Not all publicity has to be good.
Oscar Wilde once said “The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.”
This probably isn’t great PR for me… but it needs to be said.
Earlier this year I worked on the campaign for a Daniel Madison product ‘Erdnase x Madison’ – Available HERE.
The product took the industry by storm, but not solely for the right reasons. To many it was the butt of a joke that they assumed we weren’t in on. However the sinister truth behind that negativity is that I manufactured it.
Online views travel faster with negativity than ever before. It’s hate that fuels virality. Don’t believe me? Ask your new president of the United States.
Hate put a reality tv star into the most powerful office in the world. What else could it do?
My local community Facebook group is full of photos of people’s cars, because they park like a c*nt. The comments seem to replicate like social mitosis. James’ comment saying ‘outrage’ spawns 11 likes and 5 replies. You tell ’em James!
Hate is the media’s bullet train. The fast route to awareness.
Marketers rarely ever consider it as a tactic. Almost all marketing I see is people throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks.
I prefer to work in certainties, so when this product hit my desk, I knew exactly how to launch it.
This is how the plan unfolded.
STEP #1 – THE QUOTE
The piece I knew would infuriate the hardcore Erdnase fans was the now famous “I’m better than Erdnase and I can prove it” quote which gave birth to the “I’m better than…” trend.
The funny thing is, Daniel Madison never even said it. I wrote it with the intention of making waves in the industry. It had shock value. Erdnase is well respected for his contributions to the art. Loved even.
Madison has balls of steel. It takes real bravery to put your reputation in the firing line intentionally. That takes a self-belief and self-confidence that we could only dream of.
He was comfortable enough to be both the hero and the villain. His income, brand and livelihood was bet all on black… and we span the wheel.
It didn’t take long for us to see we’d won.
STEP #2 – THE FORUM
The next step was the forum. In this case, the Magic Cafe. I knew the majority of members either disliked or hated Daniel Madison as a character. I also knew that forums are easy to manipulate.
My elegantly simple idea was to write a provocative title and bait users into making fun of me too.
I decided on ‘S.W. Erdnase vs Daniel Madison’ – who’s not gonna click that. If you like or hate Madison, it sounds like a celebrity death match that we’d all like to see. Pure delicious clickbait.
Now a good thread title isn’t revolutionary, i’ll give you that. I’m not dining out on copy-writing and nobody will high 5 me for using a ‘vs’. Delusion isn’t in my wheelhouse, don’t worry.
This subtlety however is something I’m particularly proud of.
The best way to boost a thread’s presence is having it at the top of the page, with engagement (replies). So I decided to post it with the worst description ever. Forcing people to go looking for it, thus annoying them and wanting to take shots at me, or wanting to help out and therefore posting the link for me.
It’s only clever because it appears like a stupid thing to do. Here you’ll see my apparent forgetfulness in not posting the link.
“Well he certainly has a talent for marketing” might be my favourite response to this. Tim was a pawn in that game and helped to give social proof to a brand new thread. New users see it and think “Others are commenting and viewing this thread. I’ll take a look too.”
The cycle continues.
STEP #3 – THE SOCIALS
Being such a bold claim, I knew it could get both positive and negative responses online organically, but even mould needs the correct conditions to grow.
To create conditions I actually paid some friends and acquaintances in gift cards and free products to pretend to be outraged. They wrote status updates like:
“I’m better than Erdnase??? Who does this guy think he is”
“I’m better than Madison”
Every single time someone asked what this was about, someone would organically post the product page link to help fill them in.
Facebook was literally flooded with status updates, photos, links, videos, satire and self-promotion that was riding on the back of this product’s hype.
The only problem is that a fuel-less fire won’t continue to burn. Internet flames die off in two days and I knew that before we started. I needed to have a few things up my sleeve to ensure tiny pieces were found or revealed to keep this inferno going.
STEP #4 – THE NEXT STEPS
Pre-launch I knew we had to have a plan to turn it all around in the end. A way to get everyone back on side.
You shouldn’t throw someone off a bridge without a bungee cord.
One of the first things I executed was to leave a customer review using Daniel Madison’s name on his own product. Arrogance like that can’t be ignored, but I knew that it’s where people would start to see humour in the campaign.
Human behaviour can be predicted during situations like this.
Outraged at what he said. Acknowledgement now that he’s doing it as tongue in cheek. Respect that you’re now in on the joke. It was a marketing strategy all along, but you were smart enough to know that. Right?
Madison also produced a fake apology video in the same vein as Conor McGregor. I’d like to say that was my idea, but that wasn’t even part of the campaign. I think he just genuinely doesn’t give a fuck.
It helped to show people how silly the outrage was. How silly some of the initial threats were.
I knew there would be two camps. Those who liked Madison and wanted to defend him and those who hated him and wanted to dethrone him.
Lloyd Barnes actually showed me a reddit article about Elvis’ manager selling “I HATE ELVIS” badges. He made money from fans and haters. Everyone should.
I added a fun element to this by applying it to the campaign. “I’m better than Madison” t-shirts were printed. As well as “I’m better than Erdnase” tees. Which side did you choose at the time?
As this was all going on, sales were flying. For contractual reasons I won’t give you exact figures but Ellusionist was transparent about their stock and you can do the math.
Controversy + Good Product at $99 = $FUCK LOADS
People were laughing at Madison for destroying his career, but he probably earned 5 years worth of their salary in a week.
Care and attention were put into the product and the reviews spoke for themselves. Erdnase x Madison racked up countless 5star reviews across the board. People were complicity buying history… and they left happy.
The respect phase set in and everyone involved in ripping him or defending him admitted they had fun… and then the internet moved on. Momentarily…
STEP #5 – THE HANGOVER
Some competitors might see this as a cheat code to success when launching their products from now on. Good luck. 87% of Lance Armstrong’s close competitors were doping too. Having a winning formula doesn’t always help.
Also, now that the secret is out, it’ll be hard for ANYONE to drum up this particular attention again… not in this way anyway.
Recently Jibrizy decided to use the same tactic to stir controversy and attention for his own brand. Copying the ‘I’m better than’ model and literally calling people out who are still alive.
It didn’t work out for him and his video engagement for 190,000 subscribers is poor. A quick dip inside his comments section reveals all the animosity against him. He’s damaged his brand irreparably.
This is because he took himself too seriously. He didn’t open the door to let everyone in on the secret/joke. At least Madison publicly admits he’s a character.
The other piece of this kind of marketing is that the product has to be good, otherwise any negative press you’ve created just confirms itself and the hype dies away.
So why am I writing this at all?
It’s because it started to turn evil, with actual threats interspersed between some joke-ones directly sent to Madison.
Real harassment was indistinguishable from acquaintances winding him up and we decided to not poke the bear and ensure his safety.
The word fan comes from the adjective fanatical. To be filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.
True Erdnase fans have genuinely turned their backs on myself and Madison after years of friendship. Over a campaign about a guy they never knew. That nobody knew.
As you know, some football fans become football hooligans, willing to maim and injure the opposition because of their different colour t-shirt. The world has crazy in it, and sometimes it’s not worth provoking.
Despite this, Erdnase x Madison is one of 2017’s best-selling products and the campaign brought a community together.
By laying this to rest for your entertainment, I open myself up to the opportunity to develop all new campaign plans. To push myself further and educate the industry enough to demand more next time.
I’ll keep myself moving forward by burning the bridge behind me.
LEARN: For more in-depth tuition and consultation on your own campaigns or product launches, feel free to check out my coaching HERE.
CREDITS: Thank you to Daniel Madison for his assistance with this campaign and being happy to shake the industry up. There is only one.