Company: Intuit, Inc.
Contact: Gretchen Harding, senior marketing manager at Intuit
Location: Mountain View, CA
Industry: Software (Accounting), B2B
Annual revenue: $2,670,000,000
Number of employees: 8200

Quick Read

Inspired by the popularity and viral success of Office Max's "Elf Yourself" campaign, Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks, recently set out to determine whether a similar strategy might enhance its marketing efforts and creatively engage small-business customers.

Together with interactive agency EVB, the company developed "The Jingle Generator" to assist users in creating customized business jingles, which can then be forwarded to customers/colleagues and downloaded for future use.

Throughout the program, users are encouraged to learn more about the company's QuickBooks product and download a free version of the software in exchange for accepting communications from the Intuit sales team.

To date, more than 25,000 jingles have been created, and the company has exceeded its targeted metrics for usage and free software downloads (i.e., leads), earning viral a secure spot in the company's overall marketing mix.


Intuit Inc. is a provider of business and financial management solutions, including QuickBooks software products.

Traditionally, the company has used direct marketing and Web promotions on its retail sites to publicize the QuickBooks product. In 2008, however, Intuit aspired to reach potential customers—especially hard-to-reach Generation X/Y small-business owners—through alternate means that would also test viral marketing as an effective technique for engaging this audience.

"We were really looking for something to break through the clutter with small business customers," said Gretchen Harding, senior marketing manager at Intuit. "Accounting has the reputation of not being the most fun thing you can do, and small-business people are real people who are not only focused on that piece of the business. We wanted something with a lighter attitude that would allow them to have fun."


Inspired by the popularity and viral success of Office Max's "Elf Yourself" campaign, Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks, in August 2008 launched an online campaign developed in cooperation with San Francisco-based interactive agency EVB.

The campaign revolves around the Jingle Generator, an interactive Web site designed to help small businesses create custom jingles. On the site, users select from a list of 20 industries for which special lyrics have been created to the tune of "Your Love" by The Outfield. Users then supply basic information to be incorporated into their jingles: company name, address, phone number, and URL—all of which can be either recorded by phone or entered on the site using the "text to voice" option.

Fictional character Tommy Silk, who epitomizes the '80s rock star—Intuit's attempt to "reach into the experience of many core customers" but also make it "'campy' enough to appeal to a younger audience," according to Harding—leads users through the process then presents them with their "tracks" along with cassette-sized cover art.

Users can then download their jingles for various uses (including company messaging, ringtones, etc.), forward them on to friends, and upload to social-networking profiles.

Throughout the site, several links to "Learn more about QuickBooks" or "Get back to business with free stuff from QuickBooks" connect users to a page where they can find out more about the bookkeeping software and download a free version (in exchange for permission to receive communications from Intuit).

In addition, QuickBooks packaging is placed in plain view in various scenes during the jingle-making process, and a couple of comments from Tommy Silk—such as "Got a lot of time of your hands? So do I now that I've been using QuickBooks"—plug the software while users enter their information on the site.

To promote the Jingle Generator, Intuit has used a variety of organic social-marketing techniques, including the following:

  • Blogger outreach: Intuit contacted bloggers with whom it already had working relationships to share the campaign story.
  • Participation on forums and blogs: The company also joined in conversations on forums and blogs that relate to small-business issues, '80s music, social marketing, etc. Company representatives aim to add value to the conversation when posting responses and do not solely promote the site.
  • Social-networking sites: The company posted a video on YouTube, and profile pages for Tommy Silk were established on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Participating Intuit team members help build awareness by adding Tommy as a friend or follower to their personal networks and "re-tweeting" Tommy's posts.
  • Shared examples: Early in the campaign, employees were encouraged to create their own custom jingles on the site and forward them to friends and family members, especially small-business owners, who might have an interest in the software.

In addition, the Jingle Generator site has been featured on 30+ Intuit Web sites, and about two months into the campaign the company invested in a media buy on YouTube, using both search and in-video ads to link users to the campaign's YouTube video and


The campaign has exceeded all of Intuit's objectives for the number of jingles created (currently more than 25,000), visitor time spent on the site, forwarded jingles, and free software downloads (i.e., leads).

"We have experienced a huge amount of traffic," said Harding. "During the month of August, we had one-third of the usual traffic we receive on on the Jingle Generator site."

Tommy has also accumulated more than 300 friends on Facebook and 68 followers on Twitter. His YouTube video has been viewed over 20,400 times.

"We have found that using a viral campaign is a viable means for expanding reach, relative to the other methods we were already using," said Harding.

Lessons Learned

By identifying measurable metrics and tracking and testing throughout, Intuit has been able to continuously optimize the campaign in progress and better understand which tactics may be effectively used in future campaigns.

For example, Intuit was able to increase the volume of users who forward jingles through the Jingle Generator site by 20%, and double the number of overall recipients, by simplifying its "forward to a friend" form: specifically, allowing users to copy and paste addresses into the form and increasing the number of friends' addresses that can be entered.

Intuit also learned that although it enjoyed a strong launch using only organic social-marketing techniques, it could have had even better results had it also engaged in media buys from the start.

"That combination of using organic and amplified social marketing techniques paid off, and we plan to do more of that in the future," said Harding, adding that the company will likely initiate paid ads earlier in the campaign next time.

In addition, by continuing to make adjustments and tracking conversions, the company has been able to optimize its YouTube ad placements to better reach its target market rather than all users.

(We invite you to tell us about your own creative Web campaign by emailing

Related Links

The Jingle Generator site

The Jingle Generator video on YouTube

Tommy Silk's Facebook profile

Tommy Silk's MySpace profile

Tommy Silk's Twitter profile

QuickBooks site

Intuit site

EVB site


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Case Study: How Intuit Used Viral Marketing and an Interactive Web Site to Generate Small-Business Leads, Engage Customers

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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via