Lame and Lamer: 10 Dumbest Viral Marketing Campaigns

5. eBay 'Windorphins'

Blobby cartoon characters didn't catch fire on the Internet for eBay.
No, they're not anti-depressants. eBay's marketing geniuses dreamed up some blobby little cartoon characters to promote the site and the "endorphin" rush you get when you "win" an eBay auction ("win-dorphin," get it?).

Per the original press release of July 2007:

"We've all experienced that feeling you can only get on eBay--you know, the excited rush you get when you win that item you really wanted at a great price? ... Well, we've had a scientific breakthrough! According to our official scientists--after a lot of arduous, painstaking research--it can be linked to a phenomenon called 'Windorphins.'"

eBay set up a Web site where you could create your own Windorphins, and spent millions on billboards, magazine ads, and TV spots promoting them. One billboard ad proclaimed, "Windorphins are like a ticker tape parade for your soul." A more accurate description came from the blogger who called them "happy, animated hemorrhoids." eBay quietly dropped the campaign a few months later in favor of one titled "Shop Victoriously." Ugh. As for the Windorphins: Now they're just plain orphans.

Lame: Hitting the perfect balance between confusing your audience and nauseating them.

Lamer: Strong-arming a journalist at The Motley Fool into turning over the windorphins.com domain, only to abandon it less than a year later.

4. Wal-Marting Across America

Whoops: The blog kept by the two chipper RV owners roaming from Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart was fake.
They were Jim and Laura, two average Americans who hit the road in their RV (dubbed "Wally 1"), parking overnight at Wal-Marts around the country and blogging about the fine folks they met along the way. Sounds downright homey, don't it?

But the relentlessly upbeat entries about how everyone just loved working for Wal-Mart set off alarms in the blogosphere, and before long the blog was exposed as a fake. Though Jim and Laura were real, the trip was paid for by Wal-Mart and engineered by its PR firm, Edelman. Once people connected the dots, the blogosphere erupted, splattering both Wal-Mart and Edelman with mud and spawning yet another Web 2.0 neologism--the "flog," or fake blog.

Edelman, which helped write the ethics guidelines for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association but apparently forgot to read them, later admitted to creating two more flogs for Wal-Mart.

Lame: Treating the blogosphere the same way Wal-Mart treats mom-and-pop shops.

Lamer: Spending your vacation in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

3. Jawbone Films

Aliph's drive to get nasty videos created for its Jawbone Bluetooth headsets worked--perhaps a little too well.
Foul-mouthed racists, homicidal laundry employees, a shark-infested swimming pool, mauled teenagers, and Russian mobsters drowned in their own borscht. The latest Tarantino/Rodriguez gorefest? No, it's a collection of viral videos created to promote Aliph's Jawbone Bluetooth headsets. The idea: Despite what's going on around you (murder, mayhem, sloppy kissing between male rugby players), you can drown it all out using the Jawbone's new "NoiseAssassin" technology. Nice.

In the worst of the four videos, a racist jerk enters a Chinese laundry, insults everyone, and gets smothered with a dry-cleaning bag and beaten to death by the employees--while an oblivious bystander enjoys a crystal-clear cell call.

"I don't have virgin ears and I've dropped an f-bomb or two in my life," notes Patrick Byers, CEO of Outsource Marketing and purveyor of The Responsible Marketing Blog. "But this video is incredibly insensitive, offensive and violent. The Jawbone brand is creating buzz all on its own. They didn't need to resort to exploitative or offensive virals."

Lame: Calling your new technology "NoiseAssassin." Are all your customers 14 years old?

Lamer: Marketing something that makes you look like Lt. Uhura from Star Trek, only less hot.

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