It’s the holy grail of marketing these days: the quest to create a viral marketing campaign. Thirty years ago, advertising agencies were charged with creating advertising and marketing messages that delivered results.
Now, there’s a new face of advertising where it seems that the goal of creating an advertising campaign that delivers results doesn’t make it into the top ten these days at most agencies.
It seems that the primary concern these days is to create viral marketing.
Rob Cottingham has a great post over at ReadWriteWeb in There Must Be Something Between Viral & Obscure… which he ends with:
It’s been said over and over again, but maybe one more time would help: “viral” can be encouraged, it can be prayed for, but it can’t be engineered. Your only hope is to create engaging, compelling content, and tell a terrific story… and then hope.
One of the problems with setting out to create viral marketing campaigns is that viral marketing usually skates right along the edge of crude, rude and insensitive. In order to set the stage so that a marketing campaign has the potential of going viral, one has to find the defining sides of “the box” and then create a marketing campaign that slips just outside, but not too far, outside “the box”. Inhabiting that magic space just outside “the box”, well, that’s what makes a marketing message go “viral”.
Viral marketing messages evoke one of the following responses:
- Viral Marketing may make the audience laugh
- Viral Marketing may make the audience may cause the audience raise their collective fist in triumph
- Viral Marketing may make the audience may cause the audience raise their collective fist in anger
In essence, viral marketing messages evoke the extremes in emotion. In order to do so, the viral video usually has to skate the fine line between offensive and evoking.
Viral marketing is really nothing more than another term for social marketing. Whether you call it social marketing, viral marketing or word of mouth advertising, the foundation is the same: count on your customers to carry the marketing message of your company.
It’s a fact: people are much more willing to spread bad news than good news. It’s just the nature of the beast. Every business owner should be aware of this “quirk” in human nature and how this “quirk” will play out on the stage of Web 2.0. (Read What Every Business Owner Must Know about Web 2.0)
In another post over at RWW, Sarah Perez writes in the post When User-Generated Content Goes Bad
The Jupiter report was also able to build a profile of the typical creator of negative user-generated content. This person is usually a heavy user of social networks, predominantly male (60% are male) and into technology (40% are influential in this area and 23% are considered “early adopters”). They are also a potential valuable audience for marketers as 49% tend to act as brand advocates – which means they tend to be vocal influencers who spread the word online.
In other words, when you’re looking for the “viral influencers” keep in mind that it’s a LOT more fun to spread trash talk than fact!
It’s one thing to create a powerful marketing message which by a stroke of luck or genius actually achieves the goal of “going viral” but it’s playing Russian Roulette with the future of your business to set out with the objective of creating a viral marketing campaign.
In the end, the business that lays its marketing hopes and dreams into the hands of the consumer is asking for trouble – PERIOD!
Viral, by definition, means “uncontrolled”. Imagine taking a feather pillow to the top of a hill and slashing the pillow open with a sharp knife.
THAT is how viral marketing works.
Now, imagine in true Science Fiction Fashion that those harmless bits of down and feather are suddenly transformed into lethal razor blades. ( A.K.A what happens when either the marketing message “crosses the line” or when the “typical creator of negative user-generated content” gets his hands on your marketing message.) Suddenly, the air is filled with stinging bits of steel instead of white, fluffy down.
When Ariel Waldman aired her complaints against the micro-blogging application Twitter, the message quickly went “viral” and moved beyond the control of Walman, Twitter or any other force on earth. She was forced to close comments on the original blog post, yet the viral messages continues to circulate, having developed a “life of its own” shortly after release into the wild.
It’s my recommendation to my clients to plan on taking an ACTIVE role in the management of their marketing message.
I grew up in the Midwest, in the land of farming and fields. If you’re a business owner, treat your marketing efforts like a field. If you methodically plant your field so it’s full of daisies, then a few weeds here or there won’t ruin the overall effect of the field. If however, all there is in your field is bare dirt – then those few weeds will soon take over and that’s all you’ll have in your field -weeds!
The daisies in this scenario are the carefully cultivated marketing messages you pay to have prepared and delivered. If you have enough of those daisies planted – you don’t have to worry much about the weeds! In other words, viral marketing is fine as long as it’s the icing and not the cake of your marketing strategy!