Creepy elves and disco dancing: A business win for OfficeMax

Who knew that weird dancing elves could be good for business?
Written by Jennifer Leggio, Contributor

Who knew that weird dancing elves could be good for business?

OfficeMax today announced the return of its Elf Yourself portal, a silly site that allows people to create elf-like images of themselves doing a variety of dances from country to disco and even hip hop. While I've been a fan of Elf Yourself for some time but had no idea that it had come back for the 2009 holiday season until ZDNet colleague Jason Perlow posted his (hilarious) personalized elf last night. While all of this is entertaining, I got to wondering about what value this is really driving for OfficeMax. Last year I spoke with OfficeMax vice president of marketing and advertising Bob Thacker about the company's social media strategy for my Fortune 500 series, and he brought Elf Yourself up as a social media success.

"Social media embraced the 'Elf Yourself' concept, endorsed it and readily shared it among online communities, which turned this campaign into a digital phenomenon that attracted millions, set a new viral marketing record and landed a considerable 'win' for OfficeMax," he said.

I reached out to OfficeMax again today given the launch of the new site, which is now chock full of Twitter and Facebook connectivity. As a matter of fact, users of Elf Yourself can just connect to the site with Facebook Connect and select a picture from any album, saving hassle and upload time. And later today, the feature will launch that allows users to automatically post these elves to their own walls or their friends' walls, spreading the Elf Yourself chaos even further than before. An OfficeMax spokesperson said the company selected to leverage Facebook this year to enable a deeper social media experience.

But, beyond creating giggles, what is this really doing for Office Max? The stats I received from OfficeMax are surprising:

  • The Elf Yourself site has had 284 million site visits each holiday season since the tool's launch in 2006. These site visits were measured over only a two-month period each year when the site was live.
  • Of these 284 site visits, 256 million elves were created
  • A study in 2007 showed that more than 1/3 of Elf Yourself users said the visit to the elf portal influenced their decisions to visit OfficeMax

What's so great about Elf Yourself is that while it's clearly an OfficeMax deal (powered by JibJab, of course) it's not so in-your-face with its marketing that you grow tired of the brand. Yet, somehow it gets engrained in its users that OfficeMax is behind the whole thing.

What do you think of OfficeMax's Elf Yourself? Oh, and here's my terrifying Elf:

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

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