February 18th, 2008 | 2 MIN READ

Can You Recall the Most Famous Viral of All?

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

D’oh for Office MaxPicking up where we left off in discussing Office Max's "Elf Yourself" campaign (our post Can Dancing Elves Move Product Off Shelves? and Robert Gorell's How To Elf Yourself Out of Millions), I noticed another nail in Office Max's coffin in my feed reader today.

Office Max drew much criticism from the marketing world, despite the phenomenal success of its Elf Yourself viral campaign, because it had nothing to do with office supplies. But driving sales wasn't even the intention, rather it was an effort to bring a human face to Office Max's brand. If at #2, Avis has to "try harder," I suppose Office Max - #3 behind Staples and Office Depot - decided to compete on personality rather than price or customer service.

But that's all for naught if everyone loves your campaign, but attributes it to your competitors - or completely different industries. Robert Gorell noted in his post:

Ask anyone who's aware of Elf Yourself — and pronounce it carefully when you do — whether they can recall who sponsored the campaign.

Most of the answers I've gotten thus far ("Starbucks?"; "Barnes & Noble?"; "Wasn't that Staples?") have been guesses.

But this is the kicker: Not even Adweek can recall the sponsor correctly:

Burger King's online Subservient Chicken from 2004, in which typed-in words triggered the responses of a man in a chicken suit, and Office Depot's Elf Yourself microsite for the 2006 and 2007 holiday seasons, where people were turned into dancing elves, as well as other unique campaigns are proof that interesting tech tools can create marketing that is fun, engaging and certain to go viral.


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