Can you plan viral marketing?

by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded

Here’s a question that I don’t know the real answer to; can you “plan” having your video, blog, tweet, etc., go viral? From what I’ve seen, almost all of it has been by “accident”, but I’m not an expert at identifying what was planned and what just happened organically. I sometimes hear from marketers, “…and lets create a video that will go viral…” and I’m also asked if we can create a video that will be viral. Though I’m searching for some insight myself, here is my view about “planning to go viral”:

• It still must be related to your brand – Yes, you can do outrageous videos and stupid human tricks, but does the video stay true to your core brand? One of the qualities I’ve seen where “going viral” is a big asset is the video content actually supports the brand position. From there it seems to grow organically and truly energizes your brand and your loyal customers. Otherwise, it looks like just a cheap trick. Any bump you may get in rankings or views will be short-lived and your brand will not have gained any long-term benefits. In many cases, it can damage your brand position and makes people go “huh?”

• Trying too hard can make you look stupid – I think this is especially true for brands that try to be cool and hip even though those qualities are not an authentic part of the core. It’s like your parents trying to be “fly” in front of your friends. It’s just weird. Being real and honest is critical in maintaining any credibility in the market place. That’s especially true for marketing to teens. They can smell a fake in a nano-second. You must be true to your brand position and leverage the technologies that will reinforce that position with the appropriate message that will resonate with your customers. If your efforts go viral, great. If not, don’t force it or make it your sole measure for marketing effectiveness. I’m not aware of any company who’s made it in the long run just because their online efforts went viral. I’m also aware of many marketing efforts that didn’t go viral that has been very effective and affected the bottom line.

• Smart marketing wins over video (or any other) gimmicks – Gimmicks and tricks can get you a quick bump in awareness, sales, etc. In the long run, it does more harm than good. Think of your efforts trying to go viral like sugar. You may achieve it, but that buzz only lasts for a short while. Afterward, you find your self more drained and down than you were before eating those 4 sugar cookies. It’s the smart, purposeful, consistent marketing that will help build a great company. I don’t deny that going viral is a fun boost, but it’s not something you should build your marketing plan around. From what I’ve seen, if you do everything else effectively in a comprehensive marketing plan, you may find that going viral may become easier because you’ve gained momentum with a holistic approach. Going viral is just one more push on the fly wheel.

In my view, staying authentic, communicating the true core of your brand, and taking a comprehensive approach to your marketing, you may find out that going viral may be just a byproduct of a well executed plan. If any one else has thoughts and insights, I would love to hear from you and learn from you as well.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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