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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 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.
Bonus links:
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
o Dove’s Sleeveless Ready Campaign – File Under WTF