It wasn’t too long ago that if you were told something was viral, you’d try to distance yourself at least a little bit, but nowadays pretty much the opposite is true. We all love viral content (that’s essentially why it goes viral). Marketers know this, and that’s how viral marketing came to be. This marketing technique is essentially when a company attempts to have information about their products disseminated across the internet to a significant extent by proxy of user sharing.
When implemented properly, viral marketing can be a huge success, just look at the Dove Real Beauty Campaign or the Dumb Ways to Die initiative. Chances are you know exactly what I’m talking about without even clicking the links, and that’s the power of viral marketing, it offers organisations the chance to spread their message to massive audiences without having to pay advertising costs, or risk annoying consumers, as the message should provide real value, and be voluntarily spread rather than occupy advertising space.
While viral marketing can be effective, it can also go horribly, horribly wrong. When I say horribly wrong, I mean sending a plastic gun waving actor to a densely populated area with the hopes of getting people to buy a video game. The police showed up and drew their own weapons on the man before the second actor could come save the day and pitch the new Splinter Cell video game.
The worst thing about it is you probably never knew this even happened, which really isn’t what they were going for with the whole “viral” thing.
This attempt didn’t even have a chance to get off the ground due to its poor execution. Other campaigns which have been executed just awfully are Sony’s attempt to encourage PSP purchases with their fake “All I want for XMAS is PSP” video and blog which chronicles a kids attmept to get a PSP for Christmas. The end result is just bad advertising thinly veiled as the most cringe worthy and inaudible rap of all time, and a borderline illiterate blog.
I could keep talking about misguided attempts to create viral marketing like these, but I’d rather quickly discuss what a good viral marketing campaign actually needs. For a viral marketing campaign to be successful it needs to fit seamlessly with the rest of the marketing mix, and be backed up by other forms of marketing. The content needs to be genuinely engaging, and relevant to the product, or at least their market, and at the end of the take it takes some intuition, and a bit of luck. So if you’re ever trying to make some viral content, keep that in mind, and for everyone’s sake, don’t run around pointing fake guns at people.