Last month, Dave Kerpen contributed an article to Inc. where he interviewed Jonah Berger, the leading word-of-mouth scientist, and together they created a guide on how to make a story go viral. From all my research on “how to go viral,” I would have to say this is the best recipe out there. But I think there are a few other things to keep in mind.
When creating a “viral” campaign, these steps are definitely important; if people don’t feel connected or get the urge to share your content then it won’t spread. But more important than connecting with the audience is pushing out a message that is a true representation of your company and making sure your messages reflect your brand.
Who Was That?
It seems almost weekly I get an email telling me to check out a new commercial for some company because it is so funny, or touching, or adorable, or whatever. So I go, I watch, I laugh (or cry, it does happen!) and then continue on with my day. If you asked me hours later which company’s commercial I watched, there is a small chance I would remember. Viral videos tend to spread because they are compelling – not because people want to spread the word about the sponsoring company. An effective viral campaign is one that makes you react and gets you to share, but most importantly gets a brand stuck in the minds of the viewers.
Not only is it important to be memorable, but it is also important to be true. As our firm’s Director of Public Sector, Courtney Hastings, posted a few weeks ago, messaging is a process and takes time to develop. And when you decide to turn that message into a viral campaign, it not only needs to intrigue people but it is equally important to get the right message spreading like wildfire. Making something funny just to get the laughs, or controversial just to be different, may get people to share. But if your brand is not funny or controversial, it can come across that the company is trying too hard.
A Viral Epidemic
Sometimes campaigns achieve the goal of going viral, but not for the reasons it was intended. Take the Hyundai’s iX35 UK commercial that ran in April of this year. What seems to be a man trying to commit suicide in his garage with a running car is really Hyundai’s attempt to show that its car only emits water vapor instead of harmful exhaust. What they were saying was this car is eco-friendly, what they ended up with was the commercial being pulled from YouTube and Hyundai needing to release an apologetic official statement.
What was the message Hyundai was going for? If you look at the Hyundai brand, you find a company that provides value, quality and eco-friendly options when buying a car. But did any of that come through in this dark commercial? Trying to do something attention-getting strayed too far from their business image and resulted in many upset viewers.
Viral Done Right
The companies that stick out to me who went viral for the right reasons are the Dollar Shave Club and Dove. These companies did something that gained the attention of tens of millions of viewers, made people remember who they are and still told the story they wanted. The Dollar Shave Club is a fun company who knows its target audience and plays into that demographic with humor. This message is consistent on their website and in the commercials and was, therefore, able to successfully go viral (to the point of crashing the company’s server in the first hour and receiving 12,000 orders in the first 48 hours). And Dove’s forensic sketch artist commercial evoked emotions about perception of beauty, reiterating Dove’s messaging about “real beauty.”
When taking a campaign viral, be sure you work with a team who can help you craft the right message while following Dave Kerpen’s steps. Because the last thing you want is to get in front of millions of eyes and have no one remember who you are after the hype fizzles down.