Travelocity’s former CMO talks about the ‘Roaming Gnome” and what works for everyone.
In today’s Internet-hyped society, even the presidential candidates and their veeps are thriving on social networks. At least seven YouTube channels are broadcasting the vice presidential debates live from Kentucky.
What makes great online buzz?
Travelocity found gold eight years ago with someone not even real when it launched its hugely popular “Roaming Gnome” icon, and ever since, the gnome has been spotted in more places than the presidential candidates — on the slopes in Banff, staying at an ice hotel (frozen into the wall) and cliff diving in Mexico.
How the gnome went social
Victoria Treyger, chief marketing officer at Kabbage.com, was CMO at Travelocity from 2008 to 2010 when the travel industry took a nose dive.
Treyger has also worked at Amazon, American Express and RingCentral. She says for brands that are 100 percent web-based (like Travelocity), it’s more important than ever to have that touch or emotional connection with customers. She talks about how they took the gnome on the road to excite people to travel again …and how they used social media.
Treyger says once customers voted on Facebook where to send the gnome, Travelocity used social media to give updates on his schedule at the winning city; for example, when to catch him skiing down Aspen Mountain.
As the de facto mascot for Travelocity still, the gnome is the center of a current campaign called the “Great Gnome Nabbing” where fans are asked to submit a one-minute video to a web site, and the winner will go on a whirlwind trip of the world with the gnome.
Treyger prescribes four things to build great online buzz:
1. Have a great product. She says Dropbox does it with file sharing and storage, Mint.com with personal finance and Kabbage.com (where she works) with its online platform offering funding to small businesses.
2. Personalities are a great way to build a brand. Treyger says great examples are Priceline’s William Shatner and salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff. NASA has flight director Bobak Ferdowsi who became an instant Internet hit—and symbol of rebellious cool—during the live Mars Curiosity rover broadcasts when he was spotted in Mission Control sporting a blue and red mohawk. Personalities build an emotional connection to the brand.
3. Physical presence or icon to develop a tangible icon to make your brand come to life. Treyger says Travelocity took the fairytale gnome “out into the world” to interact with customers physically. Insurance provider Geico has its familiar gecko.
4. Don’t forget about PR. Either cultivate media contacts yourself or hire a PR agency that understands content marketing and media relations really well.
What works in 2012 to generate buzz?
Treyger says it’s still all about content …and content marketing in particular. She advises creating original content that feeds into current trends and interests. For example, she says during the holidays last year, RingCentral did a survey of their customers and created this infographic showing how companies manage through the holidays. It appeared in at least 200 online outlets.
Treyger says content marketing is so powerful because it does three things: it establishes your company as a thought leader, enables you to get wide syndication and reach of your content (including in the media), and as customers share the content, it improves your search rankings and draws more traffic to your site.
Whether it’s politics or travel, buzz is about getting people excited and engaged. Let us know where you’ve see great online buzz, and share your tips for creating it!