Some viral marketing inspiration to brighten up your Friday!
It’s every marketing manager’s dream to create a successful viral marketing campaign. The concept of people voluntarily promoting a brand’s message is far preferable to expensive advertising campaigns or other enforced efforts at engagement. But with millions of other brands trying to catch the eye of consumers, it can be an uphill struggle. Neil Cumins looks at some recent virals that took social media by storm and tries to analyse why…
With 55 million Facebook status updates made every day and 300 hours of YouTube videos added every minute, the world is awash with interesting original content. To go viral, marketing campaigns typically require ingredients like surreal humour or an overwhelmingly positive message. That’s certainly true for five of the most successful viral campaigns ever created. While their achievements were down to a unique blend of attributes, lessons can still be learned about how and why they succeeded:
ALS Foundation – Ice Bucket Challenge
Before last year, public awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) was extremely low. Self-immersion in cold water may have seemed an unconventional way to publicise this degenerative and fatal condition, although it is actually little known among ice bucket challenge sceptics that the sensation of ice-cold water was meant to replicate one of the effects of the disease. Global awareness of ALS soared after the ice bucket challenge went viral and everyone from Will Smith to Kate Moss took part. The ingenious self-propagating code of this viral was that each participant had to nominate three more people to take part. As well as raising tens of millions of pounds for ALS charities along the way, this condition is now far more widely understood.
Metro Trains – Dumb Ways to Die
YouTube views: 100,000,000
From the Itchy & Scratchy cartoons in The Simpsons to the bestselling series of Bunny Suicides books, modern society relishes cartoon animals meeting grotesque deaths. Melbourne’s Metro Trains cleverly tapped into this global appeal, creating a three-minute animation showing super-cute creatures having their heads ripped off by bears and sticking forks in toasters. The campaign’s message was to deter people from risking life and limb on their tracks, so by showing animals being squashed under trains and getting electrocuted by overhead power lines, the rail company got its message across.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then this regional public service announcement certainly was complimented. It inspired numerous videos, spawned two wildly popular smartphone games, and won awards everywhere from the Webbies to the Cannes International Festival of Creativity. An earworm theme song and crisply minimalist graphics are among other factors underpinning the video that has now been viewed 100 million times on YouTube. But importantly, it’s also raised awareness of rail safety all over the world.
Dove – Campaign for Real Beauty sketches
YouTube views: 180,000,000 (estimated)
Dove’s 2004 Campaign for Real Beauty bravely tackled the tricky subject of low female self-esteem. This culminated in a 2013 video where a sketch artist drew six women based on their descriptions of themselves, and then compared the results to third-party opinions of their appearance. The disparity in these results touched the hearts of millions of people, and the video has been translated into 25 languages and shown throughout the world. It became the most watched ad on YouTube in 2013, and while no figures have been collated since, it remains one of the most famous ad campaigns that went viral. Dove’s brand awareness rocketed without any product hard sell, and its brand emotion rating demonstrated that a positive message can be a far better advertising vehicle than a promotional message.
Red Bull Space Jump
YouTube views: 38,000,000 (for official video only)
Setting three world records and making global news headlines along the way, Felix Baumgartner’s unprecedented jump from inner space in October 2012 shows what can be achieved with a large sponsorship budget. As the most commercial form of product placement, sponsorship can reach global audiences, providing the vehicle it’s attached to is either pioneering or hugely successful.
The Red Bull brand was worth an estimated £5 billion in the months after the space jump, achieving levels of press coverage and public awareness that simply can’t be achieved through conventional advertising. Plus, during his four-minute freefall, Baumgartner proved that Red Bull really did give him wings.
Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
YouTube views: 50,000,000
Alternatively, if budgets are tight and multiple world record attempts aren’t feasible, why not film an attractive half-naked man talking nineteen to the dozen about how fabulous he is? In just 32 seconds, Old Spice transformed itself into a cool brand on everyone’s lips – and skin.
This Old Spice video unfortunately suffers from HeatElectric syndrome, named after the Aardman Animations famous Creature Comforts electricity adverts that many people mistakenly remember as advertising gas. So while everyone remembers the Old Spice viral, few remember the brand., Howevernonetheless, it successfully laid to rest those clichéd “mark of a man” adverts, reinventing Old Spice as a brand deserving a prominent position on aisle-end display units. It also showed that people fall over themselves to share amusing content online.
So, how to make a viral, well, viral? Make it funny, poignant or if all else fails, use a sexy model!