Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that early last week the Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars after more than eight months traveling through space. On August 6th, the entire nerdy world watched and waited for confirmation that most critical aspect of the mission, the landing, had indeed gone as planned. Every major news network was reporting on the story and the buzz was tremendous.Now imagine that big, important marketing plan you’ve been working on was that mission to Mars, and the key performance indicator (KPI) of success was that viral buzz. Was the marketing plan a success or failure? Before you decide, let’s look at the numbers…
Mars Rover Interest Over TimeAbove is a graph, thanks to Google’s useful Insights tool, that shows the interest over time for the phrase “Mars Rover” and all of the related terms. Though the numbered scale 0-100 is relative, you better believe that at data point A, the landing date, nearly everyone was paying attention. You can see the meteoric rise in the days before, and the drop-off shortly thereafter. Through reasonable estimations, in a week or two from now, it’s safe to safe that nobody will care about the robot over 150 million miles away.
Unless NASA is planning on selling advertisement on future missions, it’s fair to say that comparison so far has been apples and oranges. There is, however, a crucial takeaway. Had this chart been the viral buzz of a marketing campaign, it could be considered both a success and a failure. On one hand, the exposure to brand was remarkable and it’s hard to discount the benefits. On the other hand, the buzz dropped off completely afterwards because there was no continuation of the coolness, the main factor that drew everyone in. After all, the rover couldn’t repeat the months of waiting and unprecedented landing on a foreign planet.
What’s important is to understand that one big event can’t carry the company without follow through. If you think one coordinated tada over a product launch, giveaway, sponsorship or PR bonanza will drive your profits, you’re sorely mistaken. There always has to be follow-up, and that follow-up needs to be compelling to the audience. You want them to stay engaged over long period of time and that takes work. Otherwise, you’ll end up right back were you started, or worse- stranded in space.