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Dark marketing

July 17, 2008

“Dark marketingn. Discreetly sponsored online and real-world entertainment intended to reach hipster audiences that would ordinarily shun corporate shilling. McDonald’s is the latest mega-brand to adopt this paradoxical promotional tool, with an alternate-reality game called The Lost Ring, nearly devoid of golden arches.”

From Wired Magazine.

I have long been impressed with McDonald’s and their foray into the kind of digital media executions that include social media. McDonald’s is one of the bigger words on my tag cloud. And while I never used a clever name like the Wired one, I always suspected there were goals for this dark marketing project.

1. Take credit for the experience. This is no different than a brand buying a sporting event on TV and then not showing a single commercial. The experience is brought to us by…. In this instance, it was going to come out eventually (and it did) that McDonald’s was behind the game. When it came out, McDonald’s gets the credit.

2. The arches placed on the game might have been a hurdle to get people playing. McDonald’s has an ARG? Not sure if it would have caught on with the arches on it, but that might be my own personal baggage.

3. Testing. We’re not sure of the metrics of Twitter, Facebook, etc. While I personally think we can steal from the PR metrics (column inches are worth x times more than the cost for media), there isn’t an industry standard for ‘results’. What if 100,000 play and they’re all happy?

What’s the metric in that?

Anyway, I think you’ll see a lot more Dark Marketing. BMW did it. Bet that even if they didn’t have well-defined goals for the campaign, they learned enough to have them for the next one.

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