By B.L. Ochman
This successful viral ad is a classic. People loved the drum playing Cadbury Gorilla because it was unlike anything they’d ever seen. It was creative, fun, more than a little weird, and not a heavy-handed sales message. It’s been spoofed, mashed up, and it’s won awards. And it’s been passed from friend to friend to friend – millions of times.
This next video attempt at viral marketing is a failure. It would not be possible to say what Häagen-Dazs might have been thinking when they created this dreadful video to go along with this site. (It also would be impossible to rationalize the construction and content of the flashturbation honeybee education site that takes minutes to load, but that would be another post.)
One type of viral will never fit all objectives, and trying to copy a successful viral is a sure recipe for failure. In fact, thousands of hoped-for virals are never noticed by consumers at all.
What makes a campaign go viral?
First let’s define viral marketing: content passed from one person to another, including images, videos, links, applications, games, stories, emails, documents or virtually any other type of digital content that one person passes to another via email, IM, text messaging, or social network like Twitter, Friend Feed, etc or content sharing sites such as StumbleUpon, Digg, etc.
Now let’s talk about what doesn’t make a campaign go viral:
o sending out a press release about your latest viral
o an email that says “this is a viral campaign”.
Here’s a lame and destined-for-failure pitch I received just this morning: “Samsung has just released a new amazing clip to promote their NV24HD digital stills camera.”
It leads to this site, which has nothing to do with the lions, and which makes you feel like you’ve been snookered into looking at an ad. Feh!
Cause it ain’t viral until it is!
What are the chances that a campaign will go viral? Not too much.
When people view online videos that are compelling, funny, entertaining, or just plain weird, they tell other people. Only 9% of respondents to a 2006 Online Publisher’s Association OPA survey did so frequently, but an additional 29% occasionally let others know about online videos. The field has gotten much more crowded in the past two years, and chances of success are much smaller.
What kind of creative is likely to go viral?
o Knockout creative that’s funny, shocking, intriguing or surprising
o An idea customers can relate to and care about
o A clearcut message so people are able to pass it on with one sentence
o An easy way to pass it on – a link, embedding code, “share this” button, email to a friend, etc.
o A concept that builds relationships with customers by getting them to interact with
o Measurable outcomes – as in: what is this campaign hoping to accomplish and how will be measure it.
o A seeding plan to get the campaign started.:
o JibJab, for example, emails to tens of thousands of people who’ve asked to be notified of their latest efforts.
o Blog advertising with the right creative can be remarkably cost-effective and high-yield.
o Blogger outreach (which can backfire if pitches are lame.)
More great virals:
o Blendtec – WIll it Blend – simultaneously proving the indestructability of Blendtec blenders and appealing to a primal desire to chop things up with them.
o Subservient Chicken – the classic Burger King campaign that got 46 million views in its first week alone and 442 million visits in 12 months.
o Hotmail – the seminal 1996 campaign that took the email service from 500,000 members to 12 million in 18 months.
o Coke and Mentos – eat your heart out Pepsi
o 2005 Up Your Budget Treasure Hunt – one million uniques and 10 million pageviews in four weeks.
o Careerbuilder Monk-e- Mail: Coolest Viral Yet
o A great B2B example, via Ginger Lennon on Twitter
More failed viral campaigns:
o Sony – All I Want for Christmas
o Agency.com British Airways campaign
o Pontiac “Catch the Vibe” scavenger hunt
o Nokia’s Open At Own Risk which apparently fell victim to “who gives a crap syndrome”
o And who could forget the Chevy Tahoe campaign, which went viral for all the wrong reasons – well, wrong for Chevy anyway. It’s my all-time favorite failed viral campaign.
o Ship’s Biscuit: What Does Viral Success Look Like
o 10 Tips on How to Make Your Video Go Viral
o Ricola Cougher – History’s Most Disgusting Marketing Campaign, Is Baaaaack
o Another Viral Bomb from Agency.com
o Dove’s Sleeveless Ready Campaign – File Under WTF
(But damn it’s hard to spell that brownbrabaddle word.)
How about the Dove Real Beauty campaign? You know you’ve got a winner when people begin searching for your company’s advert.
Unfortunately, the bee video will probably be viewed about 500,000 times when all is said and done so, from a media buying perspective, I’m sure Haagen-Daz is quite happy with the result. In an impression-based marketing world, bad marketing like this will survive alongside the 30-second spot. The truth is that nothing “goes viral”…it’s a term that really fails to describe what really happens when content is distributed online. Real people make a decision whether or not to engage in the word-of-mouth activity to pass something like this on. If the recipient trusts the source, they’ll watch it. It’s more about what this content instills in you about the brand, which is really where this comes up short. Those 500,000 views are essentially wasted.
Great post and fun examples. I just blogged about this myself this week – my short and simple description of what makes a good viral video/campaign is when it makes people FEEL something. My favorite example is http://www.wherethehellismatt.com which makes me, and a lot of other people, I feel absolute joy. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth checking out.
Peter – i’m willing to bet that lame bee hip hop video WON’T be viewed or passed along anywhere near 1/2 million times. It’s not funny, clever, interesting, edgy, or pointed enough to engage people the way a campaign about such a crucial issue could.
it’s a waste of time and money IMO.
Lara – you’re so right that he matt video is great, and it’s been viewed millions of times. I’m not so sure Stride gum gets as much from it as companies get from some of these other viral videos. but it sure does promote matt’s global microbrand for whatever he wants to do next.
I think a successful viral campaign goes way beyond how it makes people feel to what it makes them DO.
You may get millions of views of a video, but what impact does it have on the brand from a business perspective?
For instance, the PetSmart sock puppet was an all time favorite but didn’t help the brand at all.In other words, does being Internet famous lead to sales?
I’d like to see some of those numbers on these case studies.
That said, I will be studying some of the links to this post in more depth when I get back to my computer. Thanks for sharing.
I’m with you Kami. It’s not about what people feel, it’s about what they DO as a result of the brand message.
doesn’t matter if the viral is for a global microbrand or a giant corporation, it has to relate to the brand and drive some action in order toe be successful. otherwise, like the bee video, it’s a waste of time and money.
The adjective “viral” had become so cliched that it has lost any meaning. Better to find new metaphors – I came up with a few in “how not to be viral” –
Great post. While Chevy went viral for the “wrong reasons”, there were appropriate next steps GM arguably could have taken (such as messaging the negative sentiment generators with GM Green Vehicle information).
Mike Wesch wrote a great post on what makes a video go viral. I found it very insightful, though you may enjoy. http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/?p=171
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Awful as it is, I suppose if an ad’s bad enough it will go viral anyway. Maybe Haagen Dazs got what they wanted.