What would you think if you opened your morning paper and read the headline:"85-year-old British Woman to climb Everest -- with her Dachshund, Daisy"? Would you cheer, or say she's off her rocker?
Despite making headlines around the world in newspapers, Internet chat rooms, on the radio and on news portals, the story was actually a cleverly disguised global viral marketing and cross-media campaign by Mammut to draw attention to its technical apparel and gear. Mammut used the character of Mary Woodbridge as a warning to mountain sports and climbing fanatics of the dangers of using its equipment, which, it cautions, is "so good that it can cause loss of common sense."
Started in late December, the elaborate story features Mary, who likes to take her dog for a daily walk, and buys a Mammut jacket to keep the wind and rain off. Then, she suddenly gets it in her head to climb Mount Everest accompanied by her dog, and without oxygen or Sherpas. The website -- www.mary-woodbridge.co.uk -- features pictures, journal excerpts and training videos as Mary prepares for her Everest expedition. To help bring her "plans" to fruition and raise the profile of the website, Mary asked a number of mountain sports goods manufacturers last January whether they would be prepared to sponsor her, and she has been getting hints and tips from users of mountain sports forums around the world.
"We chose this approach in order to reach the hardcore climbing and mountaineering scene, which is hard to get at using conventional advertising," said Michael Gyssler, Mammut chief marketing officer, of the "mockumentary." "We are delighted to have been able to use the entertaining Mary Woodbridge character to demonstrate that our products are indeed so good that using them can cause loss of common sense."
The website has had more than 70,000 visitors, and includes information from Mammut about the campaign.
SNEWSÂ® View: We received quite a few forwards and "oh my gawd, you have to do something on this ridiculous woman" emails since January. The reason we haven't? It was simply a matter of checking sources and verifying whether the story was true or a very amusing hoax, which we verified as the latter quite quickly. Once we knew it was a hoax, no story. Apparently, other consumer and trade news sources and online forums chose to do what is happening all too often these days -- report on each other's news and not follow up with basic reporting themselves. Our hats are off to Mammut, though, for creating a campaign that, well, caused sufficient stir to become so newsworthy. Now that is viral marketing at its best! Still, as good as the story was from a creative standpoint, did it result in a sales bump for the company, or just a lot of talk about Mary? We wonder.