Lessons in viral sensations: #AlexFromTarget

Lessons in viral sensations: #AlexFromTarget

So what precisely is this #AlexFromTarget that has recently trended internationally on Twitter?

Realistically, he is an unassuming 16-year-old from Texas. He goes to school, works on the weekend, and has a messy room – like most testosterone fuelled boys do of that age. However, there is something strangely different about Alex. He has over 756,000 followers on Twitter and 2.47 million followers on Instagram. This particular anomaly has also led Alex to appear on The Ellen Show and various other media outlets.

Amazing statistics for a 16-year-old, but why is this important? It’s not necessarily the numbers Alex accumulated, but rather what one little start-up is claiming. Breakr, from LA, has claimed responsibility for this massive fandom. It seems to be well orchestrated, testing how engaged the fangirl demographic is, and exploiting that to test brand equity. This begs the question, was the rise of #AlexFromTarget actually the brainchild of this marketing start-up?

The teen has denied connections with the company stating, “My family and I have never heard of this company.” It would seem that #AlexFromTarget has grown organically from the treacherous depths of Twitter into a beast of its own – if anyone remembers the Jeremy Meeks fiasco, it can happen.

On the other hand, the whole experience could be an orchestration.

Hold onto your hats, here is some proper speculation.

Viral marketing is not new in the slightest – the right timing, execution and social media platform can be instrumented to place a campaign at the very tip-top of consumers’ newsfeeds with minimal paid advertising. Great strategy when executed correctly. The Wren Studio, for example, is an LA-based fashion collective that created ‘First Kiss’ to launch its new collection. The video, masterfully executed, has garnered over 93 million views on YouTube since its release in March this year.

However, light was shed on the campaign and the media outed The Wren Studio. Oxymoronic in results, the campaign had incredible reach but did not translate across to growth in sales – the whole point of advertising, right?

Perhaps First Kiss is akin to #AlexFromTarget – they could be one in the same – another corporate using viral marketing to raise brand equity (not successfully). Nothing has surfaced yet – keep your eyes peeled!

What can be learnt from this entire hullabaloo?

Viral marketing is a flaky friend. Never turns up to the party, but when they do, it’s all guns blazing. There are lessons to be learnt from these mad fables to benefit the wise marketer.

1. Don’t do a Breakr, it’s bad karma. Claiming fame for something you didn’t do and have the subject openly deny any connections. It produces cheap and tacky media attention – consumers are pretty sick of that.

2. The hat is fine, but the video is too big. The Wren Studio meant well but failed to weld their product with the campaign. There are 93 million views, but profits are none. Make sure that first kiss isn’t a sloppy washing machine.

Fi Bendall is the managing director of Bendalls Group, a team of highly trained digital specialists, i-media subject matter experts and developers.

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