How to use 'spy' photos for viral marketing

Dailies -


Triumph-Adventure-MCN.jpgNeed to create buzz around an important new product prior to its
release? Why not provide the media with “spy” photos that you’ve had
taken along with carefully scripted information. Do so at regular
intervals and you’ll have magazines, forums, hell, everyone frothing at
the mouth for more, more, more. Everyone’s doing it, but here’s
detailed plan. >

The email below was sent out by Triumph the day before media outlets like MCN and ran “exclusive” spy photos of the Triumph Adventure and the rest of us grabbed the video off the minisite.

Triumph’s not the only company to do this, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 was unveiled in this manner and Kawasaki’s running a similar, if bizzarely transparant effort for the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R. Think Motociclismo just happened to turn up at the same trackday as the Aprilia Tuono V4?

There’s three problems with this approach:

1. Over promising and under delivering. Remember “Star Wars Episode 1?” Promise a brave new world, but deliver Jar Jar Binks and all the hype will backfire.

2. Audience saturation. How many new bikes can be “leaked” in this manner before the public tunes out? Surely, there’s got to be a maximum saturation level for black tape and fuzzy photos. Unless you’re already running a spy photo campaign, you risk hopping on the bandwagon after the public has stopped responding.

3. Creating demand before there’s a product to fulfill it. Reveal a product too soon and you’re effectively shortening the time period in which it will feel shiny and new. Witness the new Chevy Camaro. First shown in concept form last decade, by the time it actually went on sale it already felt like an old product. What’s it going to feel like in five years?

Anyways, here’s how Triumph is managing its campaign:

Dealer Launch Briefing – Triumph’s New Adventure Products

July 2010

A number of “spy photographs” has leaked and the following statement to
key international media ahead of the switch on of a new Adventure micro

“These exclusive spy pictures show Triumph’s new adventure bikes being
filmed last week for an upcoming website promo. The shots, scooped inside
a secure testing facility, show two distinctively different models being
filmed: the orange bike being ridden up and down and off road trail while
the black bike stayed on the handling and high speed courses.
A Triumph spokesperson refused to say any more than: ‘We can confirm that
Triumph will be entering the adventure bike sector soon with two all-new
models. We are currently entering the final development stages of the new
bikes and everyone involved in the projects is very excited about how
things are going.’
We understand from an insider that Triumph is set to launch a new website
imminently for the new bikes. He confirmed that Triumph has registered the
domain name and that the site was due to go live
‘very, very soon.’ “

The Opportunity

•     The Adventure segment represents a significant new business
opportunity for your dealership and for Triumph. In most markets this
segment is growing and attracting bike buyers from other segments. It is
also a sector with high “add on” sales of clothing and accessories.

•     The segment is dominated by the BMW GS series and models from Honda
and others – we need to directly conquest these customers to Triumph
starting with our two new 2011 Adventure models which complement the
existing more ‘touring biased’ Tiger 1050.

•     BMW have dominated the segment for many years and are now synonymous
with “adventure” so we have to earn this business with great products,
marketing and an outstanding  dealer sales and after care process.

•     This initial briefing gives you an understanding of what Triumph
will be doing and what you need to do at dealer level.

What will the new Triumph’s deliver?

There are two all new Triumph adventure bikes coming soon – they score on
all counts: especially on specification, durability/reliability; on and
off road performance, handling and comfort and will come with a full range
of accessories and clothing too.

Launch Campaign

•     Triumph’s two new adventure bikes are under embargo until November
2nd 2010.

•     Specific detailed product information will be released on the site
(and with further ‘scoops’ to the press) against a tightly managed
schedule in this period – for example the model names, engine sizes etc.

•     This micro site will run through to November 2nd with monthly
content updates, gradually releasing more information on the two new bikes
and related products.

•     All interested prospects should be encouraged to sign up on the new
micro site.

•     Prospects who “sign up” will be automatically sent updates each
month until November in their preferred languages*.

•     The micro site itself will be given fresh video and content during
the first week of each month through to November 2nd.

•     In the first week of November all signed up prospects will be
transferred to the main site where they will be progressed to e-brochure
download, can seek out their local dealer for a test ride** and will be
prompted to visit their local or preferred dealer.

Check out the first Adventure video – available from your Subsidiary or on
line at very soon.

Good luck!

Triumph Marketing Team

  • Sasha Pave

    Triumph has jumped the shark on this one. Just call it what it is, a Press Release.

  • Mark Morison

    I don’t know Wes, it sures works for Apple and no-ones tired of it yet. Oh look, a fuzzy photo of a case that could be for a new product!

    • J.

      True – Apple does it. Maybe the next step for Triumph is to ‘accidentally’ leave one of these new bikes behind on a bar stool somewhere… Hope I find it!

  • HammSammich

    I know bike manufacturers and their dealerships are businesses out to make a buck, and I don’t begrudge them that, but I absolutely despise the fakery of modern marketing departments, and the cynicism with which they perpetrate it. I understand that they need to “create a buzz” about their bikes if they want to compete, but when they have to rely on this kind of marketing douchebaggery, it only suggests to me that the company isn’t confident that the product itself is good enough to create enthusiasm.

    Regardless, we all know that Triumph is capable of building fun, innovative bikes, and I am hopeful that they can deliver some performance proof in this marketing pudding.

    • robotribe

      It’s done because it works. Regardless of whether the product is shit or motorcycling gold, said company gets the buzz, which in today’s crowded market, means more than ever. I’m sure they have every bit of confidence in their product.

      As a Triumph owner, I can only jump on the “praise” bandwagon for their products. Even so, faux spy photos not only create buzz, but also give valuable (and inexpensive) lead time to the rest of the campaign. That, and possibly motivates current shoppers looking at a competitor’s product to defer their purchasing decision till this “latest and greatest” finally shows up on showroom floors.

      As already mentioned, everyone’s doing it; outside of the latest iPhone getting “lost” in a bar, this is as universal a tactic as any other ad buy.

      Still, props to HFL for “outing” the marketing folks at Triumph (et al). HAH HA!

      • HammSammich

        I’m a Triumph owner too, and I really like my bike. Indeed, I frequently recommend Triumph to bike-shopping friends and acquaintences. I also understand that these kinds of marketing tactics work as intended to create a buzz and allow them to compete, but it doesn’t make it any more palatable. At least in the US, Triumph is little more than a niche manufacturer, and while I appreciate their focus on growing rapidly, they’re in a great position right now to lay some ground work for serious credibility in the future. Rather than just focusing on trying to sell bikes over the next year while damaging their credibility, they could focus their strategy on letting their bikes sell themselves. For example, they’ve got the only triples on the market right now (I think), and they are fantastic engines that offer advantages over the twins and fours available from competitors. That should be a major focus of their advertising.

        Ultimately, I guess what bothers me is the inherent dishonesty of these kinds of marketing tactics. If they want to create a buzz about a new bike, just release teaser shots, but don’t try to pass them off as “spy photos.” It makes them come across as sleazy and desperate.

  • Richard Gozinya

    I’ve seen some teaser marketing that was really good, but the spy shot thing gets old, fast. it reeks of astroturf lameness, much like the Zune fansites that were all over the internet, before the Zune was released, or quite a few faux grassroots political operations.

    I think it works best when they show very very little, just tease us. The picture that was on the homepage for Motus comes to mind. You got an idea of what it was, but not too much. Now they’ve got more details, but the bike is coming out next year, or supposed to.

  • Ian

    A fourth problem can be that it damages sales in the meantime. If ‘spy pics’ of a new Yamaha R1 came out tomorrow, for example, those who were contemplating buying one soon might decide to hang on and wait for the ‘new model’.

    • Grive

      I’m sure it’s not much of a problem for them in this case.

      They’re pretty much breaking into a new segment (AFAIK, Triumph has nothing comparable to this). So, any potential buyers they make hesitate are one more R1200GS sale that they’ve put off, hopefully (to triumph) for long enough so they can see this bike.

      Sure, Triumph has the Tiger, but I don’t think they’ll overlap too much.

      So, yeah. It does make some people hold on to their idea of purchasing a comparable bike – but in this case, “comparable bike” means “competitor’s bike”, so it’s all good for Triumph.

  • keith

    Its even worse with cars – with sites posting cars in what seems like 3-5 stages of camo, each more revealing than the last. Not to name names, cough*autoblog*cough*BMW*cough

  • Doug D.

    Now that this genre of marketing is mainstream, what will happen when certain media outlets actually do obtain and publish bona fide spy shots? Will the OE sit idly by or will it embrace the coverage? Is the audience really savvy enough to ell the difference? Will the audience even care?

  • Anders

    As said before, almost manufacturer is strategically leaking info, be it motorcycles, cars or electronics. They’d rather want you to wait a few months and spend a premium on a new model, rather than buying a discounted ‘old’ model.
    What I sometimes miss, is a critical press that see through some of the bull thats presented to them. “Exclusive drives” or “exclusive first look” really has little meaning these days.

  • Urban Rider

    There are lazy people in all walks of life. This is what happens when lazy marketing meets lazy journalism.

  • John

    Okay, typical, BUT there is one useful item in there.

    There are two bikes IN ADDITION TO the Tiger. That’s good.

    There was a theory that one of the bikes was the new Tiger, but this makes it more likely that one is an 800 mini-Tiger and the other a GS competitor.

    Of course, unless this thing is super light and has a reasonable seat height, it won’t fly for me anyway, while a 650GS twin will.

  • http://n/a BikerDad

    For example, they’ve got the only triples on the market right now (I think), and they are fantastic engines that offer advantages over the twins and fours available from competitors. That should be a major focus of their advertising.

    You may be a Triumph owner, but you clearly aren’t a Triumph fan. Triumph has been selling twins since either 2000 or 2001. They now have two different parallel twin motors, the 865cc in the Bonneville (originally 790cc but punched out to 865), and the 1600cc in the Thunderbird released a year ago.

    I have no problem with this sort of marketing, except for the risk it bears in cutting the promoting company’s own sales, like Chevy may have done with the Camaro. Don’t see that happening much here. The Tiger 1050 ain’t an adventure bike, its a big Urban Utility Bike. If these bikes are what everybody is thinking, there won’t be much cannibalizing sales of the existing Tiger.

    I’ve been around long enough to sense when it’s marketing or real spy, but seriously, I don’t care either way. There’s nothing inherently “authentic” about real spy shots that gives them greater value. If I’m interested in the product, I’ll take whatever info I can get. If I’m not interested, I’ll move on. Kinda like how I treat those other outlets for ‘spy’ shots, you know ‘em. National Enquirer, Star, People, etc… :p

    • HammSammich

      “You may be a Triumph owner, but you clearly aren’t a Triumph fan. Triumph has been selling twins since either 2000 or 2001. They now have two different parallel twin motors, the 865cc in the Bonneville (originally 790cc but punched out to 865), and the 1600cc in the Thunderbird released a year ago.”

      I’m not sure I understand this statement? I am well aware of Triumph’s Paralell Twin engines, my Bonnie has one. My point was simply that from a marketing perspective the Triples (The 675cc in the Daytona and Street Triple, the 1050cc in the Sprint, Tiger, and Speed Triple, or even the massive 2.3L in the Rocket III) offer something that the competition doesn’t, and should be the focus of their advertising along those lines. As far as not being a fan goes, I would generally consider myself to be a Triumph fan, although I don’t know that’s necessarily a good thing. Regardless, that doesn’t mean that I blindly support all of their marketing efforts, or even like all of their bikes (I’m not too keen on their cruisers). I just don’t get why any company needs to resort to such marketing trickery, particularly as it has become relatively transparent.

  • contender

    Dammit guys. Now what are the chances of getting a bike to review when this thing finally comes out?

    I love this place.

  • Brett L.

    I feel it working, I want to save up just in case it turns out to be THE BIKE I’ve been looking for. Something like a Versys with more power and better off-road ability that doesn’t cost twice as much.

  • Steve

    Don’t see what all the fuss is about. Seriously, I mean they have to create interest in the bike, so how would you do it, taking into account point 3 in the article?

    And hey, this article is probably all part of the scam anyway!

  • mark

    I see nothing dishonest in Triumph’s campaign. They’re not making any unfounded claims about the bike. The teaser video shows nothing but tiny snippets to give people very specific nuggets of information (ie, it’s a dirt bike, it has spoked wheels, it sounds like a triple, etc) — in fact, the teaser video seems perfectly tailored to address the rumors that were already floating around about this bike.

    Furthermore, it’s working. If you have any doubts, stroll over to ADVrider and see the numerous threads that have popped up there. People are excited.

    And yes, putting out these teasers is also smart because it makes people hold off on other purchases. I was 95% decided to buy a KTM this summer, but once info about this Triumph came to light and was then backed up by the teaser video, I decided to wait and see.

    If they’d begun teasing the bike two years before its arrival, it might lead to buyer apathy by the time the bike actually made it to market. But seeing as it’ll be out next spring, it’s a smart move to attract people’s interest.