Viral Marketing: What is Working in 2021
Do you need a viral video for generating a viral launch?
Or can you achieve a viral launch without one?
What if viral marketing was more predictable?
Every day we come across viral marketing messages.
We may receive a message from our friends, or colleagues,
we like it and pass it on further to our list of contacts.
This, in its basic form, is a viral marketing phenomenon. But…
Have you ever wondered, why some messages get spread and others don’t?
Wouldn’t it be great if you could leverage a viral launch for your next campaign?
Especially, when you’re running low on marketing budgets?
So, what makes some posts go viral while others fail to catch on?
Let’s dive deeper into viral marketing and try to figure it out…
What does viral marketing mean?
Viral marketing is a method of marketing where you leverage your consumers to
spread the word about your business, products or services.
This is mostly unpaid marketing which your consumers carry out on their own.
Viral Marketing and its advantages
There many advantages that make viral marketing activities worth looking into.
- Cost: The first one, obviously, is the cost. Since your consumers spread the word for you,
it’s basically free of cost.
You only incur a one-time cost in creating the message and seeding it among your consumers and connections.
- Wide reach: It reaches beyond your span of connections and therefore has a wider reach.
It’s been estimated that a successful viral launch campaign
can have 500-1000 times more impact than a non-viral launch campaign.
- Greater Acceptability: Since the viral message gets passed on by someone
in your own connection, you tend to accept it easily.
- Brand building: Since you have created the message yourself, the spreading of the message
helps create awareness about your brand.
(Although blatant brand promotion can backfire, you can be subtle.
You can see how others have done that in viral video examples I cover later in the article.)
Disadvantages of viral marketing
Although viral marketing helps you leverage your consumers for almost free,
there are some disadvantages associated with the method.
- Lack of control: You cannot control who gets your message.
There’s a chance that your message may reach someone you’d rather not associate with.
Now, on the face of it, this might not seem like a problem,
but, since one cannot control who decides to support your viral launch campaign,
it can be a problem for a brand. For example…
Take the case of the Japanese van, Honda Element.
It was designed for the young working executive, in his 20's
and marketed to the same group.
But looking at the utility of the vehicles older
men and women started driving them.
The van had more headroom.
It was easy to get into and climb out of the van
Once this happened, the younger generation didn’t want to associate
themselves with the brand at all.
This association of the van with the senior citizens was
repelling the very target audience the brand wanted to attract – the young executives.
The same can happen with your viral launch message.
- Uncertainty: No matter how well you plan your campaign and how
creatively you produce your messages, you can never be certain it’ll go viral.
Viral marketing is as much an art as it is a science.
- Non-Repeatable: Viral marketing campaigns aren’t repeatable.
If a viral video works once won’t work again. It’s like telling a good joke.
Once you’ve heard the punch-line, it isn’t as funny
the next time. It’s the same with viral messages.
- Not-measurable: Since you can’t control, nor track who gets and
spreads your message, you can’t measure the effectiveness of the campaign.
- Can backfire: Human nature being what it is, you know people are
more likely to spread negative news about something that positive ones.
Therefore, if some people put in a negative comment about the campaign
or the viral video, that negative message is likely to spread as well.
Viral Video examples
Best viral videos of 2020 so far
Viral messages are mostly viral videos. And for a good reason.
They are more engaging than text or only audio.
Viral videos are vividly remembered and easy to pass-on.
Since the beginning of the year, people have locked themselves up in their
homes because of the pandemic so the viral videos this year are a bit different than last year’s videos.
Here are some examples of viral videos:
Viral Video 1: This one girls tries to rescue a squirrel from a kids’ pool and…
Viral Video 2: A Complicated Basketball trick shot that is hilarious
Viral Video 3:. Now, for something emotional… a man reuniting with his donkey
Viral Video 4: So, how do you explain to maintain social distancing while playing tennis?
Here’s an official who reminds the public to avoid touching other people's (tennis) balls as the crowd laughs on.
Viral Video 5: Lapses of memory are sometimes the best viral results.
Here’s a reporter who forgot he had filters on, before reporting live on Facebook live!
Viral Video 6: Here’s a funny ad for a Greek restaurant. Cutting corners with your budget? It will show in your ads..
Some successful viral marketing campaigns
Viral Marketing Campaign 1. Oreo: Dunk in the Dark
Buying an advertising spot during The Super Bowl can be notoriously expensive.
A single 30-second spot can end up costing more than $5 million dollars.
So what do you do?
Think out of the box, that’s what.
In 2013, Oreo completely nailed-it with one simple tweet.
It so happened that the Mercedes Superdome experienced a
power-outage that lasted over 30 minutes.
Oreo grabbed the moment and tweeted this:
Power out? No problem…
What happened next was pure victory for Oreo.
By linking their brand with The Super Bowl,
Oreo was able to divert attention from the games to their brand.
This one viral tweet had such a huge impact that it became a
case-study in viral messaging in marketing circles.
Why did this go viral?
Oreos took advantage of the power outage.
Their impeccable timing and fast action made it
a killer combination to have for marketers.
Viral Marketing Campaing 2. – e.l.f Campaign
If you are a new and upcoming brand of beauty product, and want
to get your word across to the target audience fast. What do you do?
This was a challenge that stared the cosmetic brand e.l.f which stands for Eyes, Lips & Face.
Their target audience was Generation Z, and therefore they chose TikTok as their channel.
What they did was brilliant. They got a song produced by the same company that
produces albums for Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and celebrity singers.
Then, e.l.f created a hashtag inviting the viewers to post videos of their eyes, lips and face into the song.
And the viewers responded. e.l.f received over 2.8 million viral videos!
It has become one of the most successful campaign on TikTok till date.
Why did this create a buzz?
For one, the brand understood their target audience well.
They understood their preferences and where they hang out.
They also played on the intrinsic human need for acknowledgement, which made the
viewers share their own creation among their group. With this knowledge e.l.f was able to create marketing history.
Viral Marketing Campaign 3 – Dollar Shave Club
Now, what if your product isn’t exciting as cosmetics or cookies.
What can you do in that case? Take the example from the Dollar Shave Club.
In 2012 the fledgling company was struggling to get subscribers for their shaving product brand.
So, what did they do? They tried to get a viral launch.
They created a funny video explaining what made their products and company great. Here’s the viral video.
This video has been viewed over 26 million times as of this writing.
The video took the unknown brand and got them over 12,000 subscribers in just 48 hours.
The volume of traffic was so high that their server crashed many times while the campaign was running.
Why did this campaign spread?
It used humor to engage their audience engaged. The whole campaign was run on a very
low budget but it was their creativity that saved them the day.
Having seen examples of successful viral marketing campaigns, let’s now discover…
How does viral marketing work?
The principle behind making viral marketing work is simple.
All you need to do is create a message worth sharing and share
it with your circle of connections, or target audience, in case of a business.
You have effectively lit the fuse of your firecracker and now all that remains to be done is – wait.
Wait for the fire to reach the explosive and go bang!
If you have done a good job on creating the message, your audience will
spread it forward and it’ll catch on.
But, at times, messages can go viral unintentionally.
We have seen cases of some videos which were captured by
people and uploaded for private use which went viral when others stumbled upon it.
But are there any basic components that make a campaign go viral?
Viral launch strategy
- So what should be the overall strategy to create successful viral launch campaigns?
Here they are in brief:
This is viral launch principle – one: People love anything that is exclusive and not widely available.
This can be rare arte-facts, memberships to exclusive clubs or even information.
Take the example of Studio 54.
When it opened in 1977, entry into the studio was restricted.
So much that even Frank Sinatra couldn’t get in.
And so did the President of Cyprus, the son of the King of Saudi Arabia and many young Kennedys.
Almost every night there would be a crowd outside their doors, waiting to get in.
But there was always something that stopped them.
And that was a group of bouncers manning the velvet-covered chain.
This created a hype and made the Studio 54 even more alluring.
And those who got to enter boasted about their experience to anyone who’d care to listen.
Thus creating a viral spread of their brand name.
The exclusive experience gave them the social currency and made them want to share the message with others. But it'snot enough to be exclusive. For the word to actually spread, you need to follow the second step, which is…
I want you to listen to this song. Go ahead click ‘play’. I’ll wait till you finish
If you are like most people, chances are you wouldn’t have liked this song.
In fact, more than 77% feedback for this song is a thumbs-down on YouTube.
And yet, over 300 million people have shared this song (as of this writing).
If the song is so bad, what made it a viral video?
For that we will have to go deeper into the viewership trends.
Well when you look at the data, you'll notice an interesting pattern.
There's a spike in shares and then it goes down, and then another spike
and then it goes down, and then another spike and then it goes down again.
And when you look closer though, you notice those spikes aren't random.
They're actually seven days apart. If you'll look even closer
you'll notice that they're every Friday, the same name as our song.
Interestingly, that song is equally bad every day of the week.
It’s bad on Monday, it's bad on Tuesday, it's bad on Wednesday.
And even on a Friday, it’s bad!
But when Friday rolls around there’s a peak in people sharing this song.
The question is – why?
And the answer is, because the name of the song provides a ready reminder.
What psychologist would call – a trigger,
to make people think about it, and talk about it, and share it.
Because if something's top-of-mind it's going to be more likely to be tip-of-tongue.
As marketers it’s not enough to think about, do people like my product.
We assume that the more people like it, the more likely they will be to buy it.
But it's not true. Just because we like something, we don’t end-up
buying it, unless we're thinking about it.
For example, suppose there's a restaurant in your city that you like.
You like the food, you like the ambience and the location is really convenient.
You've been there once and you've been meaning to go back again.
But if you never think about it right when you're making plans for dinner, you're never going to end up going there.
If you're not triggered to think about it, you're not going act.
So here I want to show you a great example of a company getting people
emotional about something that is difficult to get emotional about.
You might say, well, certain things are naturally emotional. Of course, cute babies,
cats and dogs are easy to get people to care about.
But what if I'm trying to get people to care about something that is not so inherently emotional?
So here's a great example about how Kleenex got people to care about tissues!
It's not surprising that these viral videos went around so fast that they created a huge buzz.
Now that's quite a powerful message.
And if you think about it, at its core, it's about something we don't care a lot about or think a lot about.
Kleenex has created viral videos, in which they make
people think about emotionally charged times
and hand them a tissue when their eyes well-up.
Simply awesome marketing thinking!
And the point is that people can't help but follow the story and get emotionally involved.
Kleenex got them to link tissues with their emotional journey through life, and because of that they shared.
Now, one question this brings up though is,
do all emotions drive people to share?
Or are certain emotions be more effective than others?
When we tend to think about emotions we tend to divide them into two types.
Positive emotions and negative emotions.
And, people be happy to share positive emotions but avoid sharing negative ones.
When you are newly in a foreign city and you are deciding what restaurant to go to.
You look for one that's full because you assume it'll be pretty good.
We look to others for information about what we should do ourselves.
But importantly if we can't see what others are doing, we can't imitate it.
If we walk by that restaurant and that front window is not made of glass,
and there is a brick wall with a door and we can't see inside.
We are not going to know how popular it is and we are going to be unlikely to go there.
Why is that?
The easier something is to see, the easier it is to imitate.
And so in thinking about how to apply that idea,
we need to make private things more public.
Make the unobservable things more observable.
And that brings us to the second ‘P', which is practical value.
People don't just share things that make them look good,
they share things that help others and make others better off.
When we look at your inbox, for example, you'll see lots of things that
people have shared with you that are often useful:
Freedom Sale deals
Top 7 immunity-boosting items you need to include in your diet
Tricks to get more mileage out of your car
Or The six questions you should always ask your CPA.
In all of these cases, people are sharing this information because they want to help others out.
They want to pass along useful information to make others better off.
Since cavemen times, we have used stories to share our ideas.
Here I want to talk about a particular type of story.
Imagine you're at a party, a get-together, one weekend with your friends,
and someone that you don't really know comes up to you and says something along the lines of the following.
Did you know, my new-found friend, that the company, Nuvopreneur, conducts fantastic webinars?
What would you do if someone walked up to you at a party and said,
did you know a digital marketing company has great webinar series?
You'd probably say something like wow, that's really interesting, I guess. But…
Hang on here for just a second. I left my drink in just the other room.
I'll be back in just a sec.
And then that person would never see you again, because no one
wants to be friends with someone who is a walking advertisement.
As much as people like our messages, like our ideas and want to share them,
people don't want to be friends with someone that shares something that sounds like ads.
In fact, the more something is like an ad the less likely the people are to share it.
So we have to give people an excuse, what's called psychological cover, to get
them to share our message. And stories are one way to do exactly that.
Imagine for a moment I told you a different story.
Imagine I told you a story of how I was at my wits end.
I had launched a campaign a couple weeks ago and
all I had got in response was the sound of crickets.
No one was buying!
I was becoming desperate. I was losing money everyday.
And, in this world crisis, money was a scarce resource.
I was searching the net for some solution. I even googled for answers,
but every website-owner I found, was asking me to
spend more money to learn the “secrets”.
Then I came across a website. It was a blog, actually.
An unassuming sort of website called, nuvopreneur.com,
which simply said, “If you're struggling to get leads,
this webinar will answer your questions. Click here to enroll.”
It was free, so I clicked. I was sure this was
going to be some sort of a pitch to sell another product.
That's what webinars are these days – a pitch fest.
But what I found was… 45 minutes of absolute gold!
That webinar, not only opened my mind to
marketing strategy but also helped me uncover my blind-spots.
I emailed the blog owner with some queries
and he offered to get on a call to help me sort my campaign.
All this without so much as asking for a dollar!
I got so much value, I would've easily paid $500 for it.
It was amazing!
I made the changes, I was told to make, and could see a difference in a matter of days.
Now, my campaigns are getting me 209 leads a day!
And what I love about that story is, in a quick 20 to 30 seconds,
everything else about Nuvopreneur, our having great webinar series, comes to life.
Because anyone can say they have great training programs.
Anyone can tell you they have great webinar series, but what a
good story does is it SHOWS you that great webinar series.
You can't walk away from that story without realizing
how great Nuvopreneur webinars actually are.
It's what I'll call a story-seed.
We've all heard stories in our childhood, where each one had a moral.
The story was built to conclude with the moral.
Good stories are like that. They’re carriers of seeded information.
Sure, there's an engaging layer on the outside but there's a seed in the middle
that comes along.
Whether it's a brand, whether it's an attribute or a moral, it's part of the story.
You can't forget it while you're listening to that story.
So, you don't always need a viral video to get your message to spread, a viral story
well constructed will also do the trick!
Now, that we know what gets shared, we still need to understand
how to craft out messages. That’s where we are headed now.
Techniques to Create a Viral Launch Campaign
There are certain ways to make sure your messages get spread by the public. Try these and see for yourself.
- Take a strong position or view. Stir up some controversy
(even if it is internal controversy within your receivers).
You should avoid taking the middle path. Take sides and defend your point of view.
Don’t try to please everyone.
- Do something unexpected. The same-old, same-old is a dead fish when
it comes to making something go viral.
You need to be ‘out-of-the blue’ with your message.
Think about what will surprise your audience.
Combine the shock with the mundane and you have a winner.
- Avoid inserting your brand or business name into the messages.
They just don’t work.
They are too self-serving towards your brand, to do anything for the person sharing it.
It’ll make him or her look like a sell-out to your brand for having shared your message.
And people want to avoid that.
- Leave something for the next time. People like to know there’s more and
look out actively for upcoming information.
If you hint at upcoming addendum, it’ll involve them even more in your communication.
- Make it a two-way communication. With today’s technology it is easy to
go back and forth with messages.If you involve your audience in a two-way communication,
it’ll make them more prone to share your messages with others.
- Make it shareable.Use social shares, website embeds, shareable links, downloads, etc.
Make it easy for them to pass it along.
- Target the right audience and channel. The success of a viral campaign is decided by
the first group of people you seed. Seeding the right people will make or break your campaign.
Remember the how things caught on when you were in school?
When the right kids got the new toy, the idea spread to the other kids.
It was enough for the hip kids to be seen with the toy to increase the appeal for that toy.
But if the wrong kids got the toy first, then you could be sure it would die a lonely death.
It’s the same for viral messages. It’s important the right people forward
the messages in the beginning.
Get the initial group right, and you ensure that they spread your message.
This article is a summarized version of a research-based article. If you wish to read the original researched article you can do so by clicking here.
You want your message to go viral.
So far, there’d been only guesses and hunches about how viral marketing works.
This is an attempt to give viral marketing a structure and open-up avenues for more study.
Having said that, there are few things we, now, know.
Blatant self-promotions don’t work. The message should be helpful to make it share-worthy.
You need to take sides with your point-of-view. You need to stir emotions.
Even boring, everyday things can carry an emotional message (see examples above).
Make your message easy to share.
So there you are. Which point in this article did you find interesting? Comment belowand let me know.
- Take a strong position or view. Stir up some controversy