Hang in There Jack: A Case Study in Cross-Platform Digital Storytelling

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Why would someone use television ads, billboards, and print to drive people to online and social media sites?

1) For the right audience, social media has lots of advantages, speed of dissemination, trust, interaction, expectations, collaboration, and emotional investment in user-generated content, engagement, curiosity, or
2) you are trying to look very hip and don’t care if it motivates action.

The ‘Hang in there Jack’ campaign is one very effective example. It successfully crosses from traditional media to the Internet (Hangintherejack.com) and social media applications such as Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter and invites a relationship with the user by encouraging user-generated content via different avenues: comments, videos, text messages, and snail mail get well cards. By doing this, it shifts the focus of the advertising message from the company (Jack in the Box, Inc.) to the user. Jack is now the vehicle for dissemination not the primary message. The hand-off from individual to individual via these various applications gives Jack’s storyline a sustainability and a patina of authenticity that could not happen with a direct ad campaign.

Demographically, this campaign will appeal most to users who are young or early adopters (Pew Internet Report : Use of Twitter is about 20% until you hit 34, then it starts dropping off steadily to 10% of 35 to 44 year olds and 5% of 45 to 54 year olds using Twitter. It’s down to 2% by the time you hit 65.)   Over half the Internet population is under 44; although there is growth across all age groups. The interesting thing about these stats combined with the emphasis on the ‘Get Well Jack’ videos is that downloading videos is growing in popularity across all ages. And I’m quite confident that Jack made these marketing decisions knowing the demographics of his customer base.

Jack has created (and I hate to use this word) buzz by successfully integrating multiple media applications and platforms.  There really is something for everyone in the mix. In the new media environment, integration is key and the envelope will  continue to be pushed.  I wonder, will we see a mobile Jack app beyond texting? Is there an integration between the physical sites to the web/social network sites, like streaming video where people in a Jack in the Box can send their message to Jack, or coupons sent to people who submit videos to the site?   If there isn’t already, there should be.

Personally, I’d like to see Jack in the Box extend this campaign and direct their customers to send messages to real people in real hospitals who could use some emotional support and cheering up. That would create tangible social capital for their brand by converting playful enthusiasm into empathy and awareness of others.

Is there potential downside? Probably not. The questions I would have asked during planning are: Will the story play out in a way that meets the expectations of the fans? Will the narrative stay fresh or will people will get bored and move on? Can we continue to drive it into new applications and create new linkages? Is the story line a little morbid (especially in this economy)? Will it alienate people who don’t want to watch someone in a hospital bed? Or those digital immigrants who them feel out of it and irrelevant with new technology?

The sales numbers and interest level will be interesting to track. I will resist any urge to mention boxes in relation to thinking, but Jack has created a good case study here.

Photos from http://www.hangintherejack.com
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