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Jollibee Broke the Internet by Breaking Millions of Hearts. Here’s an Inside Look into the Playbook.

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Seriously, Pure Evil.

I fucking hate that bride. “Thank you,” she whispers at the end.

I’m gonna take your tears, turn them into a crystal dagger, shove it into your friend-zoned heart, and turn the fragments into nails to hammer into your coffin. Oh, and yes, Father, I do,” was probably what was going on inside her head.

On the evening of Thursday, February 9, Jollibee posted two short films on Facebook, 4 hours apart. Both are killing it and breaking hearts everywhere.

I don’t eat at Jollibee. I don’t even like Jollibee. The Yum Burger tastes like I mixed ketchup, mayonnaise, and two spoons of sugar. Yeah I know, that’s blasphemous for a Filipino to say.

But today, Jollibee is winning with a series of short films about, well, love. The first one is about a boy who meets a girl at a Jollibee counter. The other is about a geek competing for a girl’s affection. And as folksy as those plot lines might sound, the ending won’t disappoint. Neither would I spoil them. Do check them out yourself, if you haven’t already.

As of 3:10pm on Friday, February 10, “Crush” has racked up 6.2 million views, while “Vow” has garnered a whopping 8.2 million views both in less than 24 hours. And it’s all organic. That’s insane.

The past few years have seen Filipino brands jumping on the content marketing bandwagon. The typical approach is to take a piece of film meant for TV advertising, and slap it on to Facebook. Spend several million to amplify its reach, then voila! Nestea did this and likely paid Facebook a ton of cash to get Liza Soberano plastered all over Pinoy feeds. I never thought I’d say this, but one can actually get tired of seeing Liza’s face everyday.

Jollibee’s rewriting the playbook with a native approach: story-driven, genre-defying, meme-friendly, and self-replicating.

It takes a new kind of intuition into the Facebook platform to dream all this up, and arguably a skill set traditional ad account managers will find quite alien.

Here are 5 clues into how that playbook works:

1. The story is not a slave to the product. Instead of the focus on the endorser, it’s all about the story, the progression, and the dramatic ending. You’ve probably don’t even recognize the actors in either films. You won’t have the same effect with Anne or Liza starring in these films; the audience gets too transfixed by the celebrity, instead of immersing into the story.

The products are slaves to the story, not the other way around. In fact, the products push the story forward for the audience: in “Crush”, the vintage cup places the setting in the 70s. In “Vow”, the store scene establishes that the characters love the same meal. And because brands aren’t constrained by the 30-second TV limit on Facebook, they can tell more substantial stories.

2. Disobey the genre. “Vow” breaks the standard Pinoy love story trope by going for the unexpected, heart-crunching ending (and sets up a possible sequel). In doing so, it turns the protagonist’s love interest into the film’s villain, sparking the fires of protest of friend-zoned boys everywhere.

3. Use a story’s iconography to replicate itself online. The plot device of the Post-It + the Yum-Burger not only serves the story, but makes it meme-friendly on Facebook. Now you’re starting to see people posting random notes on Yum Burgers. This is a genius move in making the story replicable and sticky.

4. Understand how Facebook amplifies video, past and present. Because of Facebook’s desire to keep you on your feed, it automatically streams you related videos, making this a potent discovery tool. As a result, another similar Jollibee film, “Almusal”, is getting new viewers, even if it was posted last year.

But that was also the key: Jollibee has been experimenting with videos for a long time. Winning with content takes time and investment to discover what works. This is not a traditional three-month campaign. It takes patience and commitment from brands to stumble upon the winning formula.

5. Put your traditional media channel on notice. I think the biggest loser here isn’t actually McDonald’s. It’s likely ABS-CBN and GMA. Jollibee has now uncovered strategic leverage to gain bargaining power over the media duopoly to lower their rate cards. And that’s fucking great. Digital provides all brands such an insanely flexible format to tell new stories, reach a bigger audience at a speed and scale never seen before.

In the few minutes I took to write this post, both films have added more than 300,000 views. You’ll never see that speed to scale on TV, and certainly not have the real-time data. If I were a CPG brand, I would just continuously run experiments on different treatments on social, uncover a hit, and use that data to ask my traditional media to hand over lower rates, with the underhanded threat of moving all my ad spend to digital. When Globe shifted its outdoor and print spending to digital, it’s already demonstrated it can grow its business without relying on legacy media.

What else do you think drives this success? What can brands do better?

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