If someone sent you chocolates, would you be more inclined to consider buying their product or service? What if the chocolates had crunchy grasshopper centers?

As part of their rebranding from gotvmail to Grasshopper, one innovative company FedEx’d 5,000 custom-branded packets of chocolate covered grasshoppers to “influential” people across the country (list compliments of LAWeekly). It appears that the campaign’s primary function was to create “buzz” (pun intended). It seems to have worked.

I learned about the campaign from Dianna Huff who received one of the mystery packages. In her post, she expressed some initial confusion over why she’d been targeted and what the advertiser was actually selling. In a follow-up, she shared links to other commentaries as well as a 35-second Fox news spot on the campaign.

The coverage this campaign has received begs a few of questions:
– How do you define the success or failure of a social media campaign?
– What determines that outcome?

Success of Failure?
The answer to the first question depends, obviously, on the goal of the campaign. According to Grasshopper CEO, David Hauser, the goal of this campaign was simply to get people talking. Given that a google blog search for “chocolate covered grasshopper” turns up 9 out of 10 page one posts about the campaign and that there was a mini twitter storm on the topic, I’d say we can put that one in the win column.

What determined this outcome? In this case, it was a unique and attention-grabbing idea with plenty of viral “legs.” (Sorry – I just can’t help myself with the puns.) The only weird thing for me was that package recipients are basically being asked to eat the company mascot. Hmmm …
But, What’s the ROI?
Whether Grasshopper will see a lot of prospect conversion from the campaign remains to be seen, but maybe that wasn’t really the point. Maybe the point really was simply to get people talking – helping to establish the new brand identity. Although I am not in the market for the services offered by Grasshopper, I guarantee that I will remember their name if I’m ever in the market for an “Advanced Number.”

This campaign is classically social. It is memorable, viral, and cleverly tied to the company’s branding. It also doesn’t offer up any easily measurable ROI. Sure, they can track the number of blog posts, comments, various bits of news coverage, and referring URLs; but they can’t necessarily translate that data into incremental service contracts. Again, I’m not sure it matters. The companies who “get” social media understand that any investment – whether it’s participation in a community or an ad hoc campaign – is a long-term one. Sometimes the return is intangible or delayed, but that doesn’t make it less valuable.

What do you think? Does this campaign hop higher, or is it just a lot of hype?