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Case Study: How Kodak Generated Marvelous Results by Turning Users Into Superheroes

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Company: Kodak Imaging Network
Contact: Camilla Bravo, Senior Director of Worldwide Brand Strategy
Location: Emeryville, CA
Industry: Photo Services, B2C
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: 200

Quick Read

Photo-storage and sharing site KodakGallery.com and digital-marketing firm EVB understand that there's a quasi-superhero side to all of us, or so we'd like to believe as we constantly attempt to cram more pursuits into a single day--a nearly universal pursuit to which many can relate.

That common experience helped the companies turn their campaign, based on OfficeMax's "Elf Yourself," into a viral-video marvel of its own. KodakGallery.com enabled users to upload their pictures and transform themselves, or family members and friends, into humorously depicted superheroes of everyday life.

Close to two million unique users took up the offer, and more than half went on to share the resulting videos with others, generating a surge in traffic and sales on KodakGallery.com.


Challenge

Formerly known as Ofoto, Kodak Gallery is an online digital photo developing service that allows users to view, store, and share their photos, as well as order prints and specialty photo products such as calendars and mugs.

Because competition in this industry has grown, with sites such as Snapfish and Shutterfly gaining market share, Kodak wanted to launch a campaign in 2008 that would "engage customers with Kodak Gallery in a new and unexpected way," said Camilla Bravo, the company's senior director of worldwide brand strategy.

The company wanted to regain consumer mindshare and elevate brand perceptions, generate widespread awareness around the Kodak Gallery brand, and drive traffic to its site.

Campaign

Intrigued by the OfficeMax "Elf Yourself" campaign, Kodak turned to San Francisco digital advertising agency Evolution Bureau (EVB) to construct an online campaign that would tie into the company's core product: photos.

The resulting campaign, called "Make Me Super," launched at the end of September 2008 and centered around an interactive Web site (MakeMeSuper.com) where users could upload photos from their computers or Kodak Gallery accounts and quickly turn themselves, family members, and friends into suburban superheroes.

On a single Web page, users needed only to upload a photo, select a gender, and type a name... before being entertained with a two-minute video starring the newly created superhero, in spandex suit and cape, conquering everyday tasks—such as tending the yard, parallel-parking, finding a great sale—in (not quite) super ways.

Below the video, Kodak Gallery products (such as a mug, mousepad, and playing cards) featuring the user's superhero image were displayed; users who selected products were prompted to sign into their Kodak Gallery accounts or create new accounts. A new browser window would then pop up and take the user to KodakGallery.com, where the selected items would already be waiting in the shopping cart.

That approach represented an important improvement over the "Elf Yourself" model, because it showcased relevant products. Still, EVB and Kodak Gallery were careful to not be heavy-handed or push the sale.

Users were also given options to send their superhero video to friends and download the video and a static image to their desktops and Kodak Gallery accounts.

To drive awareness and traffic to the site, Kodak and EVB also launched the following:

  • A branded Facebook page, which offered screen shots, a sample video, and a link to the MakeMeSuper.com site. It also allowed users to upload their own "Make Me Super" videos.
  • A blogger outreach program that targeted blogs and other sites serving related markets, such as photo enthusiasts, moms (Kodak Gallery's core market), creative hobbyists, and superhero junkies.

Results

MakeMeSuper.com has received close to three million visitors, including almost two million unique visitors, demonstrating not only its popularity but also its ability to draw return traffic.

During October 2008, KodakGallery.com received double its usual traffic with "no other reasonable explanation for this enormous increase," said Bravo.

Product sales increased, as well, enabling the program to pay for itself, Bravo noted.

Lessons Learned

For Kodak Gallery, this campaign represents a successful trial in viral marketing.

Through online media outreach, and users' own initiatives, the campaign garnered more than 520 blog posts and 40 Twitter tweets.

And although no investment was made in traditional media, news of the campaign was picked up by at least 60 media outlets, offline as well as online, including a feature on the Today Show and recommendations from the Los Angeles Times Funny Pages, CNBC's Tech Check, The Insider, CosmoGirl, and GeekSugar.

Even more noteworthy levels of distribution came among the users themselves, over half of whom used the "send to a friend" feature on MakeMeSuper.com.

Users also posted their "Super" videos and static images throughout the Web, including on YouTube and Flickr—a likelihood that Kodak and EVB increased by enabling, and prompting, users to download both formats to their desktops.

"It really took on a life of its own," said Bravo. "The spread was truly viral, and it exceeded our expectations."

Moreover, the campaign has demonstrated sustainability by continuing to attract visitors months after its launch—a milestone not often achieved in viral marketing.

The campaign elements helping to drive success included the following:

  • Personalization, incorporating users' names or their friends' names, as well as personal photographs, so that each video was really made the user's own.
  • Humor, using comical lyrics and video footage that appeared dated and boorishly homemade—one more reason for users to share a good laugh with their friends.
  • Universality, centering on everyday themes to which a broad base of users could relate.

"We all love and joke about being superheroes," explained Kim Kline, EVB's VP of account management and planning. "Finding those little insights about human nature in general and tying that into something personal that users can engage with gave this campaign huge viral potential."

(Got a campaign that's worth spreading the news about? Tell us by emailing CaseStudies@MarketingProfs.com.)

Related Links

Kodak was successful with this campaign because it really understood its target audience. How well do you know your customers? Check out Small Biz How-To Guide: Market Research in the MarketingProfs Store to discover how you can use inexpensive, do-it-yourself market research to learn more about your customers. Premium Plus Members may also enjoy viewing Small Business Series: Do-It-Yourself Market Research in the MarketingProfs Seminar Library. We hope these resources help you better understand your customers so that you can create effective, targeted campaigns that resonate (and generate sales!)


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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via kims@marketingprofs.com.

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  • by Karen Tue Mar 10, 2009 via web

    Fantastic article and idea I can't believe I've missed. Too bad their website is down.

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