Elf Yourself is the greatest holiday digital execution of all time, a friend recently declared during an eggnog-infused debate. Actually, the word debate is an exaggeration because no one could really top his claim.
To date, half a billion people have “elfed” themselves. Take a moment to absorb that figure. Then make an imaginary calculation of the number of times people watched the videos created by OfficeMax and JibJab.com. It boggles the mind.
Elf Yourself may not have been the first campaign to let users upload a photo of themselves onto something sort of silly. However, since debuting in 2006, Office Max’s humble holiday effort has proven to be the standard.
So, what is the lesson for marketers? It is a great example of how a good idea can work for a commoditized industry. It brought the brand to life for consumers and for the business-to-business crowd it provided a human face for the big box retailer.
In this case, the idea is humor; apparently, holiday magic and a dash of narcissism are a potent formula and one that has survived plenty of imitators. Almost immediately after the introduction of Elf Yourself, consumers were invited to “Munk,” “Scrooge” or “Simpsonize”themselves, and the imitations have continued year in and year out.
With each, success has varied. Still, with OfficeMax, the army of elves continues to grow. The retailer has worked to leverage this campaign in various ways.
For starters, it has become a revenue source unto itself. OfficeMax and JibJab offer the downloads for $4.99, and they advertise a $9.99 DVD that is “great for playing at parties!” per officemax.com.
Then, of course, you can also purchase mugs, mouse pads, greeting cards, magnets, ornaments, blankets, puzzles, playing cards and posters. Both companies are doing quite a nifty branded premium business.
From a broader campaign perspective, the OfficeMax elves are trotted out each year in ads touting its top sales. This approach enables the retailer to “own” elves in a manner unlike anyone not named Will Ferrell.
There is even an Elf Yourself float that precludes the finale of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade replete with Mannheim Steamroller providing the soundtrack.
Yes, the debate didn’t last long because as the eggnog continued to flow, we took turns laughing at my friend’s Elf Yourself creation.
“I didn’t know you could dance like that,” I said and gave him credit for pointing out the obvious: that Elf Yourself had become a Christmas classic right up there with toy Hess trucks, Sundblom Santas and Lexus sedans wrapped in giant red bows.
by Kenneth Hein
Director of Marketing, North America
Cross posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network
Follow Ken on Twitter @KennethHein.