Dinosaurs, Free T-shirts, and the Law of Unintended Results




Read Time: 6 minutes
We are always trying to bring life and energy to what are too often stodgy or boring business events. We do a lot of educational, informational, and training events for our customers and prospects, and each event creates an opportunity to do something fun and memorable.

Nothing says fun like a free t-shirt, right?

In the fall of 2014, we hosted a KeyMark Government Summit in Columbia, SC. There was an urban legend floating around KeyMark for years that someone intended to create a “Redactosaurus” t-shirt in an effort to be relevant and somewhat nerdy with anyone that understands the functional specifications for redaction – specifically in the government space. Legend has it a sketch was even conceived and seen floating around inboxes for years. definition-of-redact   So we dug through the archives, send out some emails, and could not find a sketch.  However, someone found this earlier rendition that seemed more like a prototype than a sketch. After further review, we concluded this was t-shirt worthy. And the urban myth should carry on. Redactosaurus -idea

Government Summit 2014 seemed like the perfect place to bring the Redactosaurus to life.

We created the shirt and realized that it was better delivered in context.  This is where redactosaurus.com was born. But instead of explaining the Redactosaurus, we thought it would be fun to let others tell us their stories of the legendary creature suffering from xylophagia and in exchange, they would earn the free, limited-edition, collectors edition t-shirt. Redactosaurus Tee Shirt

Fast Forward 3 Months to December 21, 2015.

Friends and customers tell stories. T-shirts are a big hit. Time goes by and the Redactosaurus goes extinct – or at least forgotten about within the walls of KeyMark. Then, over my usual morning routine of starting my caffeine fix and browsing through leads and web data, I see more than 350 requests for t-shirts from Redactosaurus.com. First thought? WordPress has been spammed again, arghhh! Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 2.51.09 PM To my surprise, these were anything but form spam.  Most were people that liked dinosaurs, enjoyed telling stories, and most importantly, love getting free stuff. Although most people missed the point and the intended humor in our government nerdiness, we really did receive some great stories and greatly appreciate the time that everyone put in. Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 9.10.21 AMScreen Shot 2016-02-04 at 9.11.02 AMScreen Shot 2016-02-04 at 9.12.10 AM

Channeling my inner archeologist.

After a few minutes of reading through the submissions, often in amazement at the efforts and creativity that people put into their stories, it dawned on me that I still had no idea what revived Redactoaurus.com. Where did these people come from? How did they find us? Is the influx over or have we just seen the beginning of this? So I began to dig. I hopped out of my inbox and into my Wufoo Analytics to see what I could find out. Holy Cow!  I guess this is what “going viral” actually means. They were from all over the world – The Unites States, Italy, Russian, The UK. But for a marketing nerd like myself, that really wasn’t as impressive as the 43% conversion rate 🙂 Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 5.17.27 PM

Parenting Rule #14: Don’t dig if you are afraid of what you might find.

The traffic was pretty impressive but I still had no context to where these t-shirt-wearing paleontologists originated. In my mind I’m thinking, “Our t-shirts were so cool everyone had to have them“or  “we’ve been punked!“. As I dug through Analytics, waiting on Ashton to jump out at any minute, what I found made me gasp. Like, really? This didn’t actually happen. Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 12.09.05 PM

The power of “free stuff”.

Social media has been all of the rage for almost a decade now, and many are still captivated by its draw. How do we get more likes?  How do we get more follows?  How do we get more leads? Many years ago a good friend and business advisor told me, “Volume is vanity. Profit is sanity.” This thought often comes back to me when talking about lead generation, social stats, or really any business metrics that we bounce around these days.  Although my Redactosaurus t-shirt got some attention, was it for the right reasons? Was it the right kind of attention? Did it drive any leads? Can I actually tie some ROI to my marketing efforts? Enter the axis of amplification and relevance. Evidently, we had created a very relevant message to a very irrelevant audience for ECM software.  A group of people that loved dinosaurs. Even more, a group of people that loved free stuff. And loved telling others where to get it. As you can see below, our social sentiment expresses how we missed the mark. amplificationandrelevance

The power of constraints and the Law of Unintended Results.

In 2006, when @jack and his podcasting friends at ODEO were scribbling on the back of a napkin somewhere, they thought it would be cool to have an SMS service that allowed friends to easily communicate. Nothing fancy or flashy. Just a cool way to broadcast short snippets to your friends within the confines of the current SMS limitations – 140 characters. And even cooler, a way to broadcast these snippets on the web, in public forums, or across big screens at SXSW. They had no idea what was next.

All we wanted was a t-shirt. All they wanted was free t-shirt.

So it all started with this tweet. Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 12.59.49 PM And then these retweets… Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 5.19.17 PM That took you here… Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 5.16.32 PM And told you this… Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 9.57.44 AM

Sometimes fact is better than fiction.

There is an old PR adage that “Any publicity is good publicity.” We weren’t seeking publicity. We set out to have fun. Tell the story of the Redactosaurus. Give away a few dozen t-shirts. And hopefully make a few people smile. Mission accomplished. Sold out.

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Markey, the KeyMark astronaut mascot gesturing the letter "K" in ASL


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