April the Giraffe - Real Time Marketing Perfection

Dan Fatigato | @DanFatigato

After months of anticipation, April the Giraffe gave birth to her fourth calf in upstate New York as a live audience of millions fawned on the Internet. Originally due in February, it turns out mama was waiting for the month that bears her name for the big reveal.

It was a bit of much-needed happy news for the world this weekend, and also a genius example of real-time marketing by Toys ‘R’ Us, who sponsored the live stream.

The big-box toy store chain’s Geoffrey the Giraffe debuted in 1957, and is one of the most enduring brand mascots in the marketing zeitgeist. The company recognized and seized upon a creative marketing opportunity in a time when many major retailers are struggling to survive in a digital world. As news of April’s pregnancy began breaking the Internet, the live stream became some of the most coveted web real estate. Toys ‘R’ Us acquired sponsorship rights that allowed them to emblazon the company logo on the live video. Using the hashtag #GiraffeWatch, they also promoted the stream with videos across YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, to an astonishing effect.

Last week, just prior to the birth, the company’s PR team shared these metrics as a snapshot of the immense reach they were enjoying:

  • Over 10 million views on Facebook
  • Over 850,00 engagements on Facebook
  • Overall audience reach is up more than 2,500%
  • Over 1.6 million impressions on Twitter

Consumers gravitate toward novelty content that is authentic and urgent. The April story is all of the above. The birth of April’s calf was akin to a shooting star in the marketing world: Blink and you’ll miss it. Not only did Toys ‘R’ Us step up to the plate when opportunity knocked, it also flawlessly executed its marketing plan, using social media to ride the viral wave.  It also employed product placement to generate revenue with giraffe-themed toys available to buy on the live stream page.

But the final master stroke went above and beyond. Following the calf’s birth, as the young giraffe got acclimated to life outside the womb and millions of consumers swooned worldwide, the company switched the logo on the live stream to Babies ‘R’ Us, the company’s sister brand that caters to (human) babies.

This is real-time marketing done to perfection. Over 80 million views later, Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us are forever linked with this viral phenomenon. Take a bow, and enjoy the spoils of the long tail...er, neck!