Make viral marketing happen

Say viral marketing today, and you’re more likely to get eye rolls than enthusiasm. That’s because the term was robbed of meaning when it became a sound bite in every creative brief. “We need two community newspaper ads for Kibbles ‘N Bits, and the client would like them to be viral, please.”

Viral doesn’t just happen, like a hit song doesn’t just happen. To a degree, the fates need to align. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t build the discipline of creating ideas that will spread into every piece of communication. Do the ground work, and your chances of lightning striking will go up dramatically.

Viral marketing starts with an idea worth spreading

If your idea sucks, it ain’t going to spread. And the sad truth is, 98% of ideas suck.

Flip through the TV channels. Scroll down a website. Watch the pre-roll on a youtube video. Inspired? Didn’t think so.

Fact is, the business of communication is mostly grunt work – getting the news about the latest promotion out before this afternoon’s deadline.

However, an organization that fosters creativity can make even these mundane ads something that’ll raise a smile. And by living the discipline of not settling for good enough, you can inspire your teams to try a little (or a lot) harder, and come up with something truly spread-worthy.

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How to build that creative discipline? That’s a whole other story. This story, in fact. 

Make the idea easy to spread

How many times has someone told you about an insanely funny video, but not had the url on hand to share with you? All fired up, you start combing the internet, using every permutation of the words your friend explained the video with. Nada. Frustration ensues. Not exactly the sort of scenario that lends itself to virality.

If you think (and your clients think, and the folks at the bar think, and your mom thinks, and those girl scouts selling cookies think) that an idea might have potential, you can’t show that idea once, and expect people to pounce on it in an orgy of viral abandon.

That doesn’t mean you need to spend a Superbowl budget on media to ensure everyone in the known world sees the piece. You just need to make sure the right people see it.

My friends at Rethink Advertising are masters at this.

In one particularly brilliant case, they coated the poster display of a bus shelter with film that prevented glass breakage. Then, inside the two panels of clear glass, they stacked money. Lots of money. The only copy on the clear glass panels was Security Glass from 3M.

That was the good part. But not the best part.

The best part was the hidden camera they trained on the bus shelter to record what happened. Predictably, one alpha male after another tried to break the glass – and failed.

Rethink then took the greatest hits (literally) video, and gave it to the local TV station. Who laughed out loud, played it on the news, and told people to check it out on Rethink’s website. Ba-zinga! Instant viral campaign.

Bring value to the person doing the spreading

Make no mistake – passing along an insanely funny video or ad is an act of kindness. The person doing the giving needs to feel the reward is worth the effort.

In the story above, Rethink knew the local news stations were starved for hilarious human interest stories. A news anchor sharing a story like that would win points for having unearthed this local gem.

The reward can be far more tangible, too. My clients at Pathway Innovation earned a tidal wave of social traffic when they showcased their star product – eGlass –  in a brilliant new way.

eGlass, a pane of illuminated clear glass you write on as a camera records your face and writing (instead of trying to imagine it, check out these videos) wins big love from teachers. They intuitively get eGlass’s potential to drive student engagement through the roof.  At trade shows, instead of having the glass face the demo team, Pathway’s marketers turned it around so teachers could write / record their own messages – then upload them to social. Nice, but not something that would spread like a virus.

It was the reward that nailed it. The teachers were offered chances to win an eGlass if they wrote messages to their principals asking them to buy the school eGlasses. Literally hundreds of videos went out, simply because the reward for doing so was alluring enough.

The best part is, teachers hang out online with other teachers. So when the folks at home saw the cheeky messages their colleagues wrote on eGlass and posted to Twitter, they shared. And so on, and so on.

How to find those viral marketing diamonds in the rough?

If you’ve been looking at coal all day, it’s hard to see the diamond inside that one black lump over yonder. It pays to have someone with fresh eyes take a look.

I’d be happy to help.

Now is probably a good time to take me up on the offer, as you can take advantage of my freshly launched free brand audit, too.

I look forward to it.

If this story has been helpful, pass it along to a friend who would benefit from it. And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter below.  



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