Flash Mobs - Effective or Outdated?

Whether it’s the feeling you get when you want to be part of something truly exciting or whether you just want to witness something utterly brilliant, 'Flash Mob Marketing' speaks to our inner performer and is often held up as the pinnacle of modern interactive marketing.

Flash Mob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.

The brainchild of Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harper’s Magazine, these Guerrilla style ads became more prominent on the marketing scene after their inception in 2003, with the likes of T-Mobile and Nokia getting involved. An unconventional system of promotion with the aim of creating awareness and generate buzz, an effective flash mob relies on time, energy and imagination rather than a big marketing budget, as Wasik explains below:

We thought we'd take a look back at some of the most effective campaigns and discuss the future of flash mob's.

Flash Mob’s as Charity Awareness - Free Hugs Campaign

This campaign from ‘Juan Mann’ aimed to raise awareness of ‘One Love’ and challenged discrimination against people living with AIDS. It's both simple and genius and features a long-haired man walking through the streets with a sign that reads ”Free Hugs”. The backing music from ‘Sick Puppies’ mixes brilliantly with the message that the campaign tries to portray of human acceptance and hope. Juan describes the events that unfold as “the true spirit of humanity coming together in what can only be described as awe inspiring”. The video strap line explains “AIDS is not transmitted this way…But love is…Together lets fight against discrimination”

Flash Mob’s in Marketing - T-Mobile

T-Mobile generated a series of adverts which used ‘live’, everyday settings and turned them into huge makeshift stages. The adverts involved a spot of dancing, some singing, and generally lots of smiles. The tag line "Life Is For Sharing" perfectly sums up the adverts intended emotional response.

The following advert starts with a usually monotonous train time table announcement system at Liverpool Street Station which is cut short by Lulu's unmistakable 1965 track "Shout". The station proceeds to erupt into a living representation of artistic expression. The advert ends with more than 350 dancers involved and was created by advertising heavyweights Saatchi & Saatchi. The video attracted lots of attention on YouTube - where to date it has clocked up over 36 million views. 

Flash Mob’s In Films – Friends With Benefits

Flash Mobs have also gained recognition in films such as ‘Friends With Benefits’ starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. The film has Timberlake playing an aspiring marketer who Kunis persuades to stay in New York through the use of a flash mob. Timberlake later goes on to use the flash mob to market his product.

But should companies continue to use Flash Mobs to promote their brand or are they outdated and overused?  Brand experts sound a word of caution against using flash mobs frequently as they tend to become predictable.

Although Flash Mob’s may run the risk of becoming worn-out and unsurprising they still generate huge viral success and are spread widely and freely across social platforms - producing messages of love and peace albeit under a heavy cloak of corporate advertising. Therefore I'd personally like to see more of this marketing technique in future please.

What do you think? Are Flash Mob's an outdated strategy or still a viable marketing technique?

This is a guest post from marketer David Grenfell. You can check out David's blog here!

Paul Shepherd

I've worked in digital communications for around 15 years, and specialised in social media for the past three. Passionate about new technologies, media, and the impact it has on businesses bottom line, I try to bring that passion to every campaign for every brand we work with.