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OfficeMax's Viral Hit: Elf Yourself!

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Know how I know when an online campaign is truly viral? When my non-geek, non-marketer friends pass it along to me. In other words, when those who don't spend most of their waking time online notice, then you know it's a hit.


So kudos to OfficeMax for ElfYourself, its holiday microsite that allows visitors to turn their friends and family into hip, dancing "elves," and to record a synchronized message through a special toll-free number.
Introduced for the 2006 holidays and relaunched last month, ElfYourself gives visitors the option to either "elf" themselves or create a merry band of elves with three other friends, family members, or pets (my friend Karen's four dogs were particularly amusing!), if you are so inspired. Here are my two kids.
elves.jpg
Last year, at the height of holiday season, "10 people were 'elfing' themselves every second," says Ryan Vero, OfficeMax EVP and chief merchandising officer. ElfYourself was plugged on ABC's Good Morning America and appeared on VH-1's site. ElfYourself.com and a companion site introduced this year .... the cranky ScroogeYourself.com (recently written up in USA Today) .... were produced for OfficeMax by New York-based advertising agency Toy NY, along with its interactive partner EVB. The two are getting the most traction out of some 20-odd holiday-themed microsites OfficeMax created.
The big question, of course, is does it sell more office supplies? I don't know .... but I would bet that the microsites are more effectively engaging that a slew of TV spots. And, of course, a whole lot more fun.


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Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, a monthly contributor to Entrepreneur magazine, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules (Wiley, 2012), which has been translated into nine languages, including Turkish, Chinese, Korean, Italian, and Portuguese. Ann co-founded ClickZ.com, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs
Email: ann@MarketingProfs.com.

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  • by Tangerine Toad Tue Dec 11, 2007 via blog

    This is a brilliant idea. I know so many people who have used it- especially cute for kids. Ari Merkin, the CD/Founder of Toy worked at Fallon NY and was the CD for the Starbucks "Glen" spot - one of my favorite of all time. As for the tie to Office Max - I think it's become popular enough to give them a halo effect. Office Max is severely hampered by the fact that there's a competing chain called Office Depot, and it's easy to mix up the two names. (And issue say, Staples, doesn't have.)

  • by Kathryn Milette Tue Dec 11, 2007 via blog

    I got elfed and loved it. It had me in tears. However, I don't think the campaign is necessarily about getting more foot traffic, at least in the short term. I think it is about differentiating OfficeMax from the other office supply stores, and giving it a personality in a very boring market. However, I question creating a very cool viral ad that has an extremely obscure connection to the host company, like the subservient chicken. These campaigns are very cool, but, really, how many people realized what company the chicken was supposed to be promoting. I think the Monk E-mails do a better job relating to CareerBuilder,and therefore have more long-term value. These companies are not interactive marketing companies. They are cpg, fast food, and employment service companies. I think they would be better served by focusing on viral marketing strategies that help improve ROI, brand awareness, you name the goal. They don't need advertising awards.

  • by B.L Ochman Tue Dec 11, 2007 via blog

    This is the second year you can get elfed, so it has some staying power. But I also question its connection to the company. It's pretty much just a stunt, albeit a cute one. Kathryn - I disagree about Subservient Chicken. It was pretty clear, pretty quickly, that it was for Burger King. Its purpose was to make Burger King look a little hip to young people online. With millions of downloads, it did accomplish its goal. I love Monk-e-mail, but it had a really faint connection to career builder IMO.

  • by J Collin Tue Dec 11, 2007 via blog

    There is a website that is a little more blatant when it comes to the viral advertising aspect. Panasonic just launched www.avoidtheregift.com for a new line of color phones and splits the site between a viral (very similar with uploaded pictures) video, as well as an add for all of the phones. I think it's well done, but again, if it doesn't get people to buy telephones, is the awareness it's creating about the product enough?

  • by Tangerine Toad Tue Dec 11, 2007 via blog

    @Kathryn: Are you possibly mixing up Monk-E-Mail and Subservient Chicken. Subservient Chicken was, at its core, about the fact that you could get the BK Chicken sandwich anyway you wanted. It was pretty clearly Burger King.

  • by Lewis Green Wed Dec 12, 2007 via blog

    Ann, One of our local stations is using Elfyourself to feature their news personalities. Office Max seems to have created something that works.

  • by Robin Rees Wed Dec 12, 2007 via blog

    Susan, Your post has nothing to do with the thread. The marketers who read this are way too savvy to fall for such an obvious new business ploy, and it may, in fact, backfire. I know I won't be using acquirelists.com anytime soon.

  • by Claire Ratushny Wed Dec 12, 2007 via blog

    Hi Ann, I just got elfed this morning and now I know what the buzz is all about. Loved it. And as I just told Paul on his post, "I'm a Luddite." Just kidding--that was said tongue in cheek!

  • by judy lippard Thu Dec 13, 2007 via blog

    I got elfed but mu computer will not open it. I have tried everything to open it. My sister opened it on her computer so I could see it. How can I get it to open on my computer?

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Fri Dec 14, 2007 via blog

    Judy, I am afraid you are going to have to call Elf Tech Support and reboot your Elf. There are Elves standing by now to take your call. :-)

  • by Arby Mon Dec 17, 2007 via blog

    I enjoyed Elf Yourself, but everyone I know that goes to JibJab.com's site and gets the snowball fight viral for free (courtesy of Pepsi Max I might add) loves it that much more. I think the product integration is much tighter than the OfficeMax version. If Elf had you in tears, Snowball Fight will have you snorting. I think it just had a late start this season.

  • by Kathryn Milette Wed Dec 19, 2007 via blog

    @Tangerine Toad @BL Ochman I realize that in the blogosphere there has been a lot of discussions about the subservient chicken, and it was a pretty popular topic at one time. However, the non-blogging, non-mktg people I interact with did not see the connection.

  • by Jimmy Chan Wed Dec 19, 2007 via blog

    Wanna see Bush and his family in Goofy Elf Outfits and dance for you this Christmas holiday? Go Check out this website: http://wikigiz.com/2007/12/13/bush-elf-dance-for-you Have a laugh!

  • by Joe Mon Dec 22, 2008 via blog

    Thanks for letting me know this site elfyourself. It is really useful!

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