A Marketer’s Dream/”Paul Is Dead” 2.0

In the late 60’s, perpetuated by a radio DJ’s theory, Beatles fans went on a music-related scavenger hunt to find clues as to whether or not Paul McCartney was dead. They scoured through songs, played them backwards, interpreted symbols on album covers and group pictures, and album sales even rose. The Beatles denied that they ever intentionally planted clues, and blamed the theory on over-analysis.

Reading CNN this morning and talking with my friend Reggie, I managed to learn about a new “find the clues” hunt designed by Nine Inch Nails as a “new entertainment form.” I call it a marketer’s dream, and it leads me to believe that viral campaigns CAN be manufactured and engineered. They don’t have to be serendipitous if done the right way.

According to Wikipedia, the hunt started when fans discovered that highlighted letters on the band’s new tour t-shirts spelled out the words “I am trying to believe.” Of course, iamtryingtobelieve.com, and many other websites that were later found gave some fairly cryptic clues as to what this was all about. USB drives were found in bathroom stalls during gigs, containing mp3s of new songs, and static that revealed more clues when run through a spectrogram. The fans must’ve gone nuts, and as far as I can tell, they certainly did.  I won’t get into all the details — they’re covered really well on Wikipedia and on CNN.  Definitely look at them yourself.

Mac fans must think of this concept as vaguely familiar. Something similar happened earlier this year in the mac community, called MacHeist. The concept was created by mac community leaders Phillip Ryu (of MyDreamApp fame) and designer Adam Betts, and was an event designed to promote the concept of shareware.  The game featured puzzles, cryptic clues (including the very awesome ”iSight trick“), phone numbers,  codes and domain names.  I participated, and it was amazingly thought-out and extremely successful.

Nothing more that people like than clues and cryptic messages.  It makes for very interesting marketing, doesn’t it?  And as NIN frontman Trent Reznor states, it’s more of an entertainment form than anything else, and it makes for extremely compelling campaigns.

All things to consider, no?

~ by Brad Levinson on April 3, 2007.

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