A Viral Success Recipe: Unicorns, Ice Cream and Poop Jokes

What do you get when you mix an adorable unicorn, a saucy prince, poop jokes galore and YouTube? A viral marketing success story, that, while seeming unachievable, still provides important lessons for all marketers. And c’mon … don’t you want a good laugh before the stress of the holiday hits later this week?

By now, you’re probably familiar with the Squatty Potty, the personal elimination improvement device for bathrooms. You know, the stool for better stools (their words, not mine!), which had sales skyrocket following the decision to take a risk, go against suggestions from investors and work with the Harmon Brothers to make a video that went so viral it’s earned over 28.2 million views.

If you haven’t seen the video, which launched in October 2015, watch it above — that is, if you can handle bathroom humor mixed with ice cream innuendos and adorable unicorns.

But the more important video — in my opinion — is the one below, which I found this past weekend while cruising YouTube. It’s about the risk the founders took when teaming up with the Harmon Brothers to do the video. You see some of the founders honestly saying they didn’t get the concept and vision, and being doubtful, then later realizing there was something to using humor to educate an audience.

If you don’t have 4 minutes to watch (seriously though, make the time), here are some of the highlights:

• Despite being on Season 6 of Shark Tank, nothing up until the video — which went viral — had boosted sales the way the unicorn did.

• According to Co-founded Bill Edwards, the first month after the video launched, online sales of Squatty Potty increased 250 percent, clearly outperforming the product’s time on primetime TV.

• The screenshot below from the video shows sales in both the online and retail spaces before the video launched on YouTube and after. Just … wow.

Squatty Potty Sales via YouTube viral video• There was a huge spike in search traffic following the video, with Google searches for “Squatty Potty” up by 500 percent.

• Post-video, the folks behind Squatty Potty realized they were successfully reaching a younger audience, without affecting their pre-video audience.

• Possibly the most important words in the video are said by CEO Bobby Edwards:

“This video was converting. It was getting people to buy our product.”

The video closes with Co-founder Judy Edwards saying, “You’ll be seeing us more on YouTube … ”

And a year later … we have. Launched on Nov. 10, the folks behind (ha-ha) Squatty Potty are back, along with the smooth-talking prince and unicorn, but this time they’re promoting a different product.

The latest video, “Slay Your Poo-Stink with the Golden Fart of Mystic Unicorn” is well … more of the same, but maybe a little creepier in some instances. The actual product is an odor eliminating spray, much like the popular Poo-pourri (fun fact, the Harmon Brothers also worked on those viral videos).

The video has over a half million views so far, and I’m curious to see if it has a similar effect on sales the way the previous video did … but I’m not sure. While the actual Squatty Potty product has the corner on the market, Unicorn Gold is coming up against established Poo-pourri.

Squatty Potty prince in viral YouTube VideoBottom line: It can pay off to take risks, but only when you partner with the right people and then TRULY partner with them. The Edwards trio, while maybe not getting the ice cream-pooping unicorn at first (well, Bobby got it, but Bobby seems hip to this stuff), put their trust into the Harmon Brothers and didn’t micromanage the vision. And look where it got them: a YouTube viral success, a massive increase in sales and the distinct possibility that people will never look at unicorns and ice cream the same way ever again.

 

Free Marketing Advice: How Far Is Too Far?

How much of our intellectual property should we be willing to give away to win a client’s business? Many prospects are willing to pay for creative ideas — some have been shamed into it, while others have finally placed a value on the time an agency will have to invest in conceiving, writing and designing creative ideas.

Email Roundtable: Creative Insights You Can StealAnyone who works in business development at an agency has encountered this dilemma: An RFP includes a request for a detailed set of strategic and tactical marketing recommendations that would solve some very specific business challenges.

But a recent RFP went even further: Forecast the response expected from each media channel recommended, and include proof of concept by detailing how that idea in that channel delivered for another client. Anyone in their right mind who answers this question is giving away proprietary results! Yet, we all know that if we don’t comply with the RFP, we can pretty much count ourselves out of consideration in the next round of reviews. But how much of our intellectual property should we be willing to give away to win a client’s business?

Many prospects are willing to pay for creative ideas — some have been shamed into it, while others have finally placed a value on the time an agency will have to invest in conceiving, writing and designing creative ideas (although we all know we never get adequately compensated).

However, there are other challenges facing our industry on price, value and just plain old fashioned respect. For example I’ve noticed that if someone does ask for some free marketing advice in a public forum, many experienced marketers will provide very thoughtful and insightful answers. But others are quick to dismiss the ideas that others present in order to promote their own answer. After I was publicly shamed for one of my recent responses, I decided the public forum may not be the best place to participate in a thoughtful discussion on marketing challenges.

Many new startups in Silicon Valley spend time on a site called Founders Dating, seeking advice and counsel on everything from marketing to HR, technology to investor-related challenges. Even after I responded to a question that was right in my wheelhouse of expertise, there were over 200 “experts” chiming in with their advice – so how could the individual raising the question possibly know what they should do next?

I’ve heard loads of complaints from creative freelancers about clients who were unclear in their initial direction, but were unwilling to pay for round after round of revision. And other freelancers admit that they’ve done work at a cut-rate price because the pipeline for new work has dried up, so they’re giving away their expertise. Still, others are complaining that all the new grads flooding the marketplace are driving costs down.

Are you feeling the same pinch — the same lack of respect for your experience or ideas? Should we all just retire and open a food truck?

Please Stop Stealing

With the tumultuous 2016 presidential election ahead of us, you can’t crawl out of bed without something political crawling in — or maybe that’s just my problem with reading the news in bed on my phone most mornings. But that’s how I came across this Ad Age story about Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign stealing agency Spark’s brand concept.

Business cat copyright memeWith the tumultuous 2016 presidential election ahead of us, you can’t crawl out of bed without something political crawling in — or maybe that’s just my problem with reading the news in bed on my phone most mornings. But that’s how I came across this Ad Age story about Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign stealing agency Spark’s brand concept.

Sigh.

Today I don’t want to talk about politics … instead I want to look at the major issue of people not understanding that you can’t just rip things off. This isn’t Instagram basically copying the Stories idea from Snapchat (you can’t copyright ideas … though it’s still not highly advisable unless if you can innovate upon it).

I already yelled about this when Quirk Ford, a franchise dealership of Ford, stole art from indie developer Campo Santos’ game Firewatch. And now here we are about six weeks later.

Now, I recommend reading through the Ad Age story “Agency Says Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson Stole Its Brand Concept” because Kate Kaye nails it with her reporting. But the quick version is this: Tampa, Fla.-based agency Spark came up with a brand concept for Gary Johnson’s campaign … essentially for kicks. And then the campaign started using it, without permission.

From Ad Age:

In June, the agency published its quarterly magazine, Stick, which featured a variety of articles relating to the “underdog” theme. The agency — which does not work with political clients — decided to take a stab at creating branding specs for an underdog political campaign and chose to use the third party hopeful, former New Mexico governor and triathlete, as its guinea pig.

“We looked at it from a pure brand standpoint,” said Elliott Bedinghaus, VP-creative at Spark, adding, “Our intent for this was never to work with Gary Johnson.”

How hard would it have been for the Johnson campaign to reach out to Spark to discuss their work, and perhaps ask for permission to use the concept? The campaign, according to Ad Age had not returned multiple requests for comment.

In response to this whole snafu, Spark made this video responding to the issue. Watch it … all 41 seconds of it … to see how the pros handle things.

Spark … you are CLASSY. “If you’re going to swipe, swipe right.” Even classier is the site, hellogaryjohnson.com, and here’s a little taste of it:

Hellogaryjohnson.com site Hellogaryjohnson.com site“Here’s a little guidance for how we intended the concept to be executed,” the site reads or, in other words, “Hey, you’re doing it wrong.” Spark even provides downloadable working files.

And then includes this short note:

All in all, we’re excited that you’re giving our work greater visibility by making it a part of your campaign. And, political views aside, that’s a pretty big win in our book. Let’s just do this thing the right way.

If you’re gonna steal, steal smart … and as Spark said, if you’re gonna swipe, swipe right. Now Spark acknowledges the visibility it will receive, but still hits home the message: There’s a right way to do this.

You rarely win when you steal things, and with Gary Johnson’s political campaign and Quirk Ford … you end up looking dishonest, incompetent and … well, lazy. No one wants that, and it’s not that hard to avoid.

Marketers, strive to be above board. Agencies and consultants, do the work to keep your clients informed. And maybe we can all move past this.

Oh yeah, and here’s my video on Quirk Ford’s “art heist” if you want to see me get all up in arms and legitimately yell:

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Quick update: According to Spark, the Gary Johnson campaign DID reach out and apologize. You can see this mention here on the Youtube page comments for the video (though they mix up Ad Age and Ad Week …)

The Importance of Celebrating Great Advertising

Certainly, we’ve read headlines about ad blockers, agency burnout and click fraud — but these challenges are not the reality of our entire business. Yes, each concern listed here needs to be managed, but they hardly define advertising’s truest landscape.

Echo AwardsOn April 7, there is an agency party happening in New York. Creatives and strategists will be in attendance, but what will the party be celebrating exactly? The simple chance to win an ECHO Award, and the call for entries is now.

Full disclosure — I’m on the Direct Marketing Association’s International ECHO Awards Board of Governors (and the only compensation of being a BOG member is the opportunity to see firsthand the greatest advertising idea store in all of data-driven marketing).

What’s so timely or unusual about celebrating advertising now?

Certainly, we’ve read headlines about ad blockers, agency burnout and click fraud — but these challenges are not the reality of our entire business. Yes, each concern listed here needs to be managed, but they hardly define advertising’s truest landscape:

  • Compelling content that drives consumer interest and engagement — and is increasingly measured to prove it. Data wins the purse and the consumer.
  • An economic contribution that DMA identifies as a $202 billion proposition in the U.S. alone, with more than half of that directly related to responsible collection, sharing and application of data. However, the ECHOs are not all data and numbers – they are informed strategies and executions that are breathtaking, first and foremost. They also drive action.
  • Advertising that wows the CMO, keeps the CFO happy and enables the CEO to look good — because it’s advertising that works to meet defined business objectives.

Very few ad competitions explore this angle, yet, this is where advertising is going and growing. An ECHO trophy proves, “We understand where advertising is going.”

Making waves, disruptive, arresting, dominant — the adjectives fail us, but the work doesn’t. Even the ECHOs are transformative this year with 21 categories to conquer tackling sector, channel, craft and special award categories.

Instead of partying in Manhattan on Thursday night, I will be six miles high eagerly flying home, awaiting this year’s stellar realm of dominant ECHO entries to celebrate this fall. Dominators have until June 27 to enter.