Anonymity in Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is relatively new and there are no hard and fast rules. Companies and people are experimenting trying to find what works and what does not work.

In the iamamiwhoami music videos  Jonna Lee made some interesting decisions in the marketing strategy. Some were brilliant, others possibly detrimental. The first videos were released December 4, 2009; they continued to be released on a more or less monthly basis.

The first marketing strategy we can examine is the name she chose for the series of videos, iamamiwhoami. When we examine the name, it essentially says; I am. Am I? Who am I? We can interpret this as the possibility that she is exploring her identity. I am, meaning I exist. Then the Am I?, questioning her true inner identity and the last part of the name, Who am I?, asking her audience to question her outer and inner identities. The audience may also take the name as a chance to examine their own identities.

Keeping in line with the title of the series of videos, Lee used makeup and props to conceal her face and body in the videos, keeping her identity anonymous. In addition to her anonymity, Lee created high-quality abstract, artistic videos, leaving their interpretation of the symbolism to the audience. The music also is mysterious with an Enya-like quality, using foreboding electronics and synthesized sounds.

Lee named the first six videos with obscurity by using numbers. When these numbers are linked to the alphabet they spell out words such as “educational,” “I am,” “its me,” “mandragora,” “officinarum,” and “welcome home.” It is interesting to note the imagery in the videos and the fact that Mandragora officinarum refers to the mandrake root, which when fresh or dry may cause hallucinations. Her videos could be interpreted as hallucinatory.

Then, the next seven videos were named with letters that eventually spelled out “bounty.” They also began with the corresponding sound of an animal by using onomatopoeia to represent the animals’ calls, which can be made to approximate the pronunciation of the English word “bounty.” By bounty, Lee could mean giving liberally or a reward for capturing something/someone who is wanted. That is left to interpretation by the audience.

When the videos were first released Lee kept her identity a secret from the audience, letting them speculate on who she was. Some of the guesses that the audience had were Christina Aguilera, GoldfrappFever Ray, Lady Gaga and Little Boots. The mystique of not knowing for sure who this artist was added to the viral nature of the videos.  However, Lee may have kept her identity a secret too long by waiting over a year to reveal her identity. This may have not been a great marketing strategy on her part.

In analyzing Lee’s marketing strategy we can compare it to the VW campaign. In the VW campaign there is no mention of the brand until the very end. In that sense the “brand” is anonymous as was Jonna Lee for a period of time.

As the article Viral Marketing for the Real World points out, designing messages to exhibit viral properties is extremely difficult.  Lee’s strategy to create buzz with anonymity was somewhat effective, however as mentioned above, the big reveal of who the woman in the video was took too long. The audience seemed to desire the reveal much sooner than it happened.

There have been other artists who chose to remain anonymous. They include:

Nike7Up who create hypnotic, mesmerizing songs, which are complete reconstructions of modern pop canon. They also create videos that are often grotesque and captivating.

Hype Williams who use the monikers of “Roy Blunt” and “Inga Copland.”

The Weeknd, mysteriously co-signed by (and possibly involving) Drake.

Just A Number 05272011, is this a name? A release date? A complete trick?

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One Response to Anonymity in Viral Marketing

  1. sara says:

    I, like you, found the iamamiwhoami music videos by Jonna Lee eerie and mysterious. The hidden face of Jonna, along with obscure symbols and animal references, were pretty baffling to me. However, the videos were high on mystery and this was used to create buzz and excitement with viewers and industry experts. I’m split on whether this was a good marketing decision or not. On one hand, the mystery surrounding her identity built excitement. But allowing the mystery to go on for a year did seem too extensive.
    I enjoyed that you highlighted the reference to the Mandragora officinarum, or the mandrake root, which can cause hallucinations. As I watched the videos, I thought they seemed drug-influenced.
    This was my first introduction to 0Views and the wacky videos it showcases. Some were truly boring. For example, watching someone launch marshmallows at a younger sibling was not compelling. Others were hilariously stupid like the video of dolls sunbathing on an old couch.

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