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Marketing the Mayan Apocalypse

  |  December 20, 2012   |  Comments

A few things to keep in mind when you're developing your next digital marketing campaign about the apocalypse (or whatever buzz-worthy event comes your way).

As you may have heard, 2012 has the distinction of shouldering the demise of Planet Earth. At least, that's what the Mayans said. According to the calendar created by this ancient civilization, the world will end on December 21, 2012, and there isn't a thing we can do about it.

NASA says the prediction is rubbish, but that hasn't stopped marketers from capitalizing on the forbidding idea with movies, television programs, and ad campaigns. It's a natural inclination to want to tap into hot topics and cultural trends, and this event - theoretical though it may be - is getting its fair share of attention from brands.

In February, Parisian ad agency Buzzman launched "The Last Greeting Card Ever" - a hilarious case study-style take on the Mayan Prophecy as a 5,000-year long marketing campaign. The agency is known for its viral videos, and this was no exception: the video has received over 75,000 YouTube views and was picked up by countless blogs.


In Quebec, Canada, brewery Unibroue is using a custom microsite and Facebook page to promote "La Fin du Monde," a brand of beer that directly translates as "The End of the World." The company is asking consumers to "pledge to make a last toast to the end of the world" and pointing them to participating bars and bistros across North America where they can go to celebrate "La Fin du Monde Day."


With December 21 falling on a Friday, it stands to reason that T.G.I. Friday's would jump on board the doomsday bandwagon. "The Last Friday," a nationwide event, will be held in select T.G.I. restaurants on the infamous date and is being promoted with the tag line "party like there's no tomorrow." The brand is featuring related content on a custom microsite with video assets, and has been posting about it on Facebook and its Twitter feed (hashtag #TheLastFriday).

Most recently, JELL-O emerged with a TV spot and online video demonstrating "the funnest sacrifice ever." A related Twitter-based contest, in which fans can tweet the one thing they would do if the world was about to end, uses the hashtag #funpocalypse, and could earn participants one of the $100 daily prizes.

There's a trend among these campaigns beyond the common theme: all of them utilize the "end of the world" concept in a way that highlights a distinguishing characteristic of the brands. Buzzman's offering showcases its creativity and digital marketing prowess, while Unibroue and T.G.I. Friday's found clever ways to increase exposure of their brand names. And lest we forget, JELL-O has long touted its fun-factor in its ad campaigns.


To this end, here are a few things to keep in mind when you're developing your next digital marketing campaign about the apocalypse (or whatever buzz-worthy event comes your way).

Be prominent. Be subtle. Be impactful. Just how much a brand promotes itself has a lot to do with the style of the campaign. In the case of Buzzman and JELL-O, the video content was so entertaining that there was no need to mention who created it until the very end (by then viewers are eager and excited, which gives the "big reveal" greater impact). For La Fin du Monde and T.G.I. Friday's, however, the impact is all in the play on brand names. Take some time to consider which of these two approaches would work best for your campaign. One is sure to be a perfect fit.

Time it right. Cultural obsessions are time-sensitive affairs, and each is unique: interest might start months in advance, or within a week or two of the culminating event. Weigh the value of being among the first to associate yourself with it against the attention you stand to gain by aligning your timing with the majority of the social media buzz. Social media posts have a short shelf life, and Twitter users are often reluctant to post outdated content that was initially uploaded months before. It would be a shame to spend time and money on a campaign that doesn't receive the shares you think it deserves.

Exercise your media muscle. If your campaign relates to an event that's being covered by the press, the press needs to know about it. Major news outlets often report on such marketing campaigns and will even include screenshots and links to your creative assets in their stories. When you're writing your campaign press release, be sure to include detailed information about where the campaign is being promoted - from TV networks to websites and blogs (include specific domains). This will give reporters the information they need to assess the value of your story before they reach out to you, and could even mean the difference between making or missing a tight deadline.

Assuming the planet is still in one piece come December 22, happy holidays and happy marketing in the new year.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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