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How Elmo captured the hearts of the world with just 9 words

How Elmo captured the hearts of the world with just 9 words

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"Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?" It was just a simple post put out on social media platform X by the well-loved Sesame Street character this week but it essentially broke the Internet. 

The post quickly began to go viral with191.4 million views and 16,000 people replying to Elmo and letting him know their honest struggles. Some spoke about losing their jobs, broken relationships, mental health struggles and more.

Some brands also began jumping on the virality train such as Domino's Pizza which responded with a funny meme and OREO, Ritz Crackers and Adobe Photoshop which added a cryptic reply to the post. 

Don't miss: How Calvin Klein's super simple Jeremy White campaign made millions drool 

Others, such as mental wellbeing app Calm, replied to encouraging Elmo to take deep breaths while others such as suicide and crisis lifelines put out resources to help those who needed it. 

Even US president Joe Biden got in on the action and reposted the post saying, " I know how hard it is some days to sweep the clouds away and get to sunnier days. Our friend Elmo is right: We have to be there for each other, offer our help to a neighbor in need, and above all else, ask for help when we need it."

According to media intelligence firm CARMA, the social media sentiments associated with Elmo following the tweet have been 42.9% positive and 22.6% negative. The negative number stems from the negative emotions people have been sharing as a response to Elmo’s original tweet.

Responding to the overwhelming response, Elmo later posted that he has learnt the importance of asking a friend how they are doing and promised to check in soon. 

Sesame Workshop also jumped on the virality of the post and used it as an opportunity to promote its emotional wellbeing resources.

"As the grown-ups 'helping' Elmo and all Sesame Street friends with their social media accounts, our social media team is cognizant of the relationship that audiences have developed with the characters over the last 54 years. Elmo is the lovable furry monster audiences have a deep connection with and is a good friend asking you “how are you doing?” said Aaron Bisman, VP of audience development, Sesame Workshop.

The art of simplicity

With an increasingly cluttered digital landscape, many brands try to do unique and complex things in order to stand out in the space. However, it is clear from Elmo's post that sometimes, simplicity is really all you need to make a big impact. 

According to Kristian Olsen, founder and managing director at Type A, getting to the point with the key selling point is often the key. 

"It’s like Netflix telling you why their lineup of shows is the most comprehensive and bang for buck compared to Disney Plus. I’m not bothered about how Netflix went about securing the rights to all the programs. I just want to know that when I sign up, I’ll be able to watch a ton of movie options," said Kristian Olsen. 

He added that people today are constantly in a rush and often don't have time to hear the whole story which is why it is important to tell people exactly what they need to hear upfront. He said:

Sometimes getting right to the point and cutting out the crap actually helps.

Adding on, Kristian Olsen recommends that industry players step back, and ask themselves what their audience would want to know. "What three things should a potential follower or consumer hear above everything else? Get that right and then you can build it from there and maybe turn them from just customers, into brand loyalists."

Adding to his point, Alvin Kok, managing director and co-founder at Actstitude noted that the post worked well simply because it was simple, easy to understand and relevant.

Often, brands or clients tend to overthink things. These days, simplicity and authenticity wins.

Building a meaningful, authentic connection

Beyond simplicity, what also worked for the tweet in particular was that it made a meaningful and authentic connection with users, according to Smith Leong, lead at Havas Play.

"Brands need to understand and acknowledge where their audiences are, what they seek, and speak their language - right at the heart of fandom," he said. 

"Not everyone has a safe space or an opportunity to talk about or share their feelings, especially in a world that’s constantly on the move with obligations that make us automatically put the needs of others before our own," added Kimberley Olsen, co-founder of Yatta Workshop. "We are so infatuated with knowing what other people are doing on social media or use it as an escape to forget our own realities and this one simple line managed to cut through that and make people reflect for a minute."

She added that it also helped that this post is one that for once, isn’t focusing on talking about themselves, but instead, asks about the wellbeing of others with no catch to it.

"Being in the social media industry for over 10 years, the rule of thumb still applies. Keep to one message or call-to-action in every caption and keep it short," said Kimberley Olsen.

She added that this is typically a strategy that works well with government bodies who rely on their social media accounts to communicate important information or build awareness around topics within the community.

"Brands need to understand that social media isn’t a dumping ground for information and treat it as just another sales channel," she said. 

Refusing to sacrifice creativity

With simplicity, there comes a dilemma where one might think that creativity needs to be sacrificed. However, that is not the case, according to Nicolene Tan, senior planner at We Are Social Singapore.

"The key lies in intentional communication – distilling core messages into formats that are easily digestible for the audience while maintaining the essence and impact of your brand’s identity," said Tan. 

She added that simplicity holds a distinct advantage when it comes to engagement, particularly when defined as a focused, single-minded message.

"Our cognitive tendencies favour processing one message, idea, or action, at a time – which is why some people are so bad at multitasking – and when we clutter content with several messages at once, it becomes overwhelming for individuals who get overloaded with information," said Tan. 

Especially on social media, simplicity often wins because it aligns with the limited attention span of online audiences, she said. People scrolling through their feeds may only dedicate a few seconds to each post, and a simple, focused message stands a better chance of being understood and remembered.

Simplicity in ads is also not a new concept and could perhaps be something we see more of in 2024. In fact, just a few weeks ago, fashion lifestyle brand Calvin Klein (CK) released a very simple Spring 2024 campaign featuring a half-naked Jeremy Allen White that had the Internet in a virtual chokehold.

In the video, the 32-year-old actor was seen climbing stairs to the rooftop of a building in downtown New York in a white singlet and black active shorts before stripping down to the brand’s iconic and logo-emblazoned cotton underwear. In the ad, White stretches and flexes his muscles, staring intensely into the camera before lying down on a sofa, tired.

At the point of writing, the video has garnered over 11.7 million plays, 650k likes and 10.9k comments proving that you don't have to just be a furry, well-loved childhood character to gain social media success with the tactic of simplicity. 

Related articles: 
What is the world's most favourite social media platform? 
Study: 93.5% of brands prefer LinkedIn for social media marketing campaigns 
Three ways brands can enhance their presence on social media in the digital age 

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