Keith Errington

marketing strategy
07860 267155

Zero cost Social Marketing beats unrestrained marketing campaign

The real significance of the battle for the UK’s Christmas No 1 Single.

In the red corner we have a massive marketing campaign based around the TV series X Factor, that pulls in millions of viewers and airs dozens of episodes – backed up by websites, advertising, TV spots, point of sale, dozens of articles in newspapers and magazines – all run by a multi-million dollar media mogul responsible for Pop Idol and American Idol, who has years of experience. This mammoth marketing machine hasn’t failed to deliver a number one single at Christmas in the UK for the past four years.

In the blue corner we have two music fans and a free Facebook campaign.

Guess who wins?


In the UK we may have witnessed the single* biggest demonstration yet of the power of social media over conventional marketing. It is difficult to see how you can argue with the value of social marketing when a free campaign beats a professionally run and massively funded media blitz.

There has been much written about Jon and Tracy Morter and their campaign to get ‘real music’ back in the charts at Christmas – but few of the journalists seemed to understand the way social networking or Facebook works, let alone get the enormity of what’s happened. They’ve missed the implications for marketing and the huge disparity in the economics of the campaigns.

Not only did the Facebook campaign not cost any money – it actually raised a significant sum for the UK’s homeless charity Shelter.

The other major battle here was between CD sales and downloads. The single that Jon picked for his campaign – Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ [WARNING: Explicit lyrics] was only available by download. Whereas the X Factor’s winner Joe McElderry’s single was also sold as a CD.

The campaign not only stopped X Factor from getting its usual, guaranteed Christmas number 1, but set a record for the fastest selling download single in the UK charts - as well as being the first single to reach No 1 at Christmas on downloads alone.

As the deadline for sales neared, Joe McElderry’s single was slashed to a mere 29p (about 18 cents) just to try and compete. So you could also value the Facebook campaign in terms of the amount of revenue lost in that price cut.

The campaign that started with a Facebook group, then a page, then was tweeted by the comedian Peter Serafinowicz (268,000 plus followers), picked up by the press (and given mostly fairly negative, or at least cynical comments), supported by celebs, the comedian and musician Bill Bailey (120,000 followers), and the good old NME - eventually reached over 980,000 fans on Facebook, has raised over £80,000 (so far) for charity, and sold over 50,000 more singles than its X Factor rival.

Oh and it also cost the bookies an estimated £1 million – they guessed wrong.


(*pun intended)

I should point out, declaring my interests, that I don’t watch X Factor and I did buy ‘Killing in the Name’. Damn fine single in my opinion.

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