Viral Babies

Viral… No Not the Flu but the Marketing

Going viral is a very misunderstood concept. Many believe that a funny off the wall video will immediately go viral. As a result, small and medium businesses are all too eager to rally behind this or that zany video or service. The reality of viral marketing attempts is that most of these campaigns fail, are lucky to break even and/or avoid embarrassing the company. That said successful viral marketing campaigns usually have one or all of the following features:

• Capture a current pop culture mood or sentiment. Blendtec’s videos went nuts because the first generation iPod was really hot and impossible to buy, and what did they do? They ground it up in a blender!

• A unique service (website, video, book, etc) that offers something useful that no one else provides. Hubspot’s Grader.com is a great example of this. In an interview with David Merriman Scott, Darmesh Shah, the founder of HubSpot, a large technology company, explained the following:


“We’ve captured over 35,000 opt-in email addresses from people who have used Website Grader and have produced over 1,000 sales leads,” says Shah. That’s a remarkable result for a tool that cost virtually nothing to create and to promote though viral marketing strategies.”

• Show the company taking a risk and portraying itself in a slightly different light than it might normally be seen. Take for example Old Spice. Until recently, Old Spice was an old man’s deodorant. Suddenly, thanks to a daring out-of-the-box commercial with Isaiah Mustafa, Old Spice showed itself as edgy and hip.

• A network of people willing to promote the daylights out of you. Kevin Costner was wrong. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come. Most campaigns go viral because they involve the previous two points AND because the marketers have a network of bloggers and contacts to push the videos out to.

• Are lucky. Sometimes all the elements are there and it just doesn’t spread. Other times none of the elements are there and it spreads like wildfire. You cannot always explain or attribute viral campaigns to anything but sheer luck. If you have a tough time believing this, consider “Friday” by Rebecca Black and even she had a professional producer who used their network to promote that gawd-awful video to.

Before attempting a viral marketing campaign, take a look at your other marketing activities. Have you checked off the basics? Do you have an appealing website that is able to capture leads? Do you have a tracking system that enables you to develop a Return on Investment (ROI) metric to measure marketing effectiveness? Do you have a product that is able to tap into the above five points? If you can say yes to all the above, then a viral marketing campaign might be right for you.

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One Response to Viral Babies

  1. Erica Conroy says:

    I totally agree with this viral marketing mix. I saw Joe’s comment on the HubSpot Article. I am interested in hearing how you integrate these viral marketing campaigns into social media.

    Monetizing social media while tracking consumer behavior is going to be the next big thing customers are asking with f-commerce coming out. This will be precious data that companies should not be missing out on.

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