Don’t believe the hype (it’s a sequel)

In the summer of 1999, I was subletting a place near Harvard Square while working at Fidelity Investments.  Near the end of the summer, my high school friend Dave moved to Cambridge to start his first year at HBS.  This was back when a book like Year One was invaluable, way before every student thought about bloging about the experience.  One of the things I found most interesting about the first years was that walking around the dorm, many had replaced the school-issued name on the door with business cards from their former employer – McKinsey, BCG, Goldman, etc.

I met up with Dave one day after work at an orientation happy hour at John Harvard’s.  One of the people I met had previously been working in corporate finance for Paramount Pictures.  We discussed, among other things, the profitability of movie sequels.  Sequels are almost always profitable.  Why?  Among other things, they draft off the visibility of the lead, even if it tanks.  Assets can be reused and budgets more accurately scoped.  Distribution can bypass the expensive theater route and go straight to DVD or PPV.

So what does this have to do with marketing?  It has everything to do with branding and it’s simple to make a connection with today’s "viral" videos.  (I had a great conversation with Sam Ford from Peppercom/MIT last week about why the term viral is a misnomer – but that’s a story for another post.)  Think Dove Evolution and Onslaught, for example.  At the time of writing this post, Evolution has 7.1 million views; Onslaught has 0.2 million.  So is Onslaught a failure?  No way – it’s generated a ton of attention and surely Ogilvy didn’t have to work nearly as hard to publicize #2 as #1.

Well, Kris Hoet from Microsoft Belgium emailed to let me know that a sequel to "The Break Up" has launched.  Even if you don’t know the name, you’ve seen this video.  Now "Inspiration, Anyone?" is out – and has been since June 8th.

And I haven’t heard anyone talking about it.Inspiration, anyone?

I don’t know if it is just hasn’t penetrated the echo chamber of marketing blogging or if most people have seen the sequel and thought "meh."  Or perhaps it hits too close to home for agencies – they can get very defensive, very quickly – e.g. check out this post.  Maybe it just needs time.  Some people have told me they think the first was successful because few people realized Microsoft was behind it.  But Dove was behind the Campaign For Real Beauty and that didn’t seem to matter much.  Microsoft’s making a point to sell more advertising services, Dove’s making a point to sell more beauty products.  Maybe we can chalk it up to B2C vs. B2B.

If you haven’t yet seen the sequel to The Break Up (it’s 3:38 in length), I’d love to get your thoughts on why it does or doesn’t work for you.