I have always been a fan of the late Jim Henson, ever since I was a child. So I of course had to click on the YouTube link a friend of mine sent of Beaker singing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” If you’ve seen this already, you know what I’m talking about; if you haven’t and are a Muppet fan, I won’t ruin it for you suffice it to say you need to see it; and if you aren’t a Muppet fan, shame on you. I played that clip a bunch of times for a good laugh, and I even got my six-year-old into it. So what does my fanboy Muppet status have to do with brand integrity and viral marketing?
Beaker singing “Ode to Joy” is not a redub or reedit of old episodes of “The Muppet Show.” It’s one part of original web content featuring various characters from “The Muppet Show” created and produced by the Henson Company. Some of them include “Classical Chicken” with Gonzo, and “Rolling with the Skateboarding Dog” with Rowlf the Dog. What I find unique about the clips is that they update the Muppets to the digital age while retaining the character of Muppets as they have been since the ‘70s. The “Rolling with the Skateboarding Dog” has Rowlf with the skateboarding viral video bulldog and trying to do his own trick. At the end of some of the Muppet clips, we see Waldorf and Stadler peering into their own “web cam” criticizing the clips (W: How many hits did that receive? S: Unfortunately not enough to kill it.). Much the same way “The Muppet Show” parodied, as well as celebrated, the form of the variety show, these web clips use the viral form for as much of the comedy as well as the delivery of the message. In that sense, it is self-referential and thus keeps the brand name and brand quality intact.
On top of this, the advantages to posting it as a YouTube video have clear benefits to the company. When I showed it to my daughter, she wanted to see some of the other Muppet “boxes” (which is what she calls them). Each link led to another, including those clips, redubs and reedits of “Muppet Show” episodes. She loved a bunch of the clips of the show itself and it brought back fond memories for me. Because of that I was looking on Ebay pricing DVD packages of the first and/or second seasons of the “Muppet Show” to buy for my daughter. Now, this seed alone of “Ode to Joy” received million hits. Suppose that only 10% of those start to do what I did and look up the Season One DVD of the “Muppet Show” and 10% of that 10% decide to buy the DVD set– roughly 1% of those who saw the clip. That would be still units of Season One “Muppet Show” DVDs sold. Even at the Amazon.com rate of $ , that means over $ million in revenue for the company ($ ). If they shopped around and got a deal at $23, that’s still $1 million and change for the company ($ ). That’s mostly revenue for pushing existing stock of inventory for one season of DVDs. Even if the cost of one of the viral videos is close to $ or more, the cost to profit ratio easily justifies the expense of the video. Take those numbers and extrapolate them across all other instances of the video and other videos (mentioned above) and we have a serious needle-mover.
Even if it didn’t lead to a sale, it leads to more recognition of the existing brand and continues the legacy of the show and company to a new generation, which is often immeasurable. Separating the quality product from the inferior is essential for any company, especially for children’s programming. Using the online community resources to help plug your product can mean the difference between not only profit and loss, but between obscure fad and sustainable memory that can survive generation gaps.