Secrets Do Make Friends

I know that the goal of most campaigns is to get as many eyeballs on their ads as possible, or as many people engaged in their program as they can, but we've been finding more and more success with limitations on viewership and participation.

Think about it.

Is there any greater feeling than being in on something? A surprise party, breaking news, where the best burger in town is at, a friend who told you first she's pregnant, what dad got mom for Christmas, a magic trick, a prank on a friend, a secret party location, even the gossip of what went down last night. When you're "in the know" you're "in the club." And it's downright exhilarating to know something when others have yet to find out.

For young adults, it's a popularity contest. Who can first post the latest video, Twitter the latest site, or link the latest blog becomes the go-to for what's cool. The promptness of one's post becomes the measure of one's cultural prowess. Knowledge is power, but knowledge is also coolness. Watching a funny video is great, but being the first to share it is even better.



When Balloon Boy launched, I watched as 100 of my friends Twittered, Facebooked, IM'd, texted and emailed me and others to make sure I was watching it. The race was on as to who could be the first to tell everyone of the amazing adventure. Within an hour, I was being linked by Interneters as they competed to be the first to have Balloon Boy viral swag: t-shirts (Hide'n Seek All-time Champion), comic strips, Keyboard Cat video play-offs, animated games and even music videos.

Young adults love being in-the-know. As they've grown from kids to collegians, so has technology, feeding their sensors with more and more on-demand knowledge. Kids already thought they knew it all, now with an iPhone they actually do. So what news is a mass advert going to tell them they haven't already discovered?

So try this: offer a lot to a little.

Secrets can be your strategy. Tell your brand loyalists first about a new program. Reward Facebook Fans with the inside scoop on a new product. Share inside information on an upcoming sale with your best shoppers in store, face to face. They get the info first so they get to share it first.

In and Out Burger has a secret menu. You'd never know it unless somebody told you, but ordering your burger or fries "Animal Style" makes everything better. Red Bull hid thousands of Red Bull Energy Shots all over the country and uploaded clues to find them via Facebook for their fans. Rock Band is filled with secret cheat codes for the best gamers to experience the music in new and unique ways the majority of the public never gets to see. By the way, I feel really cool for telling you about all this.

Letting people in on something is cool, but some brands take this to another level and let their entire company be the secret. By keeping a low profile, they let their target audience "discover" them, thus giving them the feeling of being a part of the brands success. Everybody knows that digging the band before they landed a hit gives you way more props than learning of them when they hit Top Sales on iTunes.

Even the most popular musicians can find secrets advantageous. Radiohead front-man, Thom Yorke, lighted the Twitterverse when he leaked news of a secret solo concert in L.A. Tickets went on sale and sold out in seven minutes thanks the thousands of tweets by fans who wanted to be the first to tell their friends. No ad campaign. Just a well-timed rumor.

We've even talked to young adults who went to secret restaurants hosted by Top Chef Tom Colicchio for one-night only affairs, secret dance parties hosted by brands and even midnight limited edition fashion parties where only one of everything was made.

Secrets can be a great way to reward brand loyalists and empower them to recruit new ones on your behalf. The insider knowledge gives them the key to the latest and greatest and I promise, they'll be way more convincing to their friends that your brand is worth their time.

But you didn't hear that from me.

3 comments about "Secrets Do Make Friends ".
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  1. Daniel Coates from Youth Pulse, Inc., November 6, 2009 at 5:07 p.m.

    Great insights Clint ...

    A couple of underlying generational trends spring to mind:

    1. A generation that has been labeled and treated as *special* since birth really digs anyone or anything that gives them the VIP treatment. The 'baby on board' sign indicated precious cargo and the message that they were valuable and distinctive has followed them from the crash resistant car seat all the way through to the workplace.

    2. In an attempt to distinguish themselves from GenX, this generation is anti-individualism. 'What' you say? Isn't being the first to know an expression of individuality? Actually not ... the benefit is the social 'hit' that they get for seeing it first. What an X'er would keep to themselves is the social currency of Gen Y.

  2. Jeff Behan from VisionTrust Communications, November 7, 2009 at 4:50 p.m.

    I think you're right on - but I think this approach has merit well beyond Gen Y. Just look at Facebook. Every generation, right up through Boomers, is embracing the social networking phenom - posting and reposting everything from stupid cat videos to news reports. And everyone loves sharing a secret with their "friends."

  3. paul myers, November 9, 2009 at 7:42 p.m.

    Right on Clint. What next, directions to the "cool guy club" on Twitter and a video of the secret hand shake on YouTube?

    BTW Jeff, this goes way beyond social media!

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