Inbound Marketing: The Popinator, A Viral Marketing Lesson

This is a continuation of our PSY- GANGNAM STYLE Parody – Inbound Style article. Read on for tips on how to successfully promote your offerings through viral marketing. Every invention humankind has ever made stems from our laziness. Too tired to get up and change the TV channel? Create a device to remotely control your television settings. Is washing your dishes too burdensome a task? Make a machine that automatically cleans your plates. So here\’s a new device that will surely be loved by people too lazy to pick up pieces of popcorn to put in their mouths: the Popinator. viral It\’s a dispenser with voice activation and innovative binaural microphones, which is \”similar to the way the human hearing system works.\” By simply saying the word \”pop\”, the Popinator detects the source of the sound and catapults popcorn into the speaker\’s mouth (or at least that\’s what they want you to believe). Watch the YouTube video of the Popinator Project here: [youtube][/youtube]   The documentary-style video looks legit, right? But really? A popcorn shooting machine that responds to the word \”pop\”? Sounds absurdly ludicrous. How can the makers be sure the popcorn won\’t miss the eater\’s mouth? What if several people say \”pop\” simultaneously? Why are details about the machine so scant? This looks nothing but a PR stunt, a viral marketing tactic. But is it working? YES. The YouTube video now has 1.2 million views as of this writing. Online news outlets are covering the latest \”invention\”. YouTube users are making copies of the video and releasing it on their own channels. Real-time video comments keep coming in. People are sharing the video to their friends. A multitude of viewers believe the product is real, and would actually want to buy it. Poppinator viral viral viral viral viral viral   A few (probably 5% of commenters) saw the joke/marketing tactic behind the project, though: viral viral viral   As stated in our previous post about inbound marketing, the point of going viral is to stir humor, interest or controversy among Internet users so they share your content to others online, and ultimately find your product or service instead of you finding them. The Popinator has accomplished all this.

Lessons in Viral (Hoax) Marketing

inboundMaking content go viral isn\’t easy. Online marketers have to cross their fingers, hoping their video will spread like wildfire. Some companies would do anything to be picked up by millions of Internet users, including duping people into thinking a stunt, product or event is real. Yes, the Popinator is a hoax. It\’s not powered by binaural microphones; it\’s just a viral campaign by popcorn manufacturer Popcorn Indiana. This is the biggest viral advertising feat by the popcorn maker. Read on to learn from this viral feat.

1. Spur Controversy

Hoax videos capture the public\’s fancy and rapidly take off because of the controversy surrounding the clip. Unlike other hoax videos, like Walk on water (Liquid Mountaineering) by outdoor footwear maker Hi-Tec, which were passed around because of doubts and accusations of their authenticity, the Popinator blew up partly because it could be the latest technological breakthrough. There\’s a thin line between amazing and hard-to-believe. The Popinator uses this line as a jump rope. viral Walking on water: real or viral stunt? To successfully pull off a fake inbound marketing video, the trick is to compel the audience to ask: \”Was that real or fake?\” The controversy will then encourage social sharing among people who believe the video is real as well as those who believe it\’s fake, and as a result, ramp up the view count. There are all sorts of ideas you can come up with your marketing team.  How can you pull your customers\’ heartstrings with a video? What wildly believable product can you associate with your brand or product? What can an SEO Montreal expert would do with popcorn?

2. Advertise Your Brand Subtly

popinatorIf you notice, the Popinator clip showed employees of Popcorn Indiana enthusiastically talking about the device and changing the way we eat popcorn, but they never mentioned their brand or popcorn products, even while bags of kettle corn shamelessly appeared in the video sporadically. Viral hoax marketing is a softer kind of brand advertising. One problem about most viral hoaxes is that when viewers feel they\’ve been duped or if they\’re upset about your video, your campaign could suffer from audience backlash. In 2009, a woman named Heidi posted a YouTube video called \”are you my man in the jacket?\” where she was looking for a man she met in a cafe. Seemingly love smitten, Heidi posted the video to search for her Prince Charming, whose name she didn\’t know, to return a jacket he accidentally left behind. Romantic story, yes? Only problem is the whole video was a hoax and our Heidi is an actress. [youtube][/youtube] \”Heidi\” posted a subsequent video explaining she was hired by a clothing manufacturer, the brand that sold the jacket that got \”left behind.\” The viral video worked, though; it has 280,000 views today. But did it help catapult the clothing brand\’s reputation? Or just left a bad taste in people\’s mouths? The length of the red dislike bar may be able to answer this question. The lesson here is that if you play with people\’s emotions but turns out your stunt was a big fat fake, your campaign could blow up in your face. Also, if the audience realizes they\’ve been tricked, hope they were entertained, not annoyed or offended so you can still receive positive response. A good tactic Popcorn Indiana, though, is that they announced the Popinator is still in development phase and that they\’re still contemplating selling the product commercially. Bottom line, hoaxes can\’t guarantee they\’ll make your business look good.

3. Use social media.

These days, viral videos can\’t survive without social media. Social networking has made inbound marketing so much easier. Before sharing your message, make sure your social network is solid and strong. Popcorn Indiana is one of the most famous manufacturers of kettle corn, and they\’ve sustained their reputation with their social media presence. Once you have massive Twitter followers and Facebook page likers, distributing your links, videos and images will be a cinch.

4. Don\’t give everything away at once.

A day after Popcorn Indiana released the Popinator video, they posted sketches of the machine\’s early designs, including this: popinator Early design of the Popinator (source) If you head to Popcorn Indiana\’s website, there\’s more information about the popcorn flinging machine. Make your viral project teasing. If you execute the campaign in stages, people will be eager to know more. In effect, the project will have a longer viral effect. Relevant content doesn\’t have to be in video form — they can be pictures, text and updates about the project.   What do you think? Would you buy the Popinator if it were real? Did you believe it actually exists? Leave your answers in the comments below.

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