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Cynical social media users love to make themselves look smart by dunking on “dumb” people. “Look at this idiot politician” and “check out this celebrity moron” are classics of the genre, but one tried-and-true take is “what’s up with those rubes in flyover country?”
Marketers understand this negative human tendency and regularly exploit it in their campaigns. (Note the pre-release “controversy” surrounding every movie.) It’s one thing to get your fans to promote your message for free, but getting the haters to promote it too? That’s viral gold. And South Dakota just gave business schools a case study in how well it can work.
On Monday, the state launched a public awareness campaign to combat a meth crisis that is “growing at an alarming rate,” according to Gov. Kristi Noem. They launched a website, video, and logo stating, “Meth. We’re On It.” Note, they aren’t selling a product, but trying to get people talking about a serious health crisis that few know exists — all in the 47th-largest state with a meager communications budget. And, yes, they understand the double-meaning; that’s the entire point of the campaign.
Within hours, the message was published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and getting pushed by millions on social media. Public awareness was raised and people are talking about an issue no one had heard of 24 hours earlier. An obvious marketing success.
Obvious to anyone who took a Marketing 101 class, but not to the dupes in the media. “South Dakota’s new anti-meth campaign featuring people of different ages and races saying ‘I’m on meth’ is prompting online guffaws.” Pavlov’s blue-checked dogs heard the bell, and they couldn’t resist drooling.
This is South Dakota's new anti-meth campaign slogan. I do not think it means what they think it means. https://t.co/PI2EFxJuvR
— Lisa Gutierrez (@LisaGinKC) November 18, 2019
Not sure about this onehttps://t.co/6dhAETnrTV
— Sam Stein (@samstein) November 18, 2019
great work here everyone https://t.co/7acydPPrY7
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) November 18, 2019
Kudos to South Dakota’s Department of Social Services for being willing to risk being made the butt of a joke to help promote their life-saving message. And congrats to the Minneapolis ad agency Broadhead Co. which got everyone talking about the most niche of niche messages.