Dissecting a Successful Online Marketing Campaign

| Monday, November 19, 2012
UPDATE: Comments have been disabled on this post due to absurd amounts of "business guru" spammers. Sorry.

For those of you who aren't aware, my "day job" is in Internet marketing. I like to tell people that I Facebook and Tweet for a living, because that's easier than explaining the much more varied nature of my job, which often includes researching and analyzing marketing efforts to understand why people are connecting (or not).

This weekend, I came across one of the most interesting and effective campaigns I've seen in a long time. It was for a new Cinemax show, but I think you could take a lot of these same techniques and apply them to other types of marketing (like, say, book marketing). Although the vast majority of authors don't have the capital to pull off this level of marketing, there are still some takeaways that can be applied to a different, much less expensive campaign.

First, in order to get a better idea of what I'll be talking about in this post, you may want to go check out the promo. It's a five-part "test" that will take you maybe 15-20 minutes to do, and it involves sound, arrow keys, use of a mouse, and a webcam (which is optional, and you aren't actually being "recorded" even though it suggests you are). Many people only play through the first part, but I suggest doing all five. Just click "Deny" during the webcam phase and you'll see the same content, just without messing with a webcam. Unless you want to... it's kind of fun. ANYWAY. If you're able to, go check it out.

Okay. Now I'm going to talk about what makes this promo so dang effective!

Graphically and Visually Appealing

People DO judge books (and websites, and new television shows) by their cover. This site incorporates a lot of high-end graphics, animation, and video. It's very *pretty* and interesting to look at. It appeals to the abstract-loving part of our brains. The first test is given through a series of pictures and brief statements, which makes the user think about the questions in a different way. It's not always feasible to get a super fancy cover for your book (and it's not always your choice), but it's important to put at least a little effort into thinking up a visually appealing design, even if it's not flashy. A cover like this is a world away from a cover like this.


This campaign is highly interactive. It involves a series of tests for the user to do, where they get to actually participate rather than sitting back and watching something. It's also creatively interactive, which I'll get into a little more later. Anyone can throw up a multiple-choice test or simple flash game. These games, however, are interesting, different, and personal.


Whoever designed this thing did an incredible job of making it personal for the individual viewer. The first test, the personality test, sucks you in by letting you know it's going to analyze whether or not you're "normal." People don't like to be normal. They like to be special (more on that later, too). At the end of the test, you get one of several possible descriptions of your personality which appears to be surprisingly accurate (we could get into the way these things ALWAYS seem frighteningly accurate, but not today). This leads you into the next test, where you have the option of connecting with your Facebook account and seeing a series of picture tests using your own pictures, which creates another impression that these tests are tailored TO YOU. In the final test, you get the biggest and most personal reveal (which I won't spoil for you). Again, these are big-money options that probably aren't available to a small marketing budget, but you can still get creative with this.

The Viewer Gets Something Back

They incorporated this early on with the personality test. The user gets a reward right away for that test -- a personal "reading" of their personality. We love hearing things about ourselves, so it's pretty effective. As the tests progress, the user gets rewarded with progress graphs, additional tests/games to play, and at the very end, a personalized badge with their name and picture on it (if they connected through Facebook).

Mysterious Without Making You Wait Too Long

It isn't obvious right away what this test is for. At first, it just seems like another online personality test, albeit an abstract and interesting one.The mystery builds with each test (WHAT am I being tested for?!), but the tests aren't lengthy and you don't have to wait very long to get answers. This is important. People like a little mystery. It keeps them coming back for more. But they don't like it when it takes too long to receive a reward for their patience.


The tests mix it up quite a bit. You get a personality test, a speed test, an "ability to lie" test, a logic test, and more. It keeps the user guessing, which means they're interested enough to keep moving down the funnel. What's next?

Share Buttons

After each test, there are share buttons so you can "share your progress" with your friends on social media. Presenting these in key places (after you've finished what was probably an interesting test and received your reward) means that you're more likely to share and spread the word.

Makes the Viewer Feel Important/Special

As you go through each test, you're presented with a graph that shows you're in the top percentile of the population. With every test, you become more and more special. At some point, you start seeing videos of a pretty woman who seems to be speaking directly to you, letting you know that you've done well or that you're becoming a part of something important. At the very end, you're granted entry to an incredibly elite group. It's pretty simple psychology: play on people's innate need to feel unique and important.

Makes the Viewer Invested Before Hitting Them With the Big Push

Along with feeling special and important, all of these elements combine in a way that makes the viewer invested in seeing their end analysis. You've told them that they're in the very top percentile of the population, you've had them take a very personal test, and now you're ready to reveal their final result and tell them what this was all about. THEN you hit them with the promotion for the show you're pitching. After they watch it, they receive their final test result and realize that none of this was arbitrary; it was all connected. Hopefully, if they connected properly, they don't only feel like the show looks kind of interesting. They feel like they're a part of this world. They need to see how this is all going to play out.

These were the elements that leaped out at me while playing along with this campaign. It's very effective and very well done. It was also probably very, very expensive. But you don't need to have a huge marketing budget to take these same general ideas and apply them to your project. Consider the ways you can illicit these same feelings in people without having the big, flashy website. What do you come up with?

Have you seen any effective ad campaigns lately, readers?


{ Stephanie Ingrid Sarah Kristan } at: November 19, 2012 at 6:39 AM said...

Without going through the whole game ourselves (sorry, it's a holiday week, we're super busy!) we would say it sounds a bit like the Heineken/Skyfall campaign, which we did play awhile ago, and it was fun/cool.

{ Blair B. Burke } at: November 19, 2012 at 10:27 AM said...

Interesting and helpful points. It's going to take some thinking on how to accomplish a similar thing with a budget of zero...

{ Paul Anthony Shortt } at: November 20, 2012 at 2:36 AM said...

I love games like this. I spent a lot of time in college taking online personality tests instead of studying!

Tying the test into the promo for a show is a cool idea.

{ Jennifer Fischetto } at: November 23, 2012 at 5:50 PM said...

Awesome game and post. The first part was so eerily accurate that I had to call my boyfriend, before continuing, and apologize for a conversation this morning. :) And the ending...wow. Is it the same for everyone?

I haven't a clue how I'd create something like this that's affordable, lol. I can't recall seeing an ad campaign that involved me or moved me like this.

{ Sarah } at: November 23, 2012 at 6:43 PM said...

So, first thing that comes to mind: befriend a good programmer/designer. Preferably the next "Angry Birds" creator.

{ Daria } at: December 2, 2012 at 8:17 AM said...

Am I the only one who gets annoyed when at the end of a test/game it turns out to be an ad of sorts? Almost like meeting a cool person and later realizing they talked to you only because they wanted to sell you their snake oil.


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