‘Rage against the X-Factor’: it was real; it happened in real time, and it had a real impact!
CASE Insights reviews the music campaign launched by Jon and Tracey Morter from Essex who showed Simon Cowell that they, their friends and their friends-friends certainly have much more than the X-Factor.
The X-Factor is a franchise originating in the UK in 2004, devised as a replacement of Pop Idol. Produced by executive producer Simon Cowell and his company Syco TV, X-Factor is franchise spanning 24 European countries.
The format sees aspiring pop artists and performers drawn from public auditions compete, with finalists being voted for by the viewing public for a recording contract and publicity. Despite, being highly criticised as exploiting aspiring music artists and for it’s lack of artistic integrity, it has been a hugely popular reality TV show watched by millions.
The UK Christmas Number 1 selling single is Britain’s most hotly-contested music chart of the year. Compiled by the Official UK Charts Company, for the past 4 years Simon Cowell‘s X-Factor winners, from Shayne Warne, Leonia Lewis, Alexandra Burke and JLS, have dominated the Christmas charts. However, this came to an end in 2009 with one of the most exciting and anticipated music chart battles ever in the UK. The British public sick of the manufactured artists widely supported and promoted a social web campaign to ‘Rage against the X-Factor’.
Fed up with the possibility of yet another X-Factor Christmas No. 1., Jon and Tracey Morter from Essex, started a protest campaign through a Facebook Group. They promoted the sale of their favourite single ‘Killing in the Name’ by artists Rage Against the Machine (RATM) as a possible contender for the 2009 No. 1 Christmas chart position.
‘Rage against the X-Factor’: Through over 1 million Facebook fans, over 50,000 YouTube search results and endless Twitter chatter, individuals encouraged their friends, followers and fans to buy a download of the single by rock band, RATM by the end of Saturday 19th December (23:59pm).
The aim: to firmly contest conventional marketing techniques by publicly bringing down a major players mass media campaign through online social networks and word of mouth (WOM). Jon and Tracey felt passionately and wanted to stop the domination of the Christmas music charts by X-Factor manufactured artists and in that make a statement about the power of online WOM and marketing ethics.
The results: ‘Killing in the Name’, the single by RATM, officially released over 15 years ago, spent very little on it’s marketing activities, yet in December 2009, in one week, they sold over 502,672 copies of it’s single, beating X-Factor winner Joe McElderry by approximately 50,000, making it the 2009 Christmas No.1 in the UK.
In taking the title for 2009, ‘Killing in the Name’ also set two new landmarks for the music industry. It became the UK’s first download-only Christmas number one and notching up the biggest one-week download sales total in British chart history.
This has been matched with numerous fake websites, dozen of mock twitter accounts, hundreds of new blog posts, and thousands of YouTube entries for the single – Killing in the Name. The No. 1 search result on YouTube has received over 12 million views and been rated by 40,000 visitors. HMV’s Gennaro Castaldo said “This is a truly remarkable outcome and possibly the greatest chart upset ever”.
In response: RATM announced on 19th December 2009, that they will be holding a FREE concert, a massive ‘Thank You Gig’ in the UK in Spring 2010 to celebrate the victory of the people’s campaign.
Marketers (and Simon Cowell) can learn a great deal from this social web campaign and how reality TV shows, audience voting systems and mass media ratings are not necessarily reflective of wider societal opinion and consumer choice.
WOM has always been a very important channel in marketing, but now coupled with increased reach and awareness because of digital social channels, it is by far the most powerful channel in marketing today.
For the digital immigrant or newcomer and the marketing traditionalist, take note: “The RATM campaign shows that marketing through the social web is about being real, in real time and having a real impact!”