Perennial Brand Content

American Greetings created this branded content six years ago. And every year, it finds a new audience across social media. Rightly so, because while it may be simple in execution, it is brilliant in concept. And performance.

Of course you can get ahead of the idea; most viewers probably do. But if that last woman’s emotional honesty doesn’t choke you up, you may be the Tin Man.

If you are lucky enough to have a Mom, hopefully you already sent her a card. If not, for god’s sake, get on the phone. You got less than ten hours left.

Go Kindness! Go Vols!

Peyton Manning.

Peyton’s my only connection to the University of Tennessee: my time on Gatorade and the joy of working with this underrated comedian who also happened to be pretty good at throwing a football.

And then this story happened…


It was “college colors” day at his Florida elementary school, and a fourth grade University of Tennessee fan didn’t have anything to wear. So he made his own, drawing “U.T.” on a piece of paper and stapling it to an orange t-shirt (I already love this kid and suspect he might someday make artisanal pocket squares in Brooklyn).

As can happen with attempts at creativity, his earnest design failed to impress the local cool kids who mocked his shirt over the lunch hour. This kind of cruel behavior always happens during lunch, doesn’t it? The teasing really upset him, which inspired his teacher Laura Snyder to share his tale on Facebook.

The universal nature of the boy’s story made Laura’s post go viral. And soon, some very astute, deeply human people at the University of Tennessee took note.

First, UT Interim President Randy Boyd sent the young man a care package from the student bookstore, insuring he would have plenty of Volunteer merchandise, both for himself and even some of those meanies who derided his homemade efforts.

Then the story really took off. News outlets across the country picked up the narrative. And having the right kind of reactive, social media savvy, the University in turn:

  1. Created t-shirts with the young man’s design, selling them online and donating the profits to anti-bullying organizations. This went super-viral.
  2. Offered the fourth grader a full ride scholarship to their university class of 2032, quieting the online yahoos criticizing them for taking advantage of the story.
  3. Dressed their 300+ “Pride of the Southland” marching band in the boy’s t-shirt during their game vs. UT Chattanooga.

We’re a painfully divided country these days, rife with finger pointing and name calling (thanks Russian troll army!). And yet as Americans, we are drawn to the well-meaning underdog. We will stand up for the unfairly criticized fourth grader. There are no sides, no partisanship in our support of a kid who was treated unfairly.

And that gives me hope for a better future ahead. At least when it comes to the University of Tennessee Class of 2032. You go anonymous kid, good on you.



Gold, Frankincense…and Metal

So, how many times this season have you heard Paul McCartney’s treacly “Wonderful Christmas Time”? Did an act of congress dictate that every store’s playlist must feature an inappropriately-breathy rendition of “Santa Baby”?

If you’re struggling to find your musical merry this season, search no more. In what is the polar opposite of anything on Neil Diamond’s Christmas playlist, a metal band out of York, PA has released their own magical antidote of sorts. Small Town Titans have re-interpreted “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” with a metal sensibility that would make Boris Karloff smile. And it gladdens my heart more than all the sugarplums on Michigan Avenue…

Wow. The Zevon-worthy lyric “YOU HAVE ALL THE TENDER SWEETNESS/OF A SEASICK CROCODILE” never felt so ominously threatening. And apparently, lots of us agree that’s a good thing.

The unsigned power trio released this cover last year but according to lead singer Phil Freeman, “we weren’t really expecting more than maybe a million views by Christmas.” To their surprise, their Facebook post of a live performance went viral. It now has over 23 million views…and it’s still climbing. That’s what happens when your post gets shared by over a half a million people.

In a lovely twist of fate, Freeman, Ben Guiles, and Jonny Ross all met as students at Lebanon Valley College; my decidedly non-metal mother and sister’s alma mater.

So yes, it is a lovely season and indeed, it may well be the most wonderful time of the year. Still, there’s definitely room for this sentiment as well. Nicely done lads.


Becoming a Right of Spring

Anyone in the communication business dreams of creating something that hits a nerve and draws massive, global interest. But few might expect that to come from ballpark signs created by the Board of a Wisconsin little league.

As reported in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, one player’s dad, Evan Primakow, posted this photo of their sign on Reddit as the season opened in mid April. In less than two weeks, it’s garnered over twenty-eight thousand reactions and 715 comments (of course, being Reddit, a lot of those are trolling humor, but still…).
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Ideas > Media Dollars: Using Facebook To Make the World Love Obermutten

ObermuttenChances are, you’ve never heard of the tiny Swiss mountain hamlet of Obermutten. We certainly hadn’t. But this article from Europe’s Digital Tourism Think Tank describes how a remote picturesque town with a mere 80 villagers created a viral sensation by taking a decidedly personal approach.

The offer was remarkably simple: if you liked Obermutten’s tourism page on Facebook, the town would print out your picture and pin it to a bulletin board in the town square.

That’s it. No t-shirt, no cash, no cars; just that most human of rewards–recognition. They also promised to answer any question posted on their page.

The response started slowly. Here’s an early video showing the town Mayor pinning up the first ten likes. In short order, they would need a bigger board and eventually, the postings would cover every major wall in the town.

Maybe it was the direct engagement. Maybe it was the palpable sense of participation. Maybe it was the simple reward of being part of something. Whatever the reason, this unassuming idea made Obermutten’s the most liked Facebook page in Switzerland. Before long, their quirky campaign was picked up by the international media and tourists began flocking to this town in droves. Within six months, Obermutten attracted over 60 million fans from 32 countries.

And the real kicker? The total investment totaled just over $11,000 US, for an ROI of $2,500,000 in tourism increases and media attention. That’s a multiple of 240.

There are lessons here for digital and social marketers;

  1. Keep things simple and whenever possible, make them personal.
  2. Create delight by engaging directly.
  3. If at all possible, build a community to belong to.

It’s like the old theme song from Cheers: “You want to go where everybody knows your name.” Or face.

Mike & Dennis

Teddy Goalsevelt on What Makes Shareworthy Content

Mike D’Amico is a wonderfully talented art director. We worked together when he first got into the business with a gig at Element 79. As a digital native in a largely TV shop, he was an amazing font of information about these new things like Twitter and Foursquare.

But today, suddenly, he’s far better known to soccer fans around the world as “Teddy Goalsevelt.” As you can see in this interview with Chicago’s Very Own WGN Channel 9, he’s rode his costumed-enthusiasm to massive social media fame.  Check out these write ups from Buzzfeed, the NY Post and ESPN. He is viral. And truly winning the internet.


Despite what must be a dizzying maelstrom of international attention, Mike makes an incisive point that is nothing short of absolute genius at 5:31 of his WGN interview on what he’s learned about this experience.

“It’s funny. My job literally is to make content go viral online. And I’ll tell you what; if there’s one thing to learn from this about the internet, it’s that you can not do this on purpose.”

For those of us who work in this business, that statement is undeniably true. Trying to ascertain what will capture the fleeting attention of our ADD society at a specific moment in time is something of a crapshoot. Still, in those rare moments when you do, the result is pure joy. And Mike, you’ve brought a ton of pure joy to fans of US Soccer, and by association, our ever-manly 26th President.

By the way, epic gloves Mike. So fired up for you. So. Much. Fun.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

I’ve Been Kind of Distracted But This Snapped Me Back to The Blog

I wish my distraction was preparing for the Holidays: buying gifts, writing Christmas cards, baking something. But instead, we were kinda busy at the office pulling together this.
The hiatus was starting to weigh on my mind when I noticed this on Facebook today. And it seemed perfectly apt…

Thank you Shakespeare, Enya (again) and Hungarian animation firm Delov Digital.

Even in digital form, Chuck Norris has no equal. After all, Chuck Norris doesn’t celebrate Christmas, Christmas celebrates Chuck Norris.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

FBomb: The Fundamentals for Shareworthy-ness Apply to Infographics Too

Want to make your video clip more viral? The basics of shareworthy-ness are simple.

  1. Give it a strong POV that lines up with a well-defined group or community’s values.
  2. Give it a strong element of surprise (as a corollary–if it involves a celebrity, make their appearance or actions the surprise).
  3. Make it super simple to forward on mobile.

Those principles don’t just apply to video. They apply to everything from photos to essays to games…and yes, infographics too.  Last August, MediaBistro’s AllTwitter blog reported that infographics shared on Twitter get 832% more retweets than articles or images. That’s rather staggering. (find their wonderfully easy-to-digest column here).

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

But to be shareworthy, your  infographic  still must be remarkable on its own. Which brings us to FBomb

The idea behind FBomb is simple: at this very moment, who exactly is dropping that expletive via Twitter? And where are they?

FBomb is realtime, it’s interactive, and it’s a fun little divergence courtesy of Canadian student and developer Martin Gingras. It’s a hill of fun that’s not meant to be posited as social commentary, yet a stunning amount of wet blanket comments in response to Martin’s creation all seem to take issue with his science. “This is only Twitter users, not the general population.” “It’s an English word so of course the US and UK seem disproportionately sweary.”

It’s not science, it’s a lark. And a hilariously entertaining, highly shareworthy one at that.  Happy Friday!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Start Your Monday With Your Heart In Your Throat

Look, it’s no surprise to anyone that GoPro absolutely kills it when it comes to Shareworthy Content. Their cameras are perfect for first person experiences of epic experiences. Like this bike ride…


Seriously?  Seriously?  I wouldn’t walk down that path and this guy goes down it hell for leather with a camera on his helmet. And not only does Kelly McGarry achieve a sort-of internet fame, GoPro is right there with him, bookending the experience. Yes, Red Bull sponsored it, but GoPro gets the lion’s share of credit. Because man, when he pulls that back flip, that could only be GoPro.

This, like so much of their online strategy, is brilliant marketing. And why Olson’s duties on this amazing brand remain mostly focused on PR; these GoPro guys have branding figured out all by themselves.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Continuing The Prank Advertising Theme…

Back in June, Leo Burnett London released this viral clip on behalf of UK THINK!, a government organization designed to encourage safer driving to reduce road injuries and fatalities…

Contrast this with yesterday’s Carrie viral and it’s pretty clear the whole genre of “prank advertising” is quickly evolving and maturing. In contrast to higher profile clips like the Jeff Gordon Pepsi MAX prank or the LG Meteor prank, this one never lets the prankees in on the joke and withholds its point from viewers until the end super. The net effect is that this piece feels like a longer form commercial instead of something new and shareworthy.

At 8.6 million views for a government message, it definitely qualifies as a success. But with the others climbing into the tens of million viewers (16.4 and climbing, 38.9, and 12.6 million views respectively), engaging viewers seems like a better approach to this still nascent advertising form.

No doubt, we’ll be seeing lots more of these pranks as brands try to jump in on this opportunity. Many of them will be incredibly clever and inventive, finding new ways to surprise, engage and encourage viral sharing. But I can’t help feeling that prank advertising is enjoying a bubble of popularity at this moment in time.

A bubble that will pop when someone gets hurt by one.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson