Chances are you've had or made this request when developing a digital marketing campaign: “We’d like it to go viral!”
Obviously, setting out to create a viral video is hard, but take a look below at what Red Giant (a small software company that develops visual effects plug-ins) did on a very tight budget (less than $10,000). Armed with a great idea and some serious filmmaking skills, the company enlisted filmmaker Seth Worley to create “Plot Device” – a video that has captured more than 540,000 views on Vimeo and YouTube in its first two weeks.
What’s the hook? Subtle, but very creative – A young filmmaker obtains a mysterious device that unleashes the full force of cinema on his front lawn, we see a different visual effect included in its Magic Bullet Suite 11 software with every “plot twist”. Brilliant.
What is “Going Viral”?
Virus – A virus is a small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the living cells of organisms.
Viral – The adjective or adverb viral and the noun virality may refer to any viral phenomenon, that is, an object or pattern that is able to induce some agents to replicate it, resulting in many copies being produced and spread around.
Memes - An idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. Memes are possibly the best examples of viral patterns.
The 1992 novel Snow Crash explores the implications of an ancient memetic meta-virus and its modern day computer virus equivalent:
We are all susceptible to the pull of viral ideas. Like mass hysteria. Or a tune that gets into your head that you keep on humming all day until you spread it to someone else. Jokes. Urban legends. Crackpot religions. No matter how smart we get, there is always this deep irrational part that makes us potential hosts for self-replicating information.
Theresa Howard from USA Today unifies the thoughts – viral marketing, viral advertising are buzzwords referring to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of viruses or computer viruses. It can be delivered by word of mouth or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet.Viral marketing may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or text messages. The goal of marketers interested in creating successful viral marketing programs is to create viral messages that appeal to individuals with high social networking potential and that have a high probability of being presented and spread by these individuals and their competitors in their communications with others in a short period of time.
There is debate on the origination and the popularization of the term viral marketing, though some of the earliest uses of the current term are attributed to the Harvard Business School graduate Tim Draper and faculty member Jeffrey Rayport. The term was later popularized by Rayport in a 1996 Fast Company articleThe Virus of Marketing.
Some “Effective” Viral Marketing
I’ve provided links, so you can relive some of them, if you’d like…
Ponzi Schemes – the Ponzi scheme and related investment pyramid schemes (think Multi-Level Marketing) are early examples of viral marketing. Let’s not forget how current the big ones have gone down – thank you Mr. Madoff.
BMW Films – launched in 2002, BMW Films (check out Madonna in “STAR” by Guy Ritchie) was among the earliest viral marketing campaigns. It attracted nearly 55 million viewers, helped to elevate the career of Clive Owen and produced some absolutely brilliant films.
The Subservient Chicken – Burger King’s Subservient Chicken campaign ran from 2004 until 2007, and was an early example of viral marketing online, which clearly caught many people off guard with its blockbuster following.
Dove Evolution – the 2006 Dove Evolution video was an amazing example of a behind the scenes look into the taboo world of advertising, that was clearly worthy of worldwide sharing (and making parodies).
Evian Roller Babies –Evian Roller Babies won a Gold Award at the London International Awards 2009 for Best Visual Effects.
Saturday Night Live – in 2008 SNL had a breakout from their failing ratings and changed their game forever on and offline, when they posted a little, highly produced Justin Timberlake and Adam Samberg video on Youtube called Dick In A Box.
Cadbury’s Dairy Milk – its 2007 Cabury’s “Gorilla” Advertising campaign was heavily popularized on YouTube and Facebook.
Old Spice - Old Spice launched the fastest growing online viral video campaign ever in July of 2010. It garnered 6.7 million views after 24 hours, ballooning to over 23 million views after 36 hours and has reached over 34 million views (not to mention the endless parodies). To further leverage this success, Old Spice’s agency created a bathroom set in Portland and had their TV commercial star, Isaiah Mustafa, reply to 186 online comments and questions from the top social networking sites.
T-Mobile – T-Mobile made a viral video in Liverpool Station that got a lot of attention in 2009. The video started a craze: T-Mobile Dance. And… not to be overlooked at 23+ million views is the 2011 Royal Wedding spoof version – T-Mobile Royal Wedding Dance
I’ll close with one of my 2011 favourites… at 41,420,648views:
Volkswagen Darth Vader – The spot features a pint-sized Darth Vader who uses the Force when he discovers the all-new 2012 Passat in the driveway. It leverages humor and the unforgettable Star Wars™ score to create an emotional commercial. The perfectly cast child evokes positive memories of ones own childhood (and/or ones time as a parent), and provides instant relate-ability.
Why they’re spreading…
·Two thirds of the world’s Internet population now visits a social network or blog site weekly.–Nielson
·220+ million people (and growing) visit the top 25 social networks monthly.–Tech Crunch
·Facebook has 750+ million active users. –Goldman Sachs
·Time spent visiting Social media sites now exceeds time spent emailing. –Adweek
·52% of people who find news online forward it on through social networks, email, or posts. –Mashable
·59% of adults polled state that they use their cell phone to remain connected with their social network. –Pew Research
No one invented this medium for marketers. The medium got here before we did. Viral marketing is like winning the lottery, and if you’ve got a shot at an ideavirus (Seth’s term for the phenomenon and name of one of his books), you might as well over-invest and do whatever it takes to create something virus-worthy.
The better the content, the more compelling the message, the better the chance of going viraland creating something that is truly worthy of spreading.
"I joined the Digital Screenmedia Association because everything is changing so rapidly with this medium that you need to have as much access to information as you can get. I have met many vendors and users, and enjoy the opportunity to share our 'war stories' and use our experiences to help each other with ideas that support successful networks."
Director, Gobal Marketing & Communications
Platt Retail Institute