Sony Campaign Creates Anti-Evangelists

If there's no such thing as bad press, you can count Sony's disastrous PSP viral marketing effort a huge success. Otherwise, marketers everywhere might want to take what's happening to Sony on the Web right now as an object lesson inhownotto market to gamers.

Sony took down the viral site,, but a UK-based game site has helpfully mirrored the front page, to preserve the company's shame for the ages.

So where did Sony, and Zipatoni, the marketing agency responsible for this train wreck, go wrong? Obviously, they were deceptive. Initially, the site admitted no affiliation to Sony, and Zipatoni's writers, using their pseudonyms, even denied the connection on the blog after readers had called them out and exposed the fakery.

Much of the negative press has focused on Zipatoni's deception, but equally awful was the company's caricaturish portrayal of gamers--how they think, how they speak, and how they act. The writers of the site tried to use the cant of gamers, but they ended up sounding like an Internet version of Ali G, but without the irony. Gamers, just like any consumers, don't like it when marketers try to deceive them, but even worse is to try to deceive them so poorly. It's a lot like visiting Paris--if you can't speak the language well, don't even bother trying. It'll just earn you a lot of dirty looks.

On Zipatoni's Web site, the company describes its approach to buzz marketing: "We know we can't control the dialogue. But we tap into the right insight and deliver an idea that will get opinion leaders talking about it on their own. Just like that, we've converted the consumer into a passionate and credible message-bearer."

And in that, the company has succeeded. Their site has spawned an imitator,, which follows a similar form, but trashes Sony's PS3 for being overpriced, buggy, and in general inferior to its Nintendo and Microsoft counterparts. It even includes a "user-contributed ad," much like the original PSP blog, but... well, the ad speaks for itself. (Warning: this may not be entirely appropriate for younger readers or Sony marketing executives). The site was started by a trio of hard-core gamers--two software developers and an artist, who "really disliked the way that Sony decided to 'advertise,' especially for a product that sucks ass as a game system," according to one of the creators. The three also own the domain, which they will use to promote the Xbox 360. Now that's brand evangelism.

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