All the Rage this Christmas
By Sherry Chiger | Publication date: 21/12/2009 | Category:
The real winner of this year’s fight for the number-one Christmas single is neither Rage Against the Machine nor Joe McElderry;
it’s social media. And any businesses that still fail to see the
commercial importance of networking websites such as Facebook are
doomed to be mired in the 20th century.
The backstory in brief: Essex music fans John and Tracy Morter were tired of the annual winner of The X Factor
as they put up, “Simon Cowell’s latest karoake act”--landing the top
spot on the Christmas charts, as has been the case since 2004. So they
set up a Facebook page
encouraging people to buy Rage Against the Machine’s 1992 “Killing in
the Name” the week of 13th December so that it could pip this year’s X Factor
winner to number one. The campaign worked, with Rage’s
not-at-all-festive ditty outselling Joe McElderry’s cover of “The
Climb” by about 50,000 copies—or rather downloads, as “Killing in the
Name” was available online only.
The obvious moral to this story
is that one should never underestimate the breadth of a social network
or the enthusiasm with which consumers participate in an online
campaign. A sociologist might go so far as to argue that in our
far-flung, techno-oriented world, people are so hungry to connect with
other humans that they are especially inclined to get involved in
virtual campaigns, as a way of sating their need to belong to a group.
If this is indeed true, then online grass-roots campaigns will become
more, not less, powerful as the internet becomes more a part of our
Leaving that aside, though, there are several other lessons to be learned:1) Be careful how you respond to social media.
After getting wind of the Rage campaign, Cowell told the mainstream media at a press conference
that the Facebook campaign was “stupid” and “cynical”. In many cases, you do need to respond to web chatter
your brand. By doing so at a press conference, though, Cowell gave the
campaign greater play than it might otherwise have received. He also
demonstrated that he perceived the campaign as a threat, which of
course established its credibility as one. He might have been better
off by having the X Factor
finalists respond in the weeks leading up to the final and then having winner McElderry launch a campaign of his own.
2) Never assume.
“I now realise I’ve taken too much for granted,” Cowell said after the
chart results were announced. “I have got to hold my hands up. I accept
that there are people that don’t like The X Factor.” If he’d
been more diligent in monitoring his brand (the subject of an article
in our upcoming January issue, by the way), he would not have been so
surprised. Hell, he could have just rung me (and if you’d like to call
upon me in the future, Simon, feel free. I don’t like The X Factor, but I’m definitely a fan of Simon Cowell.)
3) People—and especially British people—like to support the underdog. So if you’re being perceived as Goliath, you may want to consider highlighting a few of your similarities to David.
4) Not everyone buys into the force-fed image of Christmas as a time of cheer and group hugs.
The fact that the Morters selected “Killing in the Name” (sample lyric:
“And now you do what they told you/Now you’re under control”) for their
protest, as opposed to a more seasonal or cheery ditty, underscores
this. You can’t get much less warm and fuzzy than Rage Against the
Machine. Prior to the next Christmas selling season, you might want to
conduct some research amongst your own audience to see whether they’ve
overdosed on messages of yuletide cheer and, if so, whether you should
take a different approach to your holiday marketing.