Virality. This is the single most important, most over-utilized, and meaningless term in digital marketing today. Virality applies to the concept of sharing content that happens spontaneously, through great planning or dumb luck. Virality is what you all want, and its something that many of you will never get.
There are elements that you can manipulate to try and increase the opportunity for something viral to take place, but you can’t control it. In the immortal words of Dan Patrick from his days at ESPN, “you can’t stop it, you can only hope to contain it”.
For virality to happen to need to have a couple key ingredients:
1. Strong, engaging, funny or immensely relevant content
Without truly engaging and relevant content, your message will go nowhere. You need the kind of exclusive, first-mover advantage content that people will see, will immediately apply to themselves and their situations, and will share.
2. Share functionality, built in and noticeable
Think through the user interface and make sure your share buttons are prominent, easy to use, and tap into Facebook, Twitter and email. Many people forget about email, but the majority of sharing still happens through email, so don’t overlook it.
3. A launching pad that stokes the fire for a large initial blast
You need a launching pad, and that can be an online campaign using Facebook, banners or in-game text ads. It can also be a TV campaign, or even a print campaign. You need something that can reach a large audience in an uncluttered environment, and all at the same time.
4. The launch needs to be a big, fast blitz, not a tempered, gradual release
As they say… go big or go home. You need to make a quick splash and you need to do it now. That is the only way to spark the attention of the fans, and get them to share your content.
Funny Or Die is among the best at this, having figured out all of the above and making viral efforts almost better than anyone. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake should be ushered into the Viral Hall of Fame for their recent efforts with the History of Rap. These are the kinds of efforts that gain notoriety immediately, and then just keep on going. They have taken viral to an art form, and one that we all desire to emulate. Of course, relevant to one of my last articles, virality is impossible without great content. To be blunt, crappy content will not be viral. If you are a brand looking to create some viral buzz, or if you are an agency looking to pitch a “viral” campaign (if you are, you should rethink your strategy), then you need to be hyper critical of yourself. You cannot drive viral without the content being high quality. You better focus test that creative, you better have something really special. If not, then you are not setting yourself up for success.
And one last bit of advice; don’t be afraid to spend money in lieu of virality. You can drive reach in any number of ways, and viral is the most ideal, but reach is reach. Sometimes the tipping point requires more mass reach than you thought.
Don’t you agree?
Get this! The babies tell you NOT to conceive them!
1987, the largest account at our agency was State Farm. For like…forever, State
Farm had worked with what is now DDB Chicago to leverage its agents as a point
is there.” (Fun fact: Barry Manilow wrote the jingle!)
People down the hall did. But it was such a big account that we were all aware
of what they were doing. Theirs was the ultimate “old school” approach. Of
course, only hindsight allows me to call it “old school”. It was, at the time,
“school,” because we’re talking 25 years ago.
tennis-balled walker sliding across linoleum. Squeeeeeeak!)
this effort. Which in addition to being developed by just one agency, had just one
tagline. And one message. And one ad format. And one jingle.
back then, and while the company was rather progressive (no pun intended) in
terms of the number of African American agents it featured, the ads were in all
other ways the very definition of cookie cutter. I am not saying it was “safe”vertising,
but rumor has it that each ad came with a heaping tablespoon of Duke’s Original Mayonnaise.
about getting people to switch to State Farm than to convince the 50% or so of
America that already had State Farm to stick with it. The ads focused on the
agents, those “neighbors” that were available whenever you were in trouble.
your Mee-Maw. “Choose security.” “Keep making the riskfree choice.” “The
quality choice.” That’s what you did in those days of yore. Found a message and
spent like a sailor on leave to keep it in people’s consciousness.
for Hispanic, African American, and Asian targets. And there are several
“Anglo” campaigns. The Millennial trial/switching focused campaign uses the tagline
as a sort of abracadabra, It’s gotten significant buzz, and they turn what
could be a “minus” (I have to call an agent) into a “plus” (I’m a VIP entitled to deal with a real person.)
deliver a strong message about value – that good pricing can come WITH great
service. Additionally, they do engaging digital marketing that’s as strong as
anything in the category. This quirky vid is an example:
campaigns every day. The youth stuff when I get my Sheldon Cooper on via TBS,
the mainstreams on sports, a radio campaign on discounts during drive time, and
the Hispanic campaign on Univision soccer.
or perhaps BECAUSE of it, these marketing streams cume up to a much stronger
game, I saw a vignette ad set to the Cheers theme. Cheers – that venerable 80s
show that defined real friendship. By airing this one-off execution as part of
its multifaceted marketing effort, State Farm better connected to the vivid idea
of being there when you need them.
State Farm agent sat at his or her small town knotty pine paneled office and
spoke to camera. Now a State Farm office looks like a tech start-up. Back then
the agent delivered the paraphrased value prop in words. Now many of the ads
don’t even need V/O because the pictures are good enough to do the work.
another old school rule – they acknowledge the existence of competitors despite
being number one. Why? Because it would be patently absurd to pretend that we
had never seen the morose caveman or the uberperky Flo. Today’s consumer values
“real and genuine” over “leader branding.”
Farm is connected to the rise of GEICO and Progressive – sales growth driven by
their aggressive marketing efforts. Indeed, GEICO’s model probably helped State
Farm be comfortable with all this message variety.
fragmentation, multiculturalism, greater need for value, and stronger consumer “control”
– State Farm’s approach appears to be a great example of “what works” today. I
for one am glad that they were able to come so far – to recognize that “rules
change” and adapt it to their unique brand.
Gecko. But using the Cheers song? That was mighty nifty. If it took breaking
the old rules to make it happen, I am thrilled that the old advertising
conventions lie shattered on the floor in Bloomington, IL.
do with State Farm ads. I just thought the example was strong.)