In 1729 Jonathan Swift published “A Modest Proposal” satirizing the indifferent attitudes of rich Britons toward the poor Irish by advocating that parents of the Emerald Isle sell their children to be eaten.
Nowadays, in addition to publishing a book Swift expand upon his idea by running a satirical Twitter account like the @MayorEmanuel which has gotten a ton of press lately since its anonymous creator came forward.
It turned out to be punk magazine publisher and Chicagoan Dan Sinker, and even though he had 0 followers he has amassed over 40,000 with his foul-mouthed tweets.
Now that’s a successful marketing campaign — heck, with a lot more blood, sweat and tears, a Facebook fan page and Twitter account and of course an excellent staff of writers and search-engine optimization I was able to build the monthly readership of Baltic Reports to 40,000 — the same number. Shows the importance of marketing methodology. Complimenti, Mr. Sinker.
Sinker is hardly the only person running a successful satirical Twitter account over the past few years, so it begs the question — while keeping in mind the importance of branding, should companies consider being more irreverent and creative with their Twitter marketing campaigns? It’s funny and can build followers rapidly. Regardless, it’s not a method most companies are embracing.
On television, successful advertising campaigns like the Geico Gecko show how it works, while Groupon’s Tibetan Super Bowl flop shows how it can backfire. Of course with social networking there’s the element of user interaction that television does not have. So is it good for companies to go irreverent on Twitter or not? Would love to hear thoughts on this.
UPDATE: Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and Dan Sinker are set to meet this Wednesday, March 2. Emanuel is standing on his offer to donate $5,000 to a charity of Sinker’s choice. Wish I could witness the meeting. Actually I have personally encountered Emanuel twice.
The first time was in 2006 as an intern at NBC Chicago while assisting reporter Don Lemon, now an anchor for CNN, at an election night rally for Forrest Claypool, whom Emanuel had endorsed for the Cook County Board President. Claypool lost to the Todd Stroger, who was voted out in 2010 after one scandal-ridden term.
The second time I met Emanuel was in January 2011 when I entered the California Blue Line CTA station on my daily commute to work and to my surprise Emanuel was there campaigning. On both occasions we shook hands, but as I recall Emanuel was much friendlier on the latter of the two. No surprise there, of course.