Great Marketing Ploy or Bonehead Move?

One of the UK’s major newspapers apparently has a section of their site set aside for blogs. It would appear that their regular contributing authors are given the space on this quite large website to talk about a variety of topics relating to their regular columns.

Being in the US, can’t say as I usually follow either the paper or what it’s writers are thinking, but a friend of mine suggested I take a look at one of these blogs. The blog itself wasn’t the attraction. It was the resulting firestorm that was caused by a cheeky and irrelevant blog post by someone who is obviously a somewhat spoiled rich kid.

Don’t get me wrong, the premise wasn’t all that bad – a blog documenting one young man’s travels through the wilds of India facing such scary things as “heat, the roads, the snakes, Australian travellers”. Australian travelers? (Don’t know if the extra ‘l’ is simply the way people in the UK spell that word or it is indeed a spelling error.)

Along with likening Australians to snakes, we learn the young man is partial to skinny jeans, full-moon parties, debauched beach parties, the dodgy days with “washing machine” tummy, and messy late-night stumblings into bars. Oh yes, and he also apparently has a thing for nurses.

None of that makes the blog worth talking about, at least in my opinion. It is simply the ramblings of yet another young man who has the financial backing to avoid working for a living and instead go off to “find himself.” Ah, but it’s that working for a living part that has everyone so upset.

It would seem that our intrepid explorer just happens to be the son of the travel editor of the newspaper. Of course, the reader wasn’t told this information. The information wasn’t too hard to find as the young fellow’s daddy’s blogs and articles mention his travels 6 years ago with his then 13-year-old son. With a few other clues provided courtesy of the writings of both father and son, the nepotism becomes quite clear.

It’s this nepotism that has launched this single blog entry (more are promised) into the social media channels. Amid the cries of outrage, people are flocking to this newspaper site and blog entry in droves. People are emailing each other to check it out.

The cynical part of me wonders if the entire nepotism angle was simply a well-crafted ploy to market the blog, the newspaper, and the other on-line project of this young man (apparently there is another website he writes for that may also be owned by the paper). The accusation and “proof” that this young man was given this opportunity only because of his pedigree was something the newspaper staff had to have known would happen.

Could they have possibly been so boneheaded to not consider that people would discover the deception?

There is a certain irony that the young man’s writing style is in fact somewhat engaging – at least to the 15-year-old set. But, he does appear to talk their language and do it fairly well. Anyone who has grown up and moved away from thinking all one needs is skinny jeans, food, and a good drink (of the adult beverage variety) will not doubt find the blog cheeky, insulting, and fresh (as in smart-mouth kid).

The act of creating controversy has been a marketing technique long before the days of blogs and the Internet. Making a bonehead move of hoping the public won’t find out when you are trying to fool them is also nothing new. Either way, this blog is drawing quite a bit of attention and no doubt will be, at least for a while, one of the busiest pages on that website.

What do you think, is this viral marketing at it’s best or simply a bonehead move by the paper?

Oh, by the way, I won’t be providing a link or naming either the paper, the kid, or the other website in question. I don’t see why I should join the frenzy and provide them with even more free advertising. My reason for even talking about the article has more to do with the way this blog, with one post, has become one of the latest viral sensations on the Internet and ponder the whole phenomenon as it relates to this one particular case.

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