Aug 10

Monty Python & the Meaning of WOM

Monty Python & the Meaning of WOM

And now for something completely different – a post about how a long-running British comedy troupe used online video in an obvious attempt at viral marketing, building word of mouth and driving recommendations – and purchases – of product.

Although they have had an online presence for years via Pythonline, the members of Monty Python (like many other “cult” television shows and movies)  have seen their content uploaded to YouTube. Fans could watch their favorite sketches; however, the members of Python would not receive a cent in royalties. In 1998, that all changed when Monty Python teamed up with YouTube to create  its own online video channel, containing clips from its television show and movies as well as previously unreleased content exclusive to the channel. 

Rather than fight for copyright, Monty Python leveraged YouTube as a way of “sampling” their works, and then, encouraging users to buy them in an “it’s-only-fair” model. Hidden within a video-based viral marketing strategy was a simple truth – provide something of value to online users and not only will those potential customers drive word of mouth, but more importantly, they will purchase your product. 

Granted, Monty Python’s approach was not unique – Radiohead had pioneered a pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth model with its 2007 album ‘In Rainbows,’ and Chris Anderson’s recent Wired article (and new book) discusses free as a new business model – Python cleverly engaged YouTube users in a way that illustrated effective word of mouth. As a result, online sales of Python videos increased dramatically.

Although this could have easily been a quick-and-dirty example of online buzz marketing, Monty Python and YouTube employed an incredibily smart social media strategy that built an even more solid social media presence for the brand. 

Another key strategy which drove online word of mouth was to integrate other social media platforms as well as search engine optimization. With an official presence on Twitter (two if you include founding member John Cleese’s personal account page), Python has done more than driven the sales of its videos – the group is demonstrating how such social media tools can play to building brand affinity. By tagging their “official” videos, Python has also helped drive search results. Just do a Google search of “Monty Python Argument Clinic” and you’ll see an excellent example.

With an increasing audience for online video, YouTube is becoming a critical channel for engaging people. By creating a smart, purposeful social media strategy, Monty Python has not only grown its online presence, but is continuing to drive sustainable word-of-mouth, leading to greater brand performance and greater profits.