If you haven’t yet seen the Language Trainers Accent Game, it has won the “best viral marketing strategy of 2008″ (in my eyes). The idea behind this game is to listen to videos of individuals from all over the world speaking a sentence or reciting the lines of a poem, and you need to guess where the accent is from. You even get bonus points for guessing exactly where (regionally) the individual is from, which gives this game added appeal. Let me put it this way — it’s hard!
I was able to interview Dave, one of the brilliant minds behind the company and the game, and he has given some really great information about the viral marketing piece, including the costs and the execution. Sit back and enjoy, and then play the accent game to see how an excellently-crafted viral marketing campaign can really help get people talking about you and your products.
Tamar: What does your company do?
Dave: Basically we’re a language training company. We organise language courses worldwide for businesses, one-to-one students, and small groups. You contact us and tell us what language you want to learn and where you live or work, and we’ll find a qualified native teacher of that language and arrange a customised course for you to take place at your home or workplace. The whole thing is centred on personal tuition and the student’s convenience.
Tamar: What inspired you to do the accent game?
Dave: Well, we can’t actually take all the credit for the game. We hired a Brighton SEO company to come up with some ideas for something to put on our site that would not only be fun, but also show that we at Language Trainers have a genuine interest and passion for languages. They pitched us the accent game idea and we loved it.
Tamar: How long did it take from the first initial brainstorm to come up with the game?
Dave: From the initial meeting to completion of the Flash game, I think it took Upstream about a month to make. The exciting thing is that all we need to do is get more footage of more accents (we encourage people to send in their own videos on the site) and we’ll be able to make as many of these games as we want.
Tamar: How long did the actual execution of the game (filming, traveling, etc) take?
Dave: Both ourselves and Upstream Connections are lucky enough to be based in Brighton and Hove, in the UK. Not only is it one of the more pleasant places to live in the country (in my opinion anyway!), but we’ve always got so many people from countless different cultures and backgrounds, making it the ideal place to get the footage for something like this. We didn’t have to travel far to find all these different accents!
Overall we could have had a much wider scope of accents but seeing as we wanted this to be the first of many, we figured we’d keep it quite basic at first. The filming took place on three separate days, during one week of good weather!
Tamar: How did you find the people to participate in the game? Were they hesitant? Did you offer them any compensation or did they just participate for the fun of it?
Dave: Well, we waited for a sunny day and sent two people out onto the streets of Brighton with a camera. Most people were obviously hesitant at somebody walking up to them and asking if they had an interesting accent, but it was all done in a very friendly way. We didn’t offer any compensation — well, we filmed a couple of guys outside a pub and bought them a pint afterwards — we only took their details so we could tell them about the game when it was complete. A few people involved were friends of people in the office, and those were filmed in their own homes.
Tamar: I noticed that you asked a few people in Central Park in Manhattan. Where else did you go to film these users that were interviewed?
Dave: Well, I’m pretty impressed that some of my hometown’s parks look enough like Central Park to be confused with it! Everything was filmed in Brighton.
Tamar: Did you have a camera crew?
Dave: We had one cameraman and one other person armed with a clipboard, canvassing pretty much everybody who walked past. About 1 in 20 people stopped, and 1 in 5 of them were up for reading 2 lines of a poem for us. Never underestimate the power of a clipboard!
Tamar: Did you scrap any footage?
Dave: Of course. We originally had enough people to have them do a single line of the poem each instead of 2, but we thought 2 lines would give a much better opportunity to spot the accent. However, we’re keen to get as many accents together as we can for future games and projects, so if anybody wants to be involved in the future, please send in your videos!
Tamar: How much (approximately) did the whole project cost?
Dave: Well, it’s hard to say! We didn’t pay people to speak their bit, and Upstream Connections dealt with the rest of the job. The price for the project was somewhere in the region of $12,000, and we’re happy that the groundwork has now been laid to make future accent games very cheaply.
Tamar: The game has been live for about a week so far. What are the initial reactions (besides mine, which is “this is totally awesome!!!”)?
Dave: So far we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from both the people to whom we’ve distributed the link, as well as the social media crowd. We’ve also discovered that people are finding it very difficult — we deal with so many different languages every day that we actually thought it was going to be too easy — certain accents at least! The ones that most people are getting wrong are the Hungarian and Lithuanian accents, which I guess isn’t particularly surprising.
We’re really glad you enjoyed it, and we’re really happy with the response we’ve got. We’ve got a Spanish version coming, and eventually we are hoping to extend this to a bigger scale — The Accent Project. Once we’ve collated enough material we want to start creating a global database of national and regional accents and keep adding to it over time — it’s something of an ambitious plan but one that we hope to achieve over time.
The success of Language Trainers and this viral marketing strategy — which is still new enough that most of you probably haven’t even heard of it — indicates that you really can succeed with social media if you have the right tactics in mind and think about the community above your own needs. Of course, the important thing is to consider relevance and ensure that your game or viral strategy somewhat relates to your product or service.
Some of the greatest pieces of viral marketing are those that engage the user but also turn regular people into internet superstars. The internet society has evolved in the past few years; now everything is now all about you, and embracing the talent of the “amateur” (in Andrew Keen speak) is a way for companies to acknowledge and empower everyday people but also to implicitly compel them to share this material. It spreads like wildfire.
And that’s the power of the viral marketing.
(By the way, I only scored a 17 on the game!)