I once got in an extremely heated debate with several people who were passionately opposed to one idea: Flash mobs. They argued their point for a good half hour, raising their voices, climbing up on chairs, accusing me of catering to the lowest common denominator. You would have thought I kicked a puppy.
What they didn’t seem to understand is this key point: What we, as marketers, think personally does not matter. What matters is what our audience thinks. And if my goal is to create a marketing piece that is going to get likes and comments and shares and forwards, then there are a lot worse ways to do it then a flash mob.
Don’t believe me? Do a simple search for “university flash mob” on YouTube and you’ll find the following statistics:
- Carlson School of Management Flash Mob, Deck the Halls: 2,142,085 views, the number 1 most popular video on its channel, accounting for approximately 40% of the total views of the channel.
- Ohio Union Flash Mob: 797,817 views, the number 1 most popular video on its YouTube channel, which is a breaking news channel, not a college channel.
- Furman Flash Mob 2011: 114,519 views, the number 1 most popular video on its YouTube channel. The next most popular has 10,642 views and is 3 years older than the flash mob video.
- University of Minnesota Flash Mob — College of Science and Engineering: 415,590 views, the number 1 most popular video on its channel by about 300,000 views.
And this is just on the first page of the search. Now, to be fair, are there also horrible flash mobs that get posted that get no views? Sure. But if we dismissed tactics that can illustrate failures as well as successes depending on execution, then we’d all be sitting in our offices twiddling our thumbs all day with nothing to do.
Do I like flash mobs? Do I forward on all those annoying emails I get saying “OMG, this is SOOOOO COOL!” Eff no. I think they’re dumb, would never participate in one and have not once (to the best of my recollection) forwarded an email in gleeful excitement. But what I think doesn’t matter. What the numbers tell me does.
The point I’m trying to make is this (and it doesn’t really have anything to do with flash mobs specifically): The minute we become personally enamored (or disgusted) with a specific marketing tactic is the minute we lose our ability to make objective, data-driven decisions. That’s why people who’s videos get a few thousand views at best can turn up their noses at a video that gets over 2 million views – they’ve lost their objectivity.
What you think doesn’t matter when it comes to marketing strategy. What matters is what will get results. It’s easy to dismiss something because you don’t like it. It’s much much harder to say “how can I take this idea…that I don’t personally like but clearly appeals to the masses…and adapt it to make it awesome?” Answering that question will push you past the surface and force you to really consider why these things are successful.That’s when you can push past what you think and use the tactic to meet your goals.