Monday, June 8, 2009

Ethics in viral marketing

It really bothers me when news like this shows us that people still don't quite understand what viral marketing is and what it is not. One might say a publicity stunt is not viral marketing. That argument, however, would not have been helped by the fact that it was a viral marketing agency staging all this and that they got media outlets reporting on it as real news.

Seth Godin defines viral marketing as "... an idea that spreads--and an idea that while it is spreading actually helps market your business or cause."

When you employ a bunch of fake religious protesters to create buzz for your game, like EA had done to promote Dante's Inferno, the only idea you are spreading is that you are not above fabricating a false reality and presenting it as the real deal in order to get attention, very much like a spoilt, immature brat would. It says very little about your game, offers no real value to the gamer, and speaks volumes about what you think of marketing ethics and how much you (don't) respect your customers.

Should also note: admitting that you have pulled a publicity stunt, days after the fact, does not make it all fine and acceptable. Admitting to a lie without any apology only tells us that we probably should expect this behaviour from you again in the future.

If you are reading these lines, I hope you will mark this post as an example on How Not To Do Viral Marketing / How Not To Create Buzz.

1 comment:

Isabelle Marazzani said...

Hi Taylan,

Keep up the good work. Love your blog!

Althought not in the gaming industry, another recent fine example of marketing shaky ethics was Montreal city's blog campaign done to promote urban cycling and Bixi, a new public bike system.

The blog, created entirely by local Morrow communications agency was passing as a cycling enthusiasts blog. They basically created the personnas of the contributing bloggers with fake identities and even a Facebook fan page (1400 fans).

The astonishment and well-founded critique from the general media and of the marketing community was absolute since the obvious vertues of urban cycling should'nt be so hard to sell after all.