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Mar 08

Kony 2012 – marketing genius or marketing ploy?

Last night I watched a movie that had appeared several times in my Facebook timeline, with several I mean it probably jumped up about 10 times.  I’m going to be honest and say that it is rare for me to click through and follow many of the videos that are posted on my timeline, but the fact they they were repeatedly posted not by the friends my age, but by my younger relatives, my friends teenage children, and their friends made me wonder what this was all about.  And what it is is a fantastic piece of emotional marketing titled ‘Kony 2012′.

Kony 2012 is a viral movie who’s target is a Ugandan warlord named Joseph Kony whom for the past 30 years has been allegedly abducting children in Central Africa and forced them to be child soldiers.  Now this isn’t the first time I’ve heard or read about the child soldiers, and I have also read about some of the work been done to assist them once they have escaped from the Lord’s Resistance Army, but this is the first time I have seen a large scale viral campaign, effectively targeting outside intervention to bring a warlord to justice.

Now politically, I don’t bother too much, and yes I have also read the posts about the legitimacy of the Invisible Children campaign, funding issues, financial statements, a dodgy photo etc. That I don’t know much about, but what I am seriously impressed with, is the wave motion that has occurred throughout social media and the passion that has been invoked by the youth.  It was quite compelling to youth, especially with the evocative images of Ugandan teenagers talking to teenagers, a youth movement, and feeling like if they unite in something they can actually make a change.  Who are we to start telling them to ‘get their facts straight’, and ‘it’s all farce’.  People act on emotion not logic, these are young people passionate about a movement, wanting to take action, feeling like they can make a difference. Have we become so complacent about world issues that our first thought is to sit back and pick holes in it? Automatically assume propaganda, and an ulterior motive? Are we raising a world of cynics? That is a sad thought.

Now back to the marketing.  Yes he is a filmmaker and he has done a brilliant job of reaching his target audience, used friendships and influence among friends to move and shift this video virally, shown a target of celebrities and influential people to get assistance to target, put the audience into an emotional state where they want to act against a warlord, and provided them with the ease and steps of what to do next.

Brilliantly big name brands have been trying to do this for decades!  It was an intense 30 minute video that followed a logical flow and with a path to action. He wasn’t coming across as pushing the message as an activist, but emotionally as a father, think of the number of big brands who have tried to intertwine family marketing into their advertising.

I have read a lot about the ‘intentions’ of this campaign, from monetary, to pushing for war, to ‘they’re after the oil’. I didn’t take away any of that, I saw it as a brilliant piece of emotional marketing that has spread an important message far and wide, through ‘Awareness’, and virally through what used to be ‘word of mouth’ from our trusted friends, but is now via social media channels. 1.9 million likes on Facebook and growing, 26 million views of the video on Youtube, thousands more on vimeo, #Kony trending on Twitter, Joseph Kony 2012 and Invisible Children trending on Google search.

Invisible People Kony 2012 Facebook Page

Take from it what you want, it does push for justice, bringing this man Kony in front of the International Criminal Court, making him accountable for 30 years of abuse.  Having worked in health promotion many years ago, we spend 10 x as much money trying to fix health issues after they have occurred, even knowing what causes them.  It’s like fixing the hole in the bucket instead of trying to mop up the water once it has spread everywhere. As an awareness raising campaign, wow, has this got people talking or what, this is the new digital activism.