Five Classy Social Media Lessons From Anchorman 2's Ron Burgundy
By the beard of Zeus, is there any corner of your life that actor Will Ferrell, as Anchorman 2’s thickly-mustached, utterly clueless and entirely fictional San Diego news anchor Ron Burgundy, has not yet invaded?
With an estimated 50 million social media mentions logged before the movie sequel opened – thanks to a campaign that racked up more than 3 million Facebook fans, 130,000 Tumblr interactions in a month, and boasted cast videos that hit 3.4 million views each on YouTube – observers of Anchorman 2’s everywhere-you-look guerilla promotions were calling the buzz for the Paramount film "the future of movie marketing." In fact, the long-tail seeding of the social media ecosystem by Anchorman 2’s studio Paramount Pictures, with the help of digital shop Zemoga, Ferrell’s Funny or Die and content agency Jetset Studios, is more than just the future of marketing in Hollywood – it’s likely to be the future of marketing across your industry, for your company and its competitors.
Perhaps you saw the wave of guerilla publicity stunts that featured Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy character:
- Performing an absurd cameo with real-life newscasters on North Dakota’s KXMB-TV News - which, deliciously, journalism experts criticized as "a fairly serious violation of news ethics."
- Taking over the home page of The Huffington Post to advise readers, "I believe that news is a powerful stallion of justice. News is a dish best served warm, like revenge. Or pie."
- Launching a Ron Burgundy-branded 'Great Odin’s Raven Special Reserve' blended scotch whisky with Riviera Imports.
- Convincing Emerson College to rename its communications school the Burgundy School of Communication for a day (Ferrell warned journalism students "you have to report the facts, unless it’s too hard to find the facts")
- Appearing on The Sports Network (TSN) to provide coverage of the Canadian Olympic trials for curling.
- Persuading the New Yorker to excerpt his faux autobiography, "Let Me Off At The Top."
- Headlining an exhibit at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., which displayed movie memorabilia such as Burgundy’s flute (don’t ask)
- Starring in a fake documentary featuring actual journalists extolling Burgundy’s legend, during which CNN’s Chris Cuomo intones "On-camera, Burgundy is the best. But off-camera, he’s a bit of an a-hole," to which Wolf Blitzer cheerfully adds, "A major prick."
- Interviewing NFL pro Peyton Manning on ESPN-TV ("Peyton," cooed Burgundy, "you look like a succulent baby lamb")
The entertainment industry trade magazine Variety called the stunts "a promotional blizzard. . . carpet bombing. . . . viral marketing has reached pandemic proportions. . . reinventing how digital entertainment marketing is done." As Ron Burgundy himself would say, "Don’t act like you’re not impressed."
So even if your CEO isn’t quite as funny as Will Ferrell, what can your company learn about social media and guerilla marketing from this relentless campaign promoting the World’s Greatest Non-Existent News Reader? Here are five takeaways from Anchorman 2:
1. Customize Your Marketing Like a Sex Panther
Anchorman 2 blew apart the 'One Size Fits All' paradigm used by so many marketers and embraced the pinpoint customization enabled by social media. In Australia, for example, the studio tailored a 30-second video about the post-election Down Under, which generated nearly 600,000 views of Burgundy exulting: "We laughed. We cried. We became distracted by (Prime Minister) Tony Abbott’s banana hammock. (chuckles) I know I certainly did. Good times, Australia." Burgundy then reported the news live on Australian Television, confiding to the Aussies, "I’ve covered 10 wars, two of which I started." Similar videos were created for Ireland and England.
Now ask yourself: Is your online content customized by market, for retailers versus distributors, wholesalers versus value-added resellers? Are you segmenting your YouTube videos, infographics, downloadable e-books, webinars, white papers and other marketing content by target audience: tailored by geography, gender, executive title and/or ethnicity? You wouldn’t force your existing customers to interact with the same content in the same way as prospects who have never tried your product before – or would you?
2. By Sweet Grandmother’s Spatula - Collaborate For Multi-Channel Marketing Reach
Hollywood has long partnered with fast-food chains, toy brands, soda pop, sports teams and other cross-promotional collaborators to promote films. But the Anchorman 2 marketing team took this to another level – with Ben & Jerry’s Burgundy-linked Scotchy Scotch Scotch ice cream flavor and Jockey’s Ron Burgundy underwear offering "ample support for your little anchorman" to the dozens of Ron Burgundy-starring Dodge videos that have exceeded 15.3 million views on YouTube.
Which begs the question – why aren't you turbo-charging your own marketing activity by leveraging the social media channels of your retailers, distributors, wholesalers and other stakeholders? Why not partner with a company in a parallel industry to yours that just happens to appeal to your customer demographic? If you’re a packaged food brand, can you arrange to have your social media content shared by supermarkets, c-stores and other retailers who carry your products?
3. Keep Your Marketing Content Short – Socially Shareable Short
When the Anchorman 2 team created another video just for the British market, during which Burgundy makes fun of how Brits celebrate Halloween, they kept it short and absurd. The video is 30 seconds long. Ferrell’s 70 goofy Dodge Durango clips – performed in character as Burgundy and crafted with agency Weiden & Kennedy - are seldom longer than 60 seconds, with some barely clocking at 30. Yet, Durango sales soared 59 percent in October as traffic to Dodge’s website exploded by 80 percent. Adweek recognized that "snackable, custom-made social content is the tent pole of the film’s global campaign."
Incredibly, in this age of 6.5-second Vine, YouTube's 16-second MixBit and 15-second Instagram videos, many Fortune 1000 companies are still posting hour-long videos on YouTube and inviting customers to download e-books only slightly longer than the Dead Sea Scrolls. The future belongs to marketers who can distill their message into snackable bits of concise content that consumers, employees, salespeople, dealers and others can easily digest and share.
4. By Great Odin’s Raven, Make It Easier For Consumers to Create User-Generated Content
Inspired by the success of Doritos’ crowd-sourced Super Bowl TV spots and similar campaigns, we've seen a growing number of marketers unsuccessfully launch contests inviting the submission of user-generated content – typically, entries in video contests that generate few responses, despite thousands of dollars in prize money.
Anchorman 2’s marketers handled it differently. Consumers were invited to share 15-second audition videos to "Join Ron’s News Team," during which they impersonated Ron Burgundy via Instagram and the hashtag #IamRonBurgundy. What made Anchorman 2’s contest so powerful was that the prize was not money – it was the reward of fan glory. Winners got to walk the Red Carpet at the premiere and more importantly, bask in the adulation of fellow Anchorman 2 geeks online.
"Our fans have been creating content and essentially marketing for us," Paramount’s EVP of Interactive Marketing told Adweek. "But it’s our job to feed the frenzy." Critical to the campaign was unprecedented use of Tumblr to provide animated gifs and memes that could be shared across Facebook and Twitter. Paramount also provided international bloggers with behind-the-scenes video clips of outtakes and screen tests, recognizing that bloggers want exclusive content that’s unavailable to traditional media. Is your company making it easy for customers to evangelize on your behalf?
5. You Want Funny? Hire Someone Funnier Than Your CEO
To paraphrase Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman’s put-down of Dan Quayle: "I've watched Will Ferrell, I know Will Ferrell and you, sir, are no Will Ferrell." Not every company should try to find the humor buried inside their software, frozen pizza or pacemaker. But if you do seek to engage your audience with comedy, consider hiring a professional who does funny for a living.
Strangely, companies that would not dream of handling legal matters without hiring an outside attorney will convince themselves that their internal staff have somehow developed the comedy chops of Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld. As comedians themselves admit: "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."
So when a Twin Cities financial services company recently needed some wildly amusing videos, our marketing agency turned to the New York-based jesters at CollegeHumor, acknowledging that comedy – especially comedy you hope will go viral – is an art, a science, a profession. Similarly, Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die has partnered with brands from Under Armour, Kraft Foods and Skittles to Irish Spring and Pepsi. Here in our Twin Cities market, there are hirable talents at Brave New Workshop, The Guthrie Theatre, Comedy Sportz, and Stevie Ray’s Improv Company who are deeply skilled at uproarious comedy.
As Ron Burgundy might say, "By the Hammer of Thor, if you’re going to hire a fool, hire a professional fool...even if he has oddly shaped feet."
Paul Maccabee is president at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.
Topics: Social Media Marketing