When it launched the latest version of its flagship WordPerfect software last week, Ottawa’s Corel Corp. staged what Richard Carriere describes as a “”labour rally”” with propaganda banners and an appearance from singer Danny Michel performing

his song “”Perfect.””

The splashy event is in contrast to the stealthy online campaign Corel has crafted in the form of Seewhogotfired.com. The portal features videos showing how business decision markers can get themselves in trouble by failing to do their homework and blindly choosing the world’s best-known office suite.

Carriere, Corel’s director of office productivity, said the site is the kind of provocative departure from its traditional marketing approach that Corel needed to generate word-of-mouth.

“”A year ago, I won’t lie to you, our awareness was not stellar,”” he says. “”Already we see some serious improvement. To some extent we are the underdogs fighting against the giant.””

Carriere recently shared the secrets of Seewhogotfired.com with IT Business Pipeline.

Pipeline: How long has this campaign been under development?

Richard Carriere: For the last year or so we did a massive amount of market research, primary research and discussion with our customers and channel partners — literally everyone who could give us insights into what the market really wants from an alternative to Microsoft Office. The first conclusion we had, which was good news, was that there still is a market for an alternative. The other good news was that this alternative has to be compatible into a Microsoft environment, which is the biggest push of our new version, but also it must be value-priced, must come from a reputable vendor so that people feel they’re buying something with long-term support and commitment. And then you think of WordPerfect, the product has been around for 22 years. Under our new ownership, there’s more resources behind it than ever, so I could say the long-term survival is the best it’s ever been under Corel ownership. Add to that the fact that we’re also at least a third to two-thirds cheaper, depending on the deal, to the big guys in Redmond. All we had to do was make sure we had a very effective marketing pull that’s created with the kind of financial means that we had, which is not half a billion dollars to launch a product, which Microsoft does.

Pipeline: How did you come up with the concept?

RC: We went internally with our ad agency. The first thing that came to us that we heard consistently is that nobody gets fired for buying Microsoft. And then we said, “”Hold on — isn’t that what people used to say about IBM 20 years ago?”” Today, someone who is looking only at IBM products without considering the other alternatives is probably not going to keep their job very long. We decided to use this site, seewhogotfired.com, with video clips that were edgy. Using that approach, instead of paying hundreds of millions of dollars in broadcast advertising, we could complement the other things that we are doing, including PR, targeted ads, banners, with something that we could experiment with. This was something cool that would be passed around.

Pipeline: They might pass on the URL once they come across it, but how do you get the ball rolling with your audience? How do you generate the buzz?

RC: We have integrated all the pieces of our campaign together. We have a series of tools, whether it’s the PR activities we do. Every piece of marketing collateral whether it’s posters, ads, banners, brochures, where it’s appropriate we’ll have a reference to the site. You’ll see lots of pieces where it’s one of these banker’s boxes with somebody’s personal stuff — typically the box that people carry when they lose their stuff — and it says “”Seewhogotfired.com.”” So this is something we are leveraging in several places. We are also using a series of direct marketing initiatives to our installed base. We sent a mail, a letter with the title “”Department of Human Resources.”” Inside, you open it and all you have is a pink slip that says, “”Seewhogotfired.com,”” and on the back, “”This is a fun link you’ll want to pass on,”” signed the WordPerfect team. Most people have been very supportive to us. In fact, based on the statistics we have already, we’ve had a very good rate of people who go to the site and pass it around.

We are also reiterating that with a series of follow-up DM. We are buying some real estate space online with some publications, some newsletters to promote the same site.

Pipeline: When you go to the site, you don’t see the Corel logo anywhere. So the brand is not the forefront. Were there any concerns about that?

RC: Viral marketing on the Web is a very young science or art, whatever you want to call it. One thing we’ve seen in terms of best practices from other places is that you don’t want to make it too obvious that it has a commercial goal at first. You want people to be intrigued, be interested by it, more like you would have a nice TV show or short movie that is sponsored by somebody. In the end, as long as there is some connection with the core values of our message, we want to make sure that it’s an entertaining Web site that they will like. As a good side effect, it will increase awareness in our product.

Pipeline: Are there any differences in the way you measure the results of a viral marketing campaign as opposed to a more traditional ad campaign?

RC: The tools we use to measure the results are virtually the same. We are using some third party vendor technology to measure the click-through rate, the pass-through rate to different pages. From that we can get some very precise data. Then the question is, which benchmark are we measuring ourselves against? We’ve done some internal research on best practices and successful campaigns of this kind. In the end, I would say we would be winning the lottery if we were in the situation of the Sportka or the subservient chicken viral clip that you probably are aware of, where in a matter of weeks millions of people go and see it. In the case of the Sportka it was 25 million worldwide. If we achieve that, I will have won the lottery, so that would be good. Otherwise, probably 30 per cent of the campaigns are actually quite successful in the sense that people see it and pass it around to people they know, without necessarily having the proportions of these exceptional cases.

Comment: pipeline@itbusiness.ca

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