Viral marketing is the holy grail of marketing. The goal of any successful marketing campaign is to generate buzz and awareness about the product or service being offered. If done correctly, the campaign will generate expansive reach, strong brand-building, strong sales, all at a relatively low production and distribution cost.
Viral marketing can occur through many mediums, but the Internet is currently the reigning champion. Cheap resources (always-on internet access), efficiency in building contact networks (email, messengers, blogs, websites, etc.), and an abundance of new content (think Youtube.com) means that there is always something interesting and easy to share. Videos and websites are probably the most effective internet platforms for internet viral marketing.
The caveat of viral marketing is that since you are leveraging other people’s resources (their time and effort, their email lists, etc.), they will be on the lookout for signs of commercialism. A person will not spread a company’s message because viral diet there is no benefit for him. He actually suffers because he is losing credibility among friends. On the other hand, if the same person told his friends to give to an orphanage or other charity, he will be well received and appear magnanimous.
So assuming that your target viral marketer – the person who sees your ad and must spread the advertisement to his acquaintances – falls somewhere in between the extremes of shamelessly plugging a company and expounding upon the virtues of charity, you must balance the inherent commercialism with his desire to spread your message. You must produce something so interesting and compelling that your target marketer has no choice but to share it, marketing message payload and all.
So here is where we strike upon the most difficult challenge of creating a successful viral marketing campaign – finding the balance of creativity and uniqueness while not diminishing the purpose of your marketing in the first place. The challenge is stiff: too commercial and it will not spread beyond the first marketer, too radical and your brand image may no longer match the content of the advertisement. However, do not despair. It has been done with impressive success, and as long as there is an audience of willing consumers, many more impressively successful campaigns will manifest.
Examples of Successful Commercial Viral Videos
The Superbowl is the largest television event in America. Every year, 40 percent of America households, or approximately 80-90 million Americans, are tuned into the Superbowl at some time. The 30 second Superbowl commercial, the most revered spot in American broadcasting, sold for a reported $2.5 million in the 2006 Superbowl.
With viral marketing, the same level audience can be reached, but at a fraction of the cost. The best viral marketing is not blasted at once to a large audience, but once seeded to a few individuals, will grow until many millions of people will have heard of it. Importantly, these people are not just receiving a television broadcast, but they are telling their friends about it, discussing it, joking about it, and making a mental impression of it. One person who tells others about a video he saw is more valuable than 10 who see your video and forget about it.
One successful viral video shows 2 men dressed in lab coats demonstrating the befuddling Diet Coke and Mentos chemical reaction. Apparently, if you drop Mentos breath mints into Diet Coke, it creates a reaction akin to mixing baking soda and vinegar. Many videos were produced, but this particular video was probably the best produced, including a musically choreographed demonstration of over 100 Diet Coke and Mentos fountains. After being featured on CNN, it was revealed that the video’s creators had already made several tens of thousands of dollars selling the advertisements at the beginning and end of the video.
– Coca Cola and Mentos
The Diet Coke video is an example of how viral videos can make money. But a company that wishes to get exposure needs a different approach. One way is for the company to sponsor the creation of a new video (or the sequel of a previously popular video), and then intersperse the company’s logo and website throughout the video. A good example of this is Stride gum’s commission of “Where the Hell is Matt” – a video that shows Matt dancing for a few seconds at dozens of places around the world, all set to funny music. The video is novel and ridiculous at the same time – just how many airports, customs, and taxis did Matt and his crew have to go through just to shoot a few seconds of Matt’s dancing? Anyways, the video took off, and Stride cannot be disappointed with their return on investment.