B2B marketing is easy. Eat Grasshoppers. (A case study to chew on- literally!)
What do you do when you have to market a business category that is cluttered, boring and deals with penny-pinching start-ups (I am one) and cash starved small businesses?
Easy. Cut the clutter, make it interesting and create buzz. Yeah. Sure. And if wishes were horses, we’d all be riding.
Or as in this case- If wishes were grasshoppers- we’d be coating them in chocolates and eating them.
I am covering this story after it has already created some buzz internationally. But what I’d be mentioning is some insights into the way this particular buzz campaign has been done.
Jonathan Kay is the Ambassador of buzz (we both agree that’s a cool title) at Grasshopper.
Grasshopper is a company that provides virtual business phone number with ‘large business functionalities’ and virtual IVR facilities customized for your business- (I have the link for you to explore their site and know some more. I have realized that a layman one line explanation works best while understanding the nature of businesses).
True to his title, he came across my blog and sent me a mail with links to resources on the site:
… I am familiar with you from your work on the Chasing the Storm Blog. This afternoon I read a few of your recent posts and more importantly your about page and I felt I needed to reach out. First off let me just say you are very witty!
Being the marketing expert you are I was hoping to share with you one of my company’s recent national marketing successes, as well as a video that I think will not only inspire you, but have an impact on your afternoon.
It caught my attention (and that is not only because of the good words) and though I had followed their campaign earlier, (I think following a few tweets from my US twitter friends) I was intrigued to find out more.
Jonathan wanted to know if I’d be curious to speak to the founders of the company. And you bet I did.
I love speaking to entrepreneurs and authors and constructive rebels. And I have never been disappointed. There is always some learning that compensated the effort. That learning continues to be a huge draw for me.
However, as of now- I will cover the marketing aspect – more specifically -this particular buzz marketing campaign by Grasshopper.
- Creating and harnessing the Marketing Capital: They had compiled a list of 5000 CEOs across America over the past 2 years (They were operating under the brand GotVmail earlier) and they decided to use that ‘Marketing Capital’ now
- The buzz factor: Grasshopper then engaged their audience- not only by putting a physical mailing in front of them, one that you can see, smell, and even eat! They sent chocolate covered grasshoppers (real ones with limbs intact) to these influentials (and media). The mailing had a small copy explaining what it was and their company (though no pitch at this stage) and that the consignment was edible.
- The scaling and sustenance: They then followed it up by sending a video link (video added below) saying “Entrepreneurs Can Change the World – Join the Movement”. In their own words:
- “Hitting on kinetic style marketing and fun visuals that not only keep your attention but pull at the strings of your heart (as an entrepreneur/small business owner)”
- 2 members of their marketing team spent the first 3 weeks constantly monitoring Twitter, trying to personally respond to people, challenging them to eat them, take pictures and video, etc. creating a Twitter Storm of sorts
- Integration across touchpoints: The campaign has many of my favorite modules- creating an internal marketing capital/resource, harnessing that resource across multiple touch points, creating buzz and sustaining and scaling on this wave. Just one idea- but scalable and across multiple touchpoints. After all this, they then created a video compilation of some of the “influential” people taking videos of themselves eating the hoppers
- Extending (what I call) the ‘Hype Life Cycle’ through ‘MicroInfluencer engagement’: In the latest stage, they seem to be building the buzz by identifying and communicating with Micro-influencers to keep the interest alive and juice the idea some more
- Measurement of impact: They measured video views on YouTube, conversation sentiments, tweet references and sentiments and traffic on the site. The Google share of organic search results (Google Blog search) increased drastically with about ten pages with their reference- indicating that the buzz within the blogosphere was quite pronounced.
- The goal was not ‘sales’, but getting to the idea that entreprenuers=grasshoppers and create buzz. And in that they were quite successful
I then asked them “What are the essential criterion they keep in mind while qualifying a buzz/viral marketing campaign?
Needs to be buzz worthy, related to the brand, and meet or core values and core purpose. Lastly, specific to this campaign, we played to peoples ego’s targeting the “5000 most influential people in America” creating an exclusive club, while also creating a level of curiosity and allure using FedEx package to send these.
While at one level I think the campaign is surely something that some brands in Asia – specifically those in Singapore (because I live here) can learn from, I have some off the cuff observations and critique and :
- Shock and Awe for buzz: To me, killing for pleasure and fun has never been a great idea. Even if it is an insect that is killed by pouring hot chocolate and by covering inside a plastic pouch. FDA of Thailand or not. But then maybe it is better than being fried alive. And no, this doesn’t have much to do with my being vegetarian since birth. I have been ‘insensitivized’ by many a TV ‘dare’ programmes that play on dismembering or killing or eating animals/insects to shock. And in many Asian countries, they any which ways consume animals in every possible ‘dare’ manner- frying live fish head first in a pan of boiling oil, eating live animal fetus raw and banging live animals senseless against a hard surface before eating.
- Having said that, I admit I am no expert on many cultures where this is a very accepted practice. After all, the campaign is sure to have been done keeping cultural shock, beliefs, values and legalities (FDA of Thailand) in perspective.
- Just that personally as a marketing enthusiast, I am of the opinion that buzz could be played otherwise. But that is a personal opinion- just like one of the media agency CEOs who told me that she would rather quit her job than pitch for a tobacco brand’s business. Tobacco brands are big businesses and in today’s ‘man-eat-grasshopper’ world (‘dog eat dog’ is old school) it takes more than guts to say NO on “principle” grounds.
- Business Promise: I think the coverage intrigued people and did create buzz. But it would have been better if there was a clearer proposition to this activity- eating a chocolate covered grasshopper and virtual business phone numbers had little ‘obvious’ connection. I would imagine the buzz had been largely due to the novelty/curiosity and maybe disgust value of eating an insect- antennae, eyes, little feet an all.
- But again, since this seemed to have translated into business for them, I think there might be a business/marketing lesson to be learnt here: if you think you have a good buzz idea, just go ahead and do it- don’t potificate much.
- They definitely were able to migrate successfully from the earlier staid ‘GotVMail’ to a more vibrant ‘Grasshopper’ branding due to this campaign literally playing on that title
That’s a long case study there. In some time in the near future, I’ll have some more questions for the founders and try to get to you. Till then keep on Chasing The Storm