The public library in Troy, Michigan was facing being shut down forever. The municipality had to make major cuts to its budget and there simply wasn’t enough cash to go around to maintain all vital local government services as well as keep the library’s doors open. The matter was set for a referendum asking the citizens of Troy if they would accept a 0.7% hike in their town’s property tax rate to save the library, otherwise where would be no choice but to close the doors. The vote seemed as if it was going to be overwhelmingly turned down and the library would face doom.
Reverse psychology at its finest
Vote to close Troy library Aug. 2
Book burning party Aug. 5
Creating an aura of pseudo-reality
- Crafted check-ins to the party
- Posted announcements about the band that would be playing
- How to arrange for a babysitter when attending the party
- Posted ads for an ice cream vendor and a clown entertainer
- Compiled polls on Facebook as to which books should be saved from the flames
However, one of the most brilliant ploys was the creation of a YouTube video showing a few books being burned with the line: Imagine this times 200,000. How cool is that? The story caught fire more than the books that were going to be burned. It soon made headlines across Michigan and spread like wildfire nationally and internationally, getting play in nearly every country around the world.
The library was saved by a landslide vote
A hoax has to avoid the danger of blowback
Leo Burnett’s brilliant approach to the creation of an imaginary event on social media galvanized an entire community and had the desired effect. Any social media brand marketer faced with headwinds can adopt a similar tack to change the conversation and gain the upper hand. All it takes is imagination and a dab of courage.
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