Introduction To Viral marketing Techniques
The millennial guys are all looking for some surprise, shock, excitement, thrill once in a while and now with the explosion of mass media and social media, a picture, video clipping, an infographic or a shocking tweet can spread like a virus across networks to people living in geographically different places and become the center point of discussion. It’s somewhat analogous to the virus that spreads fast along computers and networks by replicating itself when a user opens an application.
A wardrobe dysfunction of an actress, a newsreader tapping on the desk and happily humming a tune not knowing the camera is still on, an old lady setting nursery rhymes to the tune of Carnatic music- Sa re- ga-ma-pa, a bridegroom’s embarrassment as a dhoti slips during his wedding are all videos that people instantly share and discuss, have a big laugh over it in private conversations and social media. Or it could be the slip of the tongue of a popular politician or an awkward speech from a public figure.
So, therefore, it is not surprising for people to say, ‘it went viral’ or ‘it has gone viral’ in everyday discussions and chats between friends. It could put governments, decision makers, celebrities, even common people in a corner. According to Steve Olenski, contributor to Forbes.com, most people don’t know what goes into a truly viral video until it starts to spread.
What is Viral marketing Techniques?
When the technique of ‘viral’ is applied to marketing in a professional it is called viral marketing techniques. It is any technique that induces users to share a marketing message multiplying exponentially its visibility and effect. The most quoted example of viral marketing techniques is related to Hotmail owned by Microsoft which markets its service and advertiser’s messages in every email sent.
Viral marketing is now defined as the rapid sharing of an idea, a portion of this idea contains a marketing message about buying a product or service.
Viral marketing techniques
Top 6 Viral marketing techniques are as follows:
Go for the emotional connect
Viral marketing techniques wouldn’t make much of an impact unless it has got an emotional appeal. It could be humor, shock, sympathy, surprise, bewilderment, curiosity or astonishment.
Imagine the bewilderment created by the video which shows the Torro Rosso’s F1 car being dropped by helicopter into a ski slope and then raced. The team was sponsored by energy drink Red Bull. According to Allen St John, a popular writer on sports and entertainment does not win races or get noticed on performance but it generates fun and excitement enough to get noticed otherwise. That’s what the marketers ultimately want.
Some of the other emotional stealers in viral space are ALS ice bucket challenge evoking sympathy, Panda cheese commercials that generated curiosity mixed with astonishment or the Girl Leads Man Around World video creating utter envy. The emotional drive of any viral campaign should be strong enough to succeed in grabbing attention.
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Give valuable products for free
The success of Hotmail was in giving the service free. Free email services, free software, free mobile apps which will pay off in the long run. Free services attract more interest among users and will be shared extensively. Free services can use their reach to develop advertising opportunities and ecommerce opportunities. The trick is in generating interest in readers. The Hotmail started it all with the classic ‘Get your private, free email at http://www.hotmail.com’.
Let’s move to the next viral marketing techniques.
Find a good or noble cause
When a firm is seen as a responsible corporate citizen that adds to brand value.
ALS Ice Bucket challenge that went viral set a new trend in charities and using online celebrities to strike it rich. It was one of the biggest viral campaigns ever. The campaign urged people to dump a bucket full of ice water on themselves, take its video and tag friend s to join in. The campaign succeeded in raising $100 mn for the ALS Association. It attracted the interest of globally renowned people like Mark Zuckerburg, Martha Stewart, Justin Timberlake, Oprah, Bill Gates who all poured a bucket of ice water on themselves and posted videos. Challenged App is now available for companies to create similar challenges, create a video and post it.
It may not sound surprising to hear from viral marketing techniques experts that more challenge-wise viral campaigns are set to be launched thanks to the availability of apps for the purpose.
There should be a brand message in the content
What if you create a video that is engaging, interesting or funny and it gets shared? Where does your brand benefit? The classic example was the ‘ReTweet to Feed a Hungry Child’ campaign of Kellog’s UK. The Twitter message hardly contained 140 characters and despite being popular for its charitable activities, the tweet didn’t succeed in creating a wave. Those who didn’t know of its charity activities saw it as an attempt to set up a viral marketing campaign that held the hunger of children hostage. Kellog’s attempt miserably failed and they had to apologize. The company tried to push a brand message without informing the audience what the message was all about.
The tweet read: “RT to help promote the our#GiveaChildbreakfast campaign. Click the link to learn how we help those in need: urlof website” Here the failure was attributed to the lack of a message and focusing on the viral part of it. There should be a strong brand message, the viral part will take off on its own with a bit of push.
When we analyze the success stories in viral marketing, it is evident they have a message as in Katy Perry videos. It was a simple one- buy my album. Without a strong brand message, whatever effort is taken to push the video through social media and other platforms would backfire.
Another example of a viral marketing techniques failure is the Evian Roller Babies campaign which was meant to promote Evian water. The video was widely watched and having crossed 70 million views. The message was that those who consume Evian water could feel as young and energetic as those babies. Those who saw the videos couldn’t connect with the Evian brand.
Let’s move to the next viral marketing techniques
Let there be real life in the videos
if videos are sot in real life situations and the public asked to respond to a situation or question or the response of the audience shown are all perfect examples of using reality to succeed in viral marketing techniques. America’s Funniest Home Videos are perfect examples of using real life settings to go viral. Successful campaigns also involve people reacting to imagined situations. TNT’ Drama Button campaign shocked people on the streets and people loved to see the reactions taking it to a viral intensity.
Align with unexpected partners to get noticed
It is better to get some player outside of your industry to team up with just as The Walking Dead teamed up with UC Irvine to create an open online course which showed how a zombie apocalypse would be like. Likewise, HP-Kiva tie-up helped generate $25 from employees as a donation for a charitable project of their choice. Both the companies benefited from the exposure as a responsible corporate citizen.
Some major viral campaigns in history
From the foregoing discussion, it is evident that all viral marketing techniques did not succeed because they failed to adhere to some of the basic principles outlined above. But there are several campaigns worth recalling that had varied success in the market place. Social media is the popular medium through which viral campaigns spread across the globe, gets shared and discussed. Hence it makes sense to invest some time, effort and money into Facebook, Google +, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other popular social media sites.
- Old Spice campaign-In this 30-second campaign, a handsome man speaks directly to women, ‘your man could smell like me. The ad went viral with its cool and sexy appeal.
- Blair Witch Project: the film released in 1999 did not have the YouTube or social media support but it used the website to popularize the theme of the movie. A real documentary footage of an unsuccessful search for the truth behind an urban legend helped create an impression that it was based on an extant urban myth. The video went viral and helped in the success of the film which had no advertising budget although it did not become a major hit.
- Burger King’s Sandwich: The company launched a viral campaign in 2004 for the Tender Crisp sandwich. It was done on the web and a person dress in a chicken suit would follow the commands as a user typed commands on a site. ‘Chicken the way you want it was the tagline and had entertainment value even to people who didn’t eat Burger King chicken.
- Ok Go’s video Song: ‘ Here it Goes Again’ was marketed online instead of television that went viral due to its innovative treadmill dance. It suited the band’s status as an underdog brand but proved to be a milestone for viral marketing in the music industry.
Conclusion – Viral Marketing techniques
As a strategy, viral marketing techniques has been a success and most of them appear to have used the online medium in conjunction with social media to great effect. For such a campaign, there are a lot of ingredients that need to go into it. Fun, humor and excitement are all good if there is an underlying brand message to convey. Otherwise, people will see the humor, surprise element or sensational stuff in it and share it. However, it will not add value to the brand.
The viral marketing campaign is mostly inexpensive and simple most often taken on mobile phone cameras and uploaded or taken using amateur camcorders. Intimate moments, surprising moments, caught on camera types all needed the presence of mind of the observer and one moment of hesitation would have resulted in those shots and scenes being lost forever.
It is not enough that a video, image or text can go viral on its own. It needs a gentle push in the beginning, support through the social media and word-of-mouth to go really viral. Even if the content is amazing people need to know about before they can share and make it popular. It is possible to use tools such as Revcontent to place viral campaigns in top websites on desktop and mobile, according to Steve Olenski, contributing writer to Forbes.
When planning a viral marketing campaign the message is as important as the identification of a target audience. It should be broad-based on demographic profile- age group, income, social status, lifestyle, aspirations and so on. A wrongly targeted campaign can misfire and do no good to the band that was intended to be promoted.
The team behind the viral marketing campaign should not have a traditional mindset but be innovative. Samsung’s LED TV campaign putting LED lights into sheep creating works of art attracted 19 million views based on its novelty.
Some campaigns have used their own platforms to propagate the message but it makes sense to use the web resources of others to go viral. Affiliate programs place text or graphics on a variety of websites.
It works on basic human drives and motivations such as the desire to be connected with others, greed, desire for love, popularity, and fun. Therefore, marketers need to work the viral strategy on common motivations of people and moreover, it should be in a format that is easily transferable to others.
Some viral marketing experts opine that unlike traditional mass market campaign formulas that have been tried and tested over the years, there is no formula for success in a viral marketing campaign. It cannot be anticipated as in the case of the film industry, whether a campaign will become a hit. Moreover, there is no market research to evaluate what people want to see in a viral video. But people recognize the viral element in it when they watch it and are quite eager to share in their viral marketing network.
Even big trans-global firms could succeed in only one or two campaigns achieving a 20% success rate while the majority of the videos went unnoticed. A complex mixture of factors and variables outlined above are at work and one can always get some clues from the success stories in viral.