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Strategic insights
Lying is Not a Good Strategy

Written by on September 17, 2007

I was recently pointed towards NSyndrome - a viral campaign for the new Nokia N95.

This site and the campaign demonstrate the typical behavior for advertising agencies. They know that viral marketing is extremely effective, but they struggle to get it working because the product does not sell itself.

The solution - and one offered by most agencies - is to create a fake story, with a fake message to get people hooked on a fake idea. The idea, which in this case is particularly lame, is a story that N95's somehow get embedded into people's physiology.

They created a fake site and filled it with fake content - even added fake comments to simulate interest from other people. And, everything is a lie.

The NSyndrome site is a site made by Nokia - or more precisely Nokia's advertising agency Lowe Brindfors. It wasn't started by Zep and Scott, they didn't first discover these phenomena in a Latino nightclub in New Mexico, there is no such thing as an NSyndrome - in fact everything is a lie and a desperate attempt to create a viral campaign.

This is just stupid.

Lying is the best way to lose customers and destroy your brand

A viral campaign is about trust - it really is. If a friend of yours sees something that he thinks is interesting, and forwards it to you. You then trust this information because it came from your friend and perhaps you forward it yourself to several of your friends.

If you lie, you not only disgrace your own brand, you also make me look bad because I forwarded it to my friends.

Effective viral marketing is always about sharing something people think is worth sharing - and for something to be worth sharing it has to be genuine.

If you base your campaign on lies and deception, you might get a short term result - but the long term effect on your brand is literally a disaster. How can anyone trust you again?

A good viral campaign is funny, cute, provocative and very interesting. But, it is also trustworthy, genuine and reliable.

5 rules for great viral marketing campaigns

Here are 5 "rules" that you should always remember - to go along with my last tips on viral marketing:

  1. Exaggerate - never tell a lie
  2. Never hide who you are
  3. People are not stupid - don't treat them as such
  4. Be responsible
  5. If the only idea your advertising agency can come up with is a fake campaign - fire them.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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