Thursday, April 26, 2007

Flick Off: Powerful Viral Marketing

Flick off!

How do you create a powerful viral marketing campaign?

Clearly identify and know your target market.
Really know them – what they do, where they go, how they think, what motivates them, how to grab their attention and how to speak their language. (How much of that do you know about your target market?)

That’s a lot of research and most marketers can’t be bothered and most business owners don’t want to invest the money to do that. But when you do the success of your marketing efforts is almost guaranteed. (Sun Tse, the ancient Chinese philosopher said “All battles are won before they are fought.)

So if your market was teens and 20-somethings, how would you approach them?

Be clear on your message.
You want them to reduce energy usage. You want them to start by turning off lights. Long term you want them to become more environmentally aware and responsible.

Simple message but tough sell.

Be clear on the motivation.
We have ten years before global warming becomes disastrous.

Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before: how can I make a difference?

Create a memorable slogan.
Flick off. Wait a minute. Doesn’t that look and sound a lot like f…. off?

Yes, it does and that is the brilliance in the slogan. Flick off is a harmless yet suggestive phrase that could become a new catch phrase – the secret of viral marketing. Flick off speaks the language of this target group. It is memorable. It is provocative – the best way to be both viral and memorable.

Flick off is powerful branding because it is controversial, and a good brand fans the flames of controversy. Read earlier posts about branding principles and the example of Death Cigarettes.

Pick strategic partners.
So if your market is teens and 20-somethings, who do you think would make great business partners? How about Virgin Mobile, (Sir Richard Branson), Roots and Much Music?

Richard Branson becomes the celebrity spokesperson, Roots sells T shirts emblazoned with the edgy slogan and Much Music TV personalities trumpet the message.

Flick off you say?

Yeah, hard to imagine. But that would be a powerful marketing campaign. Well, it is real and it was launched this week in Canada. Imagine that - a bold new marketing campaign to help our dear planet earth started here in Canada. Only in Canada you say - pity!

Flick off. It’s official. The marketing campaign to save us from Global Warming is alive and well in Canada.

The partners in this program are Virgin Mobile, MuchMusic, Roots, Environmental Defence and the province of Ontario. (My kudos to the provincial government for their willingness to invest in such a bold and controversial program.)

Flick Off Summary
For teens and 20-somethings, Flick off, be more energy-responsible.
For older folks bothered by the language – get real and think about the big picture.
For business owners and marketers - a practical marketing lesson.

Sounds like a win all around. Please flick off.

George Torok
Power Marketing


Rafael Mauricio Menshhein said...

Today you need to be a partner for your costumers, like their best friend and make researches every day to understand what people want and how to give to the people.

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Anonymous said...


I read your article on the so-called effectiveness of the recent 'FLICK OFF' campaign that incorporates shock value to attract it’s target market at the same time creating controversy among other demographic groups to give it ‘legs’. I must have to disagree with your assessment of the Ontario energy awareness campaign and believe this strategy is deeply flawed for a number of reasons;

1. It totally smacks of manipulation and as we all know, the teen and young adult sector are most often repelled rather than attracted by these kind of exploitive techniques
2. It talks down to the market group making the assumption that the use of obscenity is the most direct and effective communication tool that can be employed for this type of message. Did they not employ focus groups to test this strategy or were they giddy at the prospect of all the press they were bound to receive?
3. It actually detracts from the key message. If you check out the official website, you’ll see that rather than a healthy debate on the environment you have the right and left duking it out over the morality issue of this campaign rather than teens talking about the issue at hand.
4. Marketing tools such as T-shirts, posters and stickers will and are not being allowed to reach the very target group they are after within the school system due to the provocative logo style and long time school policies regarding the wearing or displaying such messages. To make an exception for this campaign would be totally hypocritical.
5. Telling or reminding them to ‘flick off’ by use of a controversial logo will not translate into action. Real experiences that have an effect on or disrupt their day to day lifestyle will initiate change.

I am surprised that a man of your credentials would be so quick as to label this campaign a success given the obvious short-sightedness of the strategy.

John D.

George Torok said...

Hi John,

Thanks for your comments.

I appreciate your position. There is no question that this bold marketing strategy is controversial. That's what is needed to power a viral marketing campaign. And it is always risky.

But as you notice it is getting attention - the first thing that any marketing should do - and it has an easy to understand message - flick off!

It seems like a good idea if more teens starting flicking off the lights. And if teens starting using "flick" instead of the other work - that would be a pleasan by product.

And if you haven't noticed - they use that other word already.

George Torok

Anonymous said...


'Controversy is always risk' -- I would agree. Controversy is about the only way enough people are going to notice in this case.

Our media has been swamped with 'conventional' campaigns about energy conservation,
reducing waste, etc. I think it gets lost in the thousands of other 'conventional' campaigns to buy this, that and the other thing.

With any luck, 'Flick off' can catch the attention of the right people and the idea of less wasteful practices will finally 'tip'.

Richard A.