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Can we go viral, please!!

Posted by Sailesh Wadhwa on June 20th, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Every time I hear this phrase, it reminds me of Captain Kirk’s famous catchphrase ‘Beam me up, Scotty’. From the much popular TV series Star Trek we all grew up with. Ironically even Scotty would have scoffed at this request in today’s time of Social Media driven marketing initiatives.

Looks like, ‘Going Viral’ ambition is becoming more contagious among practitioners than the campaigns themselves. But is it really to do with our respective digital fluency, strategies, game plans, tools deployed &  execution techniques, or simply the brazen truth, that we don’t own the ‘Brands’ in the Social world. Real People do.

As Kevin Alloca, Trends Manager at Youtube points out that “the videos that go really viral [over 1 Million views] are surprisingly the ones that were never posted with that intent.” However he is quick to add that “what made them really go viral was the element of ‘unexpectedness’ about them which caught the attention of ‘tastemakers’ and online communities who accelerated the social sharing process [and not the originators of these videos].”

What Lady Gaga knows about Social Media that we don’t:

While buzz concepts of Crowd-Sourcing, People to People Marketing, Testimonials, & User reviews, Nurturing Communities and Social Engagement all sound nice and proper, what brands really need to do is show up without make-up.

Welcome to the Online Culture, over here ‘content’ is the only celebrity, ‘brand deeds’ the only competitive edge, ‘making the conversations flow’ the only strategy and ‘accepting & admitting to flaws’ your trump card to applause. Lady Gaga would agree, real people hangout here, so show-up with make-up and act yourself, they might just find you interesting.

Being Human about a Brand:

The magic word I guess for all of us in this virtual-real world as aptly pointed out by Trendwatching.com is Mature+ Naturalism = Maturalism or what I call ‘Being Human about a Brand’. Interestingly enough, increasingly brands are getting mature about their online worlds and embracing the no make-up policy when it comes to breathing online.

Few inspirational cases that walked the talk on acting Mature & Real:

#1 Johnson & Johnson’s Personal Power ballad apology video

This is the story of how Johnson & Johnson won back its outraged women customers protesting against the news of their popular O.B. Ultra tampon product discontinuation. Instead of acting smart, cheeky or conventionally clever, they decided to be human. They did what any man would do to win back his love who was upset with him. They choose the power of romance and dedicated a ballad apology video exclusively to her, where-in each lady could fill in their name and see her personalized power ballad apology video.

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#2 Domino Pizza’s Turnaround Transparency

Conventionally any brand would have defended its position when faced with widespread dissent about its product quality that got triggered by an inappropriate employee conduct video that went viral. But Domino Pizza chose to be brave about the whole episode by turning the situation on its head. They used it to delight customers with a ‘Transparent journey into product re-invention’ shared openly with customer across social media platforms. In fact they went ahead and took New York’s Times Square for a month to live-stream all (good and bad) customer feedback tweets onto the digital hoarding, in the process winning the customers back.

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#3 Miracle Whip ‘We are not for everyone’ stance

Here’s the story of another brand who took an extremely bold stance of everyone can’t become a fan of your brand. Kraft Foods’ Miracle Whip brand launched a campaign in February 2011 with the slogan, ‘We’re not for everyone. Are you Miracle Whip?’ The brand’s YouTube channel featured celebrities expressing their love (or disgust) for the mayonnaise-like condiment, while viewers could vote for whether they loved or hated the sauce. By February 2012, 60,000 people had ‘loved’ the brand while only 4,000 had ‘hated’ it. In process they build admiration among both users and non-users for off-course different reasons.

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Sure Social Media world can go Gaga over our brands too, provided:

a)     We embrace maturity of purpose: Being Human about brands

b)     Ditch the make-up and show the real, vulnerable self

c)      Don’t aspire to be flawless, rather embrace limitations

d)     Take a stance, the social world would respect us for it

e)     Just cool technology stunts would not propel our brands

f)      Don’t aspire to go ‘Viral’ but go ‘Unexpected’

And gladly our Scotty would ‘beam us up’.

[First appeared in Marketing Magazine Malaysia-June 2012 Issue]

3 Responses to “Can we go viral, please!!”

  1. I think the term "viral marketing" is a bit of an oxymoron. Marketing campaigns are supposed to be carefully and methodically planned, no detail left untouched. Meanwhile, viral is something you can't control no matter how hard you try, it just happens. I think brands should focus on creating great content for their audience, not on making something "go viral."

  2. Kaushik says:

    If not 'contracted' in a holistic way, a viral might make a brand real 'sick'...

  3. Hi Sailesh. Nice examples & I tend to agree with no make-up bit. But do you feel too much transparency can perhaps have counter effects? In India, we have a tendency to take for granted brands that are too honest or perhaps a mite servile. I remember Vijay Mallya's offer to his guests to treat Kingfisher like they were his house etc was misused often.

    Having said that I find forgiveness an easy virtue when apologies are rendered online. It's public & perhaps has a shared camaraderie on a grievance, that makes it acceptable. What I've found toughest is to spread good news about a brand. People aren't hanging around checking ads or brand stories. So finding a smart & sexy way to make that viral perhaps needs a different approach?!!!

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