Conan O’Brien Did It and So Can You!

How Conan O’Brien Used Social Media and Location Marketing to Defy the Odds

posted by: Amanda

So here’s what happened:
In 2004, when O’Brien and NBC negotiated his contract with the network, it was agreed that he would take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno in 2009.  However, executives later met with Leno and O’Brien and proposed moving the show’s time slot to a later time to accommodate Leno’s new show.  O’Brien disagreed with the decision and people began sharing their support for Team Coco (@conanobrien) on Twitter.  He later announced in April 2010 that he would leave NBC.  His plan was to move to TBS and host a brand new show.

Here’s the challenge:
TBS is a much smaller network and mainstream networks such as NBC stilled owned the late-night audience.  O’Brien needed an innovative marketing solution.

And this is what they did:
To generate buzz, the Conan Blimp was born.  It was advertised with YouTube commercials and high-res images on Flickr.  The blimp had its own website which included a live map and livecam.  Users could track its location and use the hashtag #TheConanBlimp on Twitter.  The meat of the strategy was with the use of Foursquare.  During the blimp tour in October 2010, users could check in when they saw it flying overhead which then earned them a Conan Blimpspotter badge, to be displayed on their profile.  Upon check-in, this message would be received:

These were the results:
– The Blimp received more than 21 thousand check-ins and more than 100 comments on Foursquare during the promotion.
– The Conan Blimp received considerable media attention
– Finalist for Location of the Year in the Shorty Awards
– Team Coco reached over 51 thousand followers on Foursquare at the end of the promotion

In this post by Persephone Kazl, I’m with Coco: Is Conan O’Brien the New King of Social Media?, the situation is covered in a little more detail than in our textbook.  Due to legality, the new show could start for eight months.  During the time between his last NBC show in Jan. and the start of the new show in Sept., O’Brien was forced to re-evaulate his whole career.  In Kazl’s post, he is quoted comparing is contractual obligations to “a prisoner in a 14th Century cell writing little things on a piece of paper and throwing them out the window”.  She goes on to say that fortunately, for Conan, those little pieces of paper were actually tweets and they weren’t just going out the window. They were being read by his more than 1.8 million followers.



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