005: Water into Wine – World Water Day Hoax

using the Whole Whale PodcastThe Miracle Machine turns water into wine in just three days! The only hiccup, it’s a hoax, a hoax that garnered over 500m impressions for the non-profit Winetowater.org. We talk with Chris Noble of Cause Media & Studio Good, about what we can learn from creating the press wave and how to gather usable data.

Video of Wine To Water Product

The True Miracle from The Miracle Machine on Vimeo.

World Water Day Trend

Example of Google.com/trends showing searches for “World Water Day”.


Episode 5

This is Using the Whole Whale a podcast that brings you stories about data and technology in the non-profit world. My name is George Weiner, your host, and the chief whaler of wholewhale.com. Thanks for joining us.

Speaker 1: It’s March 22 and I have got an amazing thing to report on. Apparently there is a device, follow me now, there is a device that can turn water into wine in three days. I mean jump on Kickstarter, get to it now. We’re gonna devote, y’know, the next 17 podcasts to this incredible device. I know I read about it on CNN, read about it on Time, on New York Post, on so many major platforms, on Huffington Post, so this must be true.

I really hope that you have not only heard of the Wine-to-Water Machine, but also the fact that it was a fake and this came out about a week ago. And the, the fake was about actually about drawing attention to an amazing organization, winetowater.org. Which does, in fact, sell wine to support their water efforts in, in under-developed countries.

But how do you think about something like this as a way of bringing a non-profit to a global stage to get more attention?

When you’re thinking about the media, it’s, it’s tough, it’s hard to control, of course, and so I look at it as, you can either ride the wave. Meaning today actually is World Water Day. Happy World Water Day. Or you can create the wave. It is significantly more difficult to create the wave to create your own sort of newsworthy stories that go out and draw attention to what you’re doing.

And in this interview that I did at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in March, we’re talking to Chris Noble who is doing good in his company was able to be a part of this marketing campaign, that convinced a significant amount of media outlets that this device existed, and then they announced again that this was, in fact, a hoax but to draw attention to winetowater.org. So, let’s hear the story of how they executed this and what are some of the data points that came out of it.

[pause 0:02:30 — 0:02:34]

Speaker 1: Brilliant. We are here at NTEN 2014 Conference for Non-Profits and Technology. My name is George Weiner and I’m here with a guy named Chris Noble. Chris, who are you? What do you do?

Speaker 2: Well, actually George, I do really whatever needs doing, depending on the day.

Speaker 1: at least a company.

Speaker 2: Exactly. My actual title is CEO of Causemedia Group. We’re a collection of digital agencies that work primarily in the social good sector bringing brands and causes, and occasionally celebrities together to both fight for a good cause and win consumers over to new business.

Speaker 1: Brilliant. And so you were telling me about this crazy story of how the media, kind of, has been covering this topic. Apparently, I heard from a friend, actually, that I could get something that would turn water into wine and I , I have to have it. I need one.

Speaker 2: Yes. So, we . . . we . . . we’ve taken a page from like the Ashton Kutcher crowd. An agency partner of ours “Punk’d” the media and worked with us to get . . . two guys that are with customvine.com, which they’re wine industry experts. Put a not real Kickstarter campaign, but put a vibe out that they were going to start a Kickstarter campaign for a SodaStream-like product that turns water into wine over the course of three days.
And there’s all sorts of echoes of, “Gee, that trick hasn’t been performed in 2000 years.” “I’ve got to get one.” “What a miracle it is.” It was actually called the Miracle Machine and the whole thing was a giant hoax, intended to shine light on the global water crisis.
The reasoning of these guys, and I think it’s right, is that the space is so noisy these days. You know this from working with nonprofits, the space is so noisy, there’s so many different causes fighting for so little attention time that if they actually went to media outlets and said, “People are dying every day from lack of clean water, and we can for $1 save a life for a year, that story won’t actually get a lot of attention. That . . . it’s a pretty miraculous story if you think about it. But it won’t get attention. The miracle, the fake miracle would get much more attention and did. And so they pitched this fake machine. It got picked up by CNN and by Headline News and FOX, and etc. etc., Time Magazine . . .

Speaker 1: So folks were pissed when they found out like . . . do you just get, like, hate mail now? Like, “Where’s my freaking wine?”

Speaker 2: They were pissed. So, so, actually, that’s what happened. We got over 500 million media impressions total. The video of introducing the Miracle Machine got about 200,000 views. And on the, on the, the wait for our Kickstarter to go live page, right, give us your email and we’ll remind you when it goes live. We had over 7,000 emails. Over 7,000 people signed up to be reminded to buy this product. And then they said, “Ah! There’s no product. Sorry.” And people are pissed.
The wine community’s angry. There’s some angry people on the message board. It’s, it’s kind of funny because, like, the vitriol that’s come forward because these guys didn’t really have a machine that could turn water into wine either means there’s a huge technophile untapped market or a huge wino untapped market.

Speaker 1: Should probably speak to one or the other.

Speaker 2: One or the other, right? So, so, yeah. A lot of negative vibes. The business insider people went nutty because they had made it one of their Top 10 things to watch today when it was a fake machine. And then ran a whole story about how they were duped and why they were duped and basically how pissed they are. So.

Speaker 1: Yeah, well, they got duped because they don’t practice what is called “journalism”. They practice what is called “pick up shit on the AP and then publish it as . . . faster than the other guy.” So, I love this for so many freaking reasons. I love it because you got them with their pants down. I love it because you drew attention and I love it because you gathered data. The permission to talk to people. This goes from a flash in the pan to something useful the second you said, “We collected emails.” Now what are you doing with these things?

Speaker 2: Well, so. We hope so. So, starting tomorrow, we are seven days out from World Water Day. So, sorry, just because I don’t know when this will air. So, starting tomorrow, Saturday 16th of March, we are seven days out from World Water Day and so, starting tomorrow you will see 7 days, 7,000 people, 70,000 actions we’d like to see performed to save 70,000 lives. That’s the general idea. Sorry, 7,000 actions to save 70,000 lives. That’s what I meant. That’s the, that’s the lineup and the, the charity which is called Wine to Water is the charity that Miracle Machine is trying to support.

Speaker 1: Alright.

Speaker 2: In fact, you’ll see it if you go to their page, which is winetowater, T-O, not 2, winetowater.org. You’ll actually see the double “M” logo of Miracle Machine. Will rotate and flip over and be exactly . . .

Speaker 1: Oh, Wine to Water.

Speaker 2: Exactly, the Wine to Water.

Speaker 1: We’re huge WW fans.

Speaker 2: Naturally you would be. Right? Right? So, that’s Wine to Water. And for the next seven days they’re going to be doing a real push up to World Water Day to activate those 7,000 people and more to take an action each and hopefully to raise $70,000 or so and save 70,000 lives within the next seven days. That’s the plan.
So, you’ve taken that hoax and the firestorm from, y’know, people being upset that they were fooled and going, “Okay, look. We get that you’re fooled.” But let’s think about this for a second. The real miracle is delivering clean water where it’s most needed. Not delivering wine to your counter top. And we get that you’re foolish or you’re pissed. But if as pissed as you are, you can take action that saves one person for a year, get over yourself a little bit. Right?

Speaker 1: Oh, I love it. Hopefully you’re gonna A/B test that messaging because this has to be some wizard-like content.

Speaker 2: There are several different messages that are going out. That’s the main campaign, but we’re actually reusing a lot of the existing Wine to Water content and blocking it out for Twitter, or Instagram or Facebook sharing, etc. etc. Throwing it back to a really vanilla donation page because, as we all know, boring donation pages are better than exciting ones with lots of different calls to action.

Speaker 1: Oh, come on. Put a dancing, dancing something on there with a blinking “Give Now.”

Speaker 2: Just a big-ass donate button. And actually, there is a secondary call to action where Wine to Water actually sells wine and a donation from the purchase and proceeds of the wine goes right into their charity organization. So, that’s a secondary call to action. If you don’t just want to give money to a good cause, and you actually are a wine—let’s call them aficionados—I think that’s the long version of wino.
Yeah, and you are a wine aficionado, y’know, then buy a case of wine that is pretty good wine because that’s what you wanted out of the deal anyway. Only this time, donate a little money to charity while you’re doing it and save some lives.

Speaker 1: So top line numbers again, you got approximately how many media impressions?

Speaker 2: About half a billion at last count, although, honestly that ticker is still . . .

Speaker 1: Once you get half a billion it’s just ticking away.

Speaker 2: That ticker’s still going up. Yeah, actually . . .

Speaker 1: Now people are covering the fact that they were pissed…

Speaker 2: They are covering the fact they were pissed. We’re actually still seeing shares of the original story.

Speaker 1: happens.

Speaker 2: No, it’s hilarious. It’s like the hoax is out, it’s done, and we’re still seeing people go, “Whoa, a machine that turns water into wine! I’ve got to get one.” So, that’s just going to keep happening.
We did . . . you remember this. We did BeatCancer a few years ago and set, at the time, the world record, the Guinness World Record for most social shares for any campaign. And I say “set”, not “broke”, because we’re the first ones to set it. Obviously, y’know Ellen broke it last week. Again and again. But when we did that, we found that that BeatCancer hashtag lived on and on and on. And people still use it today.

Speaker 1: So, half a billion and of that half a billion, how many people went to their page, as far as you can tell, those conversions said . . .

Speaker 2: Well, to the Miracle Machine page, tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands. Actually, it might have been over a hundred, but anyway, and now we’ve just flipped it over 2 days ago to the other . . . actually, a day and a half ago, to the other campaign. We’re starting to see things trickle in.
So, I don’t have exact numbers, but I can tell you that on an average day the Wine to Water site gets a couple hundred visits. And that they’re already in the thousands and we expect them to be in the tens of thousands by the time this really starts marinating.

Speaker1: How many emails has this garnered, so far, that they can reach out to?

Speaker 2: Seven thousand new emails and that’s like, what, like if you think about it, like . . .

Speaker 1: Seven thousand new people to talk to.

Speaker 2: Seven thousand new names. That’s really okay. Let’s start there.

Speaker 1: Yeah, some of them will be pissed, but you’ll be able to figure it out.

Speaker 2: And actually we’ve had that. So, we’ve had somebody pissed, and really like—vitriol. Like just angry, angry not death threats, but like that, y’know. “You deserve to blah…blah…blah.” However, we’ve also had some people go, “Wow. I was fooled. But this is brilliant and this is a good cause, of course, I’m going to give.” Right?
So, it’s, y’know, you just it basically you have to have the barrel before you can reach through and find out where all of the good apples are. And this is a good way to create the barrel.

Speaker 1: A brilliant case study here. Anything else that we should share?

Speaker 2: Not, y’know, we’re doing an awful lot. This is actually, this a side project of ours and we’re really just helping out some brother and sister agencies. But, yeah, there’s lots . . . we’ve got some stuff coming up with Malaria No More that I’d love to talk with you about sometime. Some Boys and Girls Club stuff, we’re really, we’re starting to really turn the corner in running large-scale digital campaigns that make a difference for non-profits from an awareness and a fundraising perspective. And as we get better at that, I’d love to come back and tell you about it.

Speaker 1: Brilliant. So how do people find you in the Interwebs?

Speaker 2: Best way to find me is Twitter. And it’s C—F as in Frank—noble. N-O-B-L-E. Best way to find my company actually is our digital agency which does most of this work I’ve been describing. It’s called StudioGood and that’s just studiogood.com and we’re StudioGood on Twitter, etc. etc. etc. If you go to studiogood.com you’ll see a lot of case studies like the one’s I’ve been describing. Where we’re bringing brands and nonprofits together for social good.

Speaker 1: I’d just like to thank you so much for being on the show.

Speaker 2: Thank you, I really appreciate it and this whole whale thing is fan-frickin’-tastic, man. You’re, you’re a data expert from way back and I love to see you turning it over and actually using it for a broad base of people where it does a lot of good.

Speaker 1: Thanks again.

Speaker 1: I really enjoyed hearing that story as you could tell. Today is March 22, it is World Water Day and I think watertowine.org did something very brilliant here in creating the wave. Meaning they created their own wave of media around their topic leading into World Water Day to try and make a splash. Pun intended.

One way you can use a tool called google.com/trends to identify these existing waves, since we can’t all be quite as clever as to go to these types of media campaigns. You can use google.com/trends to identify upcoming, not only holidays, but also other phenomenon of searching the sort of zeitgeist or what people are talking about based on the incidence of search. And Google just gives you a total view of how many people are searching a different topic over time and even will be able to forecast. It’s a great tool to play with and think about how your organization can plan similar to the way watertowine.org did and plan a sort of initial release so you come into World Water Day with, with some momentum.
The final thing I want to play you is the actual clip of the hoax and where they announced this on a Vimeo channel and the video can also be seen at wholewhale.com/podcast where this episode will be listed.

Again, thanks for joining us, take care.

Speaker 3: Hi, I’m Philip James.

Speaker 4: Hi, I’m Kevin Boyer. We’re the founders of the Miracle Machine. We’re here today enjoying a wonderful glass of red wine. The type you’d expect the Miracle Machine here to turn out for you. We’ve had an amazing amount of interest over the last three weeks. Unfortunately, we have to come clean with you on something. It would be amazing if we truly could turn water into wine with a minimal amount of effort and just a few ingredients. The reality is, the Miracle Machine does not exist.

This is just a lump of wood.

Speaker 3: But there is a miracle I want to talk to you about today. While we can’t turn water into wine, we can turn wine into water. And the global water crisis is one of the biggest issues facing the planet today. Nearly a billion people lack access to clean water. Each year 2 million children will die from poor water and bad sanitation and in the time that you’ve watched this video, it will be another ten children that have died from that. This issue is too big to go unnoticed.

I want to introduce you to someone. The founder of Wine to Water, a cause that we care deeply about.

Speaker 5: Hi, I’m Don Henley. I started this organization, Wine to Water, 10 years ago when I learned how many women and children were dying around the world because of this, this crisis. And since then we’re in 17 different countries now around the world. We have reached over 250,000 people with sustainable drinking water. As you’ve just heard, the Miracle Machine, it doesn’t work.

This has been Using the Whole Whale the podcast. For more information about the topics covered in today’s show, please check out wholewhale.com and consider following us on Twitter @WholeWhale. Thanks.