Is Viral Marketing for Everyone? An Interview with Language Trainers, Creators of the Accent Game

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!

Language Trainers Accent Game Splash Page

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!

Language Trainers Accent Game

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: Oops.

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!

Language Trainers Accent Game

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.

Conclusion
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!)

28 Comments

  • Darrell Long says:

    Hey Tamar, i think you hit on some really good points with this post, this piece of viral content is great due to the fact that the creators took the time to understand how to engage their user and the fact that you really have to develop for how your users would view it, not as you “The business owner / creative” would.

    Would of loved it if they would have spoken on some of the details of their marketing strategy hehe,

    Great Post!

  • dotlizard says:

    viral marketing is such a fantastic opportunity, but it is available only to the very creative, or those with the money to hire the very creative, or of course, the very lucky.

    my favorite to this day is “will it blend”. they doubled their sales with very little investment, and that’s kind of what it’s all about, isn’t it?

    this particular campaign does seem to have succeeded wildly, the idea of giving ordinary people their 15 minutes of interweb fame is genius. Brighton SEO is obviously very good at what they do.

  • opergal says:

    the cool factor is definitely an important part of this – at my day job, we have been doing viral marketing for 5 years, with hit or miss results…I wish there was a “formula” that worked a little more solidly.
    :)

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  • Sarah Gooding says:

    IMO it takes a lot of imagination and creativity to come up with something so unique like this game. I see many companies producing games that add nothing new or offer small variations to existing ones.

    The other thing that caught my attention was that they want to take the game further and produce a database of accents. That’s a great idea that could even appeal to Linguistics and Universities. All in all an excellent thought viral – thanks for sharing with us !!

  • Cynic says:

    The idea is nice enough, but it’s poorly executed- why choose such a difficult text, and edit it so sketchily? I’m not sure where the $12,000 went…

  • The text isn’t that difficult, and the editing was pretty impressive. At least I thought so. I know I’m not alone.

  • Cynic says:

    I just think a more well-known text would be more accessible. For something with audio as it’s main feature, recording on a noisy street isn’t ideal. I know going out and shooting guerrilla-style has it’s charm, but if you’re going to spend a wad of money on it… That’s just my opinion, if I’m alone in it, that’s ok with me.

  • I think that you’d be able to tell an accent whether it’s spoken from more known text or not. As Dave mentioned in his article, he didn’t even think the test was hard since he’s working so frequently with people with different accents. I obviously had a much harder time. :)

    I’m sure he’s reading the comments though and that’s something they’ll consider for future iterations of the application. Regardless, I think this was a pretty smart marketing idea and was very well executed. I loved playing.

  • Jordan says:

    That is a great interview. It is amazing the power what a single viral video can do.

  • charles says:

    Wait? Why are the choices are close countries? Britain and Germany and Austria was the choices. It was so hard for me. The second problem was easy from the U.S.A. Americans are easy to guess. But wait? What city? Are americans having different accent depending on the city? Well she’s from miami and i got lucky..

    Anyway, guys you gotta try this game..

    Thank you
    Charles
    Money Making and Blogging Tips
    http://www.resourcesandmoney.blogspot.com

  • Alex says:

    @ Cynic:

    A more well known text than Rudyard Kipling’s “If”?!?

  • “Wait? Why are the choices are close countries?”

    Probably because accent still varies in the close countries regardless of proximity. Still, it makes it harder. I did score a 17, after all! :)

    And yes, Charles, Americans have different accents based on locality. To be honest, I got the Miami one wrong AND I grew up there! That’s what I get for living in the melting pot that is New York!

    “A more well known text than Rudyard Kiplings If?!?”

    I guess s/he was looking for rhymes like “Mary had a Little Lamb…” ;)

  • Brilliant. Language trainers did a fantastic job coming up with a creative idea that was relevant for their market.

    We just launched a recent experiment ourselves to see if we can draw out creative people create to articles and videos that go viral. We’re putting up $50,000 USD ($5,000 for each winner) in prize money.

    Details here: http://viral.hubspot.com

  • Cynic says:

    Tamara,
    Very funny, sorry next time I won’t bother replying unless I’m going to say how awesome everything is.

    and Alex, yes I can think of more well-known texts?!?!? Especially for people who went to school outside the UK and it’s colonies. What’s wrong with something simple, instead of words that non-native speakers don’t know how to pronounce in the first place? (!?!?)

  • Cynic, I’m not sure why you took offense to my comment. Personally, I thought it was a great game. You are entitled to have your own opinion and I don’t think I attacked it. But I’m not sure what more “common text” you could possibly want.

  • Hi all…

    Anyone want to guess where my accent is from?

    Check out this short video comment to see:

    http://www.bubblecomment.com/id/c7h8

    – Kevin

  • Dave says:

    Kevin – send in your video using the form on the Language Trainers Group site and you can be featured in the next version of the game :)

    You sound like a mishmash of Canadian and American to me, but I’m sure you have something much more interesting in store for us. I’m better at spotting European accents :D

  • Random question of the day – noticed your purple guy is exactly the same as Yoono’s – are you connected with the company or is it coincidence? :)

  • ha, I was waiting for someone to notice that. It must be a coincidence (I didn’t know of Yoono until recently; I’m even meeting the Yoono people tomorrow at Social Media Camp) — but their guy has wider arms :D

  • opergal says:

    rushing off to look up what the heck yoono is…

  • jia en teo says:

    Hi Tamar,
    You must have been at Summer Mashable last night – i just stumbled upon your stumbleupon profile. Nice to meet you!

    My startup, Roomorama.com (a tool for hosts and guests to manage their short-term rentals) just released a beta version three weeks ago and we’re exploring a few viral marketing methods – perhaps you can give us some feedback and pointers!

    See you on stumbleupon!

  • Erika says:

    Great post Tamar! really cool game.

Comments are closed.