Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mannequins can't dance.

By now you've probably joined the other 5 million people who have viewed T-Mobiles "Life's for sharing" video. It features 300 joyful dancers in London's Liverpool Street Station. The emotion felt real, it was a engaging and it tied into the companies new messaging. The video was also followed up with "Join the Dance" promotions and a website. All-in-all this would pass for a successful viral campaign.

But do these things actually work? Did it inspire emotion and engage consumers? Isn't that what most of this type of communication is for - to inspire emotion? A brand wants to leverage an emotion in order to be associated with it and, as a result, be more relevant to the consumer and sell more stuff. But I think most of the 5 million viewers were skeptics and thought..."Wow, that’s great but my brand is different. I just don’t see how this could leverage our brand or connect with people beyond the video”. Well, it was an idea the people connected to. So much so that a consumer Facebook group invited people to gather at London’s Liverpool Street Station to do a much bigger dance. The output and buzz you can see in this video…

Now let's take that campaign and compare it to Sony's mannequins. You get a group of models, dress them the same, equip them with Viao's and... BAM! instant buzz. Models become the surreal mannequins/art while performing for a surprised audience. Here's the video...

So what's the difference? Who wins - Mannequins or Dancers?

T-Mobile managed to produce emotion and a tangible shared experience. It can be repackaged and repeated. It can be easily shared. People can keep returning to the idea behind "Life's for sharing".

Sony on the other hand produced a stunt. One blast landed in front of a couple hundred people. Sure, the video shows a few guys using the product - but how many people in that one location felt engaged with the product. There's no emotion. No shared experience.

The audience watching the Sony stunt is just that - an audience. For this type of marketing to work and to continue working we have to move past the stunts and cool one-offs. It will get some YouTube views and will give some buzz. Instead, use the flexibility of these strategies to engage the audience. Take them from audience to participant. Let them own the idea.

Challenge: How can you take a single point of advertising or communication in your business and allow consumers to participate? One rule: No Contests.