skip to main content

“Sorry About the Twigs” Was a Viral Hit, but Let’s Not Forget Why and How

divider image for this post

A few weeks ago, I shared the video above on Twitter. It took some time to catch on, but even after a few days, it was still being commented on and retweeted at a pretty quick rate. Ads like this are amazing and there’s little wonder why I called it “pretty dang cool” and others called it “brilliant”, “genius”, and “great” and I quickly found myself searching for applications of the idea to ski resorts.

Now, we had some interesting, but dispersed conversation on social, so I wanted to bring the topic back up, share some of my thoughts, and see if we can’t get some central discussion on why this worked, the risks of trying, and what we can learn.

To me, this is how and why it worked.

1) What Gets People Talking
The first element I see is that the ad team recognized a pattern in the way people latch onto news and talk. “When quality control fails, it gets all over the news. Everyone starts talking about it” the video begins, “which made us think, what a great idea.”

So, the first secret I see to their success is they recognized what gets people talking and used that as the package to deliver their message.

2) The Message Was Hidden but On Brand
Second, the message was hidden inside that package. Because it didn’t feel like marketing, people didn’t hesitate to share it. Like a Trojan horse, the “failure” got people talking but the failure was carrying a secret marketing message that was waiting to be unlocked. Also remember that the message matched the brand and highlighted the key selling point of their product.

So, the second secret I see to their success, is the message was hidden and on-brand.

3) The Leash Was Long
Third, they gave the concept a very long leash to get as many people talking about it as possible. This is also the riskiest part of the process. The longer the leash, the harder it is to reel it back in. Like going all in at the poker table, with great risk comes the chance of either large-scale failure or reward.

So, the third secret I see is they had the guts to stay hands-off even after the delivery mechanism (not the message) had gone viral.

4) Masterfully Unlocked
Fourth, they were good enough at what they did to know when enough was enough and how to unlock the message inside their viral Trojan horse. The response, beautifully crafted, was like a fisherman reeling in a huge fish without letting it get off the hook. One wrong step and this could have gone horribly wrong.

Fourth, they knew exactly how to unlock the message once it had reached their desired level of buzz.

To recap. The was this worked was:

  1. They found a topic that frequently goes viral as the delivery mechanism for their message.
  2. The message was clear but hidden so people wouldn’t think twice about sharing it.
  3. They let it reach a very high level of buzz and public attention.
  4. They knew how to successfully unlock the hidden marketing message when they were ready.

There is a lot that could go wrong with this, but they executed it beautifully and were rewarded with a huge amount of buzz and, most importantly, an increase in sales.

That’s really the trick, isn’t it. Sometimes, we celebrate “great marketing” because it looks cool, is clever, or makes us laugh. Really, great marketing is marketing that, sometime down the road, makes sales and increases revenues. This was great marketing because it was everything – clever, cool, and valuable.

Can it be repeated?
Can you soak your winter-mailers in water before they go out and then try to pull a “we have so much natural snow around, it’s hard to avoid.” Maybe. Can you do as John Brice noted when a resort apologized for wind holds by saying, “To avoid wind-holds, select resorts without snow storms, which cause wind-holds.” Yeah.

But I think the real trick to repeating it is not looking what they did, but why and how they did it. Look at the pattern, start from the beginning, and recognize the risks.


About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

Get the weekly digest.

New stories, ideas, and jobs delivered to your inbox every Friday morning.