You can be anyone you want to be [with the Internet]

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Yes, folks, you can harness the power of the internet to become whomever you want to be!  No, I’m not talking about going to school online, or online dating.  Aim higher!  Become a superhero!

Based off last year’s successful viral campaign, Elf Yourself by OfficeMax, several new websites have launched aimed at allowing you to create characters based on your appearance.  Yearbook Yourself lets you put your face onto yearbook pictures from the 1950s to today (wow, I sounded like a slimy radio DJ just then).  Here’s my “yearbook” picture from 1968.

This month, Kodak Gallery launched Make Me Super.  Make Me Super, like Yearbook Yourself, takes your headshot and puts it onto a super hero’s body.  It produces a funny video of you showing off your super powers.  One of the great things about Make Me Super is that Kodak found a way to also try and make money off of their viral campaign.  You can order products with a picture of your super self – a mug, a mousepad, or a deck of cards. 

Today, I found two new websites that allow you to pose with your favorite presidential candidate.  Upload your photo to be in several different pictures with McCain or Obama.  Here’s my pic of me with fellow super hero, McCain, for example.

There are also several websites which allow you to create a Japanese-inspired cartoon characacher of yourself.  These manga or avatar sites let you choose your skin tone, eye color, hair color and style and clothes.  I made mine at a site called faceyourmanga.com.  For a while I didn’t think that you could be on Twitter without having a manga.

So, what do all of these mean to marketers?  Well, everyone is out to create viral marketing.  Viral marketing, as explained by wikipedia, is the “marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message voluntarily.”  Like the video of the skateboarding dog – come on, you know you forwarded that to 10 of your friends.  The interesting thing about viral is that it can’t be produced – it has to happen spontaneously. 

You may still be asking why people are so interested in viral marketing.  Bottom line, it translates to money (cue the “cha-ching” sound).  Let’s go back to Elf Yourself – which by the way, Office Max is relaunching this year.  Elf Yourself contributed to a 20% increase in holiday traffic to OfficeMax’s website.  According to AdAge, the website received over 36 million hits in 5 weeks.  Over 123 million elves were created, and users spent a combined average of 2,600 years on the site.

As Elizabeth McDowell, Publicist for EVB San Francisco, the co-creator of “Elf Yourself” says, “The success is in part due to three fundamental characteristics: 1) Keep it Simple; 2) Make it Personal; and 3) Give People a Reason to Pass It On!”

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