The Art of Wild Speculation and Communicating Cryptically

The Art of Wild Speculation and Communicating Cryptically
Rapper Jay-Z used cryptic marketing to launch his latest record Magna Carta Holy Grail with Samsung.
A look at how brands can tap into treasure hunting and off-beat messaging to build organic cryptic viral marketing campaigns

In the spirit of April Fool’s day we thought we’d delve into the tricky anatomy of cryptic viral marketing – puzzles that tease a brand’s product often sending the consumer on a wild Easter egg hunt.

But what makes a cryptic campaign successful?

Here are three principals that make these sorts of viral marketing efforts tick.


Give people something to do

With any viral marketing the goal is to create organic conversation but cryptic viral marketing campaigns require a little more coordination to keep momentum.

Essentially, they need a seed and treasure hunt like infrastructure.

For example, earlier this year Microsoft ran a series of TV spots for its new gaming system Xbox. The ads included quick blips of frames that had a code that eventually founds its way to online forums where excited gamers decoded. Ultimately it led to a microsite with cryptic information and a call in line. After some digging, the cyber sleuths discovered it was part of a campaign for a much-anticipated game called Titanfall.

Tapping into treasure-hunting instincts of consumers will help conversations grow in an organic way.


Be Integrated

When Visa wanted to promote using its cards for small transactions, the brand decided to take a more abstract approach. They posted several cryptic billboards in major cities asking people what their #smallenfreuden was (a made up word for finding joy in little purchases).

The combination of real world billboards with a social media hashtag helped to broaden the reach of the campaign and draw consumers into the discussion online.

Jay-Z also served up an integrated experience when he partnered up with Samsung to release his record. The cryptic campaign started with a shaky cam “stolen footage” commercial aired during the NBA finals of the rapper chatting in poetic terms about an album. The end of the ad had a text saying: “The Next Big Thing is Here” with a link to Going online revealed the rapper was releasing a new record that would be given away for free to Samsung Customers via an app.


Don’t be afraid to lose control

While wild speculation ensues, brands may feel the pressure to engage and help steer the conversation in the right way. Although that may help the consumer reach the goal, a well-planned cryptic marketing campaign will always lead the consumer directly to the brand running it. Speculation only helps to spread the campaign further and raise its profile. Ultimately, the more perplexing and thought out the campaign is, the bigger the impact it will leave on consumers.


For more April Fools-esque insight on integrated marketing, check out our previous post on prankvertizing.