Viral Messages Are Spontaneous
It took just 48 hours for the viral marketing campaign ‘Kony2012’ to garner more than 10 million views on YouTube and almost 2 million “Likes” on Facebook.
That’s quite an achievement for any marketing campaign, much less a non-profit group seeking the capture of Joseph Kony, a previously unknown African leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The essence of the campaign revolves around a YouTube video which seeks to spotlight atrocities allegedly committed by Kony and his army of rebels across the African Continent.
I am not here to talk politics, however, I am here to talk about a 30-minute long video about someone most Westerners had never heard of went viral overnight; I am here to talk about viral marketing.
The Kony2012 message seemed to be breaking all the rules when it came to crafting a viral video. But the fact is, there are no rules when it comes to making a message go viral. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It seems to me, however, that setting out to make something “go viral” is almost always a recipe for failure. It isn’t the way you craft your message, the length of your video, or the celebrity or product endorsements it carried with it. It’s always the message.
Look at the most successful examples of viral messaging and you will see that the vast majority of them are not selling, suggesting or asking for anything. They are usually something unintentionally funny (like the Rebecca Black video) or poignant, like Kony2012. Does that mean you should try to shoe horn a good cause into your next video for the new toilet brush you want to sell, or your tax preparation service? Before I answer that, ask yourself if that makes sense to you.
What is making the Kony 2012 campaign so successful is its content; its ability to enlighten and inform and demonstrate that simply by passing the message along to others the viewers are able to help. It is empowering. It is dramatic. It is thoughtful. But above all, it isn’t selling anything but hope.
So before you sit down to create the next big “viral” marketing campaign ask yourself this one question: what am I selling?
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