In the past few years, many businesses have been inspired by the success of campaigns like “Elf Yourself” and Carnival Cruise’s Pinata. Most of us have learned that a piece of media requires great content in order to go “viral” (think Giant Pinatas or Dancing Elves, NOT quarterly briefings or another laptop sweepstakes). We also know that we need to use great distribution channels like blogs, social networks and online newswires to spread the word.
But here are the five questions that you really have to answer “yes” to if you want to make your viral marketing campaign successful.
1. Are you goal-oriented?
Of course you want to say “yes” and move on. But you have to mean it. If your campaign is about getting on the national news, or promoted on 100 blogs, or driving 10,000 more visitors and 8 new sales, then put your energy into the tasks that matter. Companies that spend weeks debating Arial vs. Times New Roman or regularly edit copy a dozen or so times before publishing are not good candidates. Think of it this way: You have limited time and a limited budget to spend on your campaign. Would you rather spend those resources getting the attention of consumers and the media or deciding if your site navigation should be on the right or left hand side of your page?
2. Can you fast track legal, marketing and branding issues?
You need to have executive sponsorship to push through internal barriers. Would most lawyers have a heart attack over a giant crane smashing a giant pinata with hundreds of people nearby? Yep. Would a good branding guy say “shouldn’t the pinata be shaped like a ship or have SOMETHING to do with our brand? There’s no connection to this stunt and our brand.” And you know what? The lawyer and branding guy are right–they are doing their jobs and offering their expertise. But they are also killing you campaign. Get an executive on board who can overrule these objections and get things done.
3. Is it okay if EVERYONE hears about this campaign?
By definition, you want a lot of people to be exposed to your viral campaign. But in 2008 we received half a dozen panicky calls like this: “We just found out our competitor in Australia found out about our campaign! They are playing our game in their office. How do we stop them?” Or “Our investors in the UK called, they saw the video? How did they see it? Did you send it to them? No? Then who did?” Great viral campaigns will be seen by your competitors, your clients, your prospects, your mom, everyone. Is that really okay?
4. Can you stand criticism of your product or campaign?
Are you one of the 3.3 million people who have watched the Cadbury Guerrilla video on YouTube? Maybe you made one of the 100+ spoofs of the video. The video has been forwarded, played, modified, mashed up and circulated around the world. It is often held up as an example of a good viral campaign. But whenever I show this video during a presentation someone comments on how stupid it is. No matter how great your campaign or product is, somebody, somewhere will say bad things about it. Do you have the stomach to take this criticism? Do you believe in your product and program enough to stand up to the criticism?
5. Can you be edgy?
When talking about a campaign idea, ask yourself: “Would I forward this to someone?” “Would I talk about it at dinner tonight?” If the answer is no, it’s probably not a good campaign idea. Boring doesn’t go viral. Little pinatas get little results.
If you find your “No” list getting long, that’s okay. A lot of companies will have a great year, sell a bunch of products and be wildly successful without viral marketing. If viral marketing doesn’t fit your culture, it’s better to invest your resource other places. But if you answered yes to all the above, have great content and great channels, then it’s time to sting up your own pinata.viral marketing definition