grab attention online.

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