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July 27, 2004

Fake Blogs as a Marketing Tool

If you wonder about the power of blogs, here's a lesson in real time. Bungie Studios, in advance of the release of its Halo2 game, has launched a blog called "I Love Bees" that offers fascinating - and somewhat disturbing - insight into the power (and abuse of that power) of blogs to pre-sell a product.

The premise of the ruse is that some old lady's web site, from which she sold honey, was hijacked by malicious web site crackers. A niece named Dana is trying to solve the problem by going to China (?) and started a blog to get others to help her figure out the mystery behind the site hijacking. Within both the I Love Bees website and "Dana's" blog are clues which have something to do with characters and plot lines from the original Halo game.

It appears that Bungie may have also had help from Microsoft, creators of X-Box, in perpetrating this ruse.

Within its first week of existence, almost 1000 people have commented on the blog. That amount of traffic for a brand new blog is unheard of. Funny thing is, although the ruse was caught almost immediately, it appears that a large majority of commentors continue to be sucked into believing "Dana's" innocence. The whole saga is also in play on IRC and of course, a hundred other blogs run by gamers, marketers (you're reading it here) and conspiracy theorists. All of which increases the search engine rankings of "I Love Bees" and Halo, which in turn, increases traffic to those sites. Which in turn should increase sales. Provided the inevitable backlash doesn't get out of hand once everyone knows they've been duped.

This isn't the first time a company has perpetrated a fake blog for marketing. The fake blog for Dr. Pepper's Raging Cow pissed a lot of people off way back in March, 2003. But the viral component of that anger on sites as mainstream as Fark didn't seem to affect sales and in fact boosted product awareness. Still, few corporations have tried to market this way.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to figure out how to create this much anxiety over a ruse to promote to a show or conference. But if I ever do, you'll hear about it.

01:06 PM in Trade Show Marketing | Permalink

Comments

It's more than a 'fake blog for marketing'. It's a foray into the relatively new genre of Alternate Reality Gaming. Dana is a character in a story, the website and the blog are props in the story. The goal is for players of the game to figure out what is going on. Everyone involved is aware that it is just a game, and it is exciting for many.

Commenting that it's amazing there are people who still treat Dana as real shows a wee bit of ignorance on the part of the author. When you're in a game, you play along. Being out of game gets you ignored. Simple concept. In the middle of a D&D session, if someone stood up and said "Why do you guys keep calling me Doomdwarf!? That's my character, not me!" one might wonder why the heck that guy was playing D&D in the first place.

Anyway, to get more informed, here's a site to check out that tells you all about ARG's plus a forum for people interested in playing the game.

www.unfiction.com
the forum for the bees is called "The Haunted Apiary"

and a wiki is available for shared information, plus guides and a 'trail' of what's been discovered so far:

bees.netninja.com

Posted by: Sariana | Aug 31, 2004 12:26:53 PM

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