A Robot Butler and Martha Stewart Are Proof That Not Every Marketing Stunt Goes Viral

This service droid isn't the real deal

Robot butlers just didn't quite catch on this week, even after one took a picture with Martha Stewart. It's a dream concept, and it seems ripe for a social explosion—a humanoid robot that can serve your home and discover your "deepest, darkest fears," according to the manufacturer, which constructed an elaborate digital campaign for the service droid.

However, the robot wasn't quite real and the viral marketing attempt has been a miss so far, despite the company's best efforts to create interest in this product.

The company called Robot Butler bought a sponsored article on Mashable describing its seemingly revolutionary technology. "It's designed to take over every aspect of your life," Robot Butler said.

It bought display ads and search ads that came up No. 1 if someone Googled "Robot Butler," taking consumers to a website with a mysterious video that only showed silhouettes of a robot. The spot ended with a closeup on the robot's small pad of a hand, unfolding and calling you to the future.

At this point, most consumers would be wondering, "What the …?" And the Robot Butler website shows a quote from Martha Stewart, who apparently played with it and tweeted a pic.

Robot Butler has a Twitter account, @robotbutlerinc, and it pretended to get tons of positive press, with one tweet claiming CNN, the BBC and HGTV rated the robot five stars. And the account kept tweeting at various media sites, thanking them for non-existent coverage.

Well, it turns out this was just a social media sensation that just didn’t catch on. There is no real Robot Butler, at least not this one, and the whole misleading campaign, was just for an app that controls home appliances.

The company behind the app and marketing was called Wink, and it did not respond to a request for comment. Wink is owned by Quirky, a New York-based company that makes Internet-connected devices for the home and other gadgets, and General Electric is an investor in Quirky.

Fortune reported today that Quirky is marketing Wink's new app with the parody marketing campaign based on the Robot Butler, and it actually has a prototype, presumably the one that caught a picture with Stewart.

The problem was there was no indication that the robot was a hoax, it was not selling out of stock as claimed, and it would not be ready for shipment to consumers, and it was not being reviewed by reputable news sources.

Google searches for "Robot Butler" now lead users to Wink.com. The Robot Butler's Twitter account has about 400 followers, and Stewart's tweet with the robot received 63 retweets.