When we talk about the Holy Grail of marketing, we are really talking about a term that gets thrown around often: viral marketing. Even though we all have heard this term before, not many of us really understand how to get a campaign to go viral.
It may feel like catching lightning in a bottle, but when we grasp some fundamental ideas and tips, it’s very possible.
And just one campaign that goes viral can be the catalyst to amazing business growth.
Viral marketing presents your message in such a way that you excite others to take it and share it with everyone else. Done right, it can be 500 to 1,000 times more successful than other campaigns. Even though it is unpredictable, and getting something to go viral is far from guaranteed, here are several tips that will help you in this task.
To make a viral marketing campaign, you must touch emotions. That doesn’t mean it has to provoke sadness or anger, although it can. It might be touching, inspiring, funny, silly, and so on. Anything that provokes an emotional reaction or – even better – a connection has a chance. Being purely matter-of-fact won’t do it.
John Lydgate coined the phrase, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” That’s so true in a campaign. In other words, you can’t grab everyone with every campaign. But you can sure make a lasting impression that gets talked about. Strong emotions, whether negative or positive, are part of the human condition and when you hit that emotional button, your message may go viral.
Whatever you do – funny, silly, thought provoking, sad, etc – do it within your brand rather than personally. Chick-Fil-A does it with its position on faith issues, Chipotle does it with sustainability, and Campbell’s Soup along with Doritos has done it with the LGBT community.
Wait a moment. Isn’t marketing advertising? How can it suck?
The fact is that people don’t really like advertisements when they perceive them as saying the same old message: “Buy our stuff, it’s great!” That kind of approach won’t make something viral.
Yes, marketing does involve creating advertisements, but viral campaigns do it in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a regular ad.
You want to be subtle with your message and your branding. Craft an interesting and unique story that people will get behind and then share through their social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on.
Your product or message should never be the focus of the spot. One great example of this is the Old Spice “Now back to me” commercials over the past few years. They don’t necessarily make sense, but they are original, fun, unique and immensely memorable. Another is the “interview apocalypse” campaign by LG to promote its ultra-thin TV. See it here. Fake job interviews were set up, a TV was installed in place of a window, and a meteor strike was displayed on the TV. The applicants thought the image was real, freaked out and this campaign went viral. Controversial, perhaps, but memorable and was shared widely.
Go Against Your Normal
Providing something unexpected grabs attention.
Look at BlendTec. The company makes blenders. We know what blenders do, right? They started a YouTube campaign entitled Will It Blend? which was the beginning of their viral marketing push. Their idea? Throw unusual things into one of their blenders and see if the machine does the job. Many a smartphone cried out in pain over this viral marketing campaign.
There’s a phrase out there: “the new normal”. It can be tough to figure out exactly what that means. Perhaps it simply describes how people and society are changing.
“Normal” in the ’50s involved men going to work, women at home, and thus single-income families. The “new normal” is quite different. In fact, it’s hard to define what normal is.
So… reinvent, constantly.
Look at your business and occasionally overturn your “normal”. Doing the same things produces the same results and eventually people take less notice. To create a viral marketing campaign, step out of the comfort zone. Be different. Think originally. Sometimes, what seems like the silliest idea is what will catch on.
Continue the Story
Viral marketing is like the boulder in Indiana Jones; it rolls along gaining momentum, and it’s hard for us to look away until it stops. To make marketing go viral, it needs to get attention, then gain traction, then achieve momentum, and then… you take the narrative you’ve created to the next level.
- Old Spice did with by refashioning its ad message into “I’m on a horse” and so forth.
- LG followed up the meteor video with an elevator spot where the floor drops out.
Be Exciting and Real
A campaign that goes viral can change people’s lives and provide memories that last a lifetime. That is very real and tangible. Sometimes, a good starting point is simply to capture moments and thoughts, rather than manufacture them. Red Bull did it with its record-breaking space jump. GoPro has had great success in this area of viral marketing. They really hit the mark with their video of a fireman saving a kitten. Over 5 million people a week watched that heartbreaking and life affirming clip.
But it doesn’t have to be so elaborate. Look to your team and the things you all say and do together. Sometimes an internal piece of culture could be what you need to create a viral marketing campaign.
So, understand how and why some campaigns work. Then make changes in yours to search for success. Show, don’t tell. Be original, honest, real, and then open your campaign up to the masses to SHARE.
Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Results Professional Marketing and a clickable link back to this page.