OfficeMax Out Elfs Itself: A Case Study In Viral Marketing

The final stats are in for the OfficeMax holiday campaign, ElfYourself.com. After six weeks of being live, the traffic on the holiday site in 2007 more than quadrupled versus the five weeks the site was up in 2006.

The campaign also hit the bull's eye of viral success--it has seeped into pop culture.

Broadcasters at The Today Show, Good Morning America and CNN American Morning created their own dancing holiday greeting for viewers, and thousands of blogs, such as TBS The Daily Flog & Rosie O'Donnell's Blog, also added personalized versions.

In the six weeks from Nov. 20, 2007 to Jan. 2, 2008, the site had over 193 million visits and over 123 million elves were created--which is 60 elves per second. Users spent a combined average of 2,600 years on the site.

In the five weeks from Dec. 1, 2006 to Jan. 7, 2007, the site had over 36 million site visits and over 11 million elves were created (41,00 per hour at its peak.) Users spent a combined equivalent of 600 years on the site.

The success of "Elf Yourself," created by EVB San Francisco and Toy NY, is in part due to three fundamentals, according to a spokesperson for the agencies: 1)Keep it simple, 2) Make it personal and 3) Give people a reason to pass it on.

"Because we were building on the buzz of 2006's campaign, there was already a digital audience anticipating its return--we received millions of hits to a dead site before launch," the spokesperson said. "From there, it started to spread online and the more people it reached the faster it spread. Because it was so simple, kids and grandparents alike were able to enjoy it. As its popularity grew, bloggers, radio stations and TV stations started including Elf Yourself in their programs/sites, and it continued to spread even faster."

In addition to viral impact, OfficeMax included the "Elf Yourself" character in-stores on computer monitors for sale, in its print catalog and on its online catalog.

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