Most viral marketing ideas go something like this:
a) We’ll create something really funny (outrageous, edgy), so people forward it around
b) We’ll add our logo and link to the bottom of every message our customers send from our product
Both of these end with:
…and we’ll sell lots/make lots of $$
Both of these techniques can be critical components of a viral campaign. But most often they become the focus — above the message or action you want taken — and that’s why 98% of viral marketing campaigns fail.
P&G has an example going viral, but missing the messaging/action point:
P&G’s ThermaCare Heat Wraps team created a campaign that went viral, because they listened to customers. (YAY!) They were looking for a way to promote their menstrual cramp relief line. In talking to women about menstrual cramps, the team learned that top issue from women is that they wanted men to get what having cramps felt like. The team had the idea that they could use this information to create something viral… something that hit the exposed nerve they had found. So, they created, MENWITHCRAMPS, a website devoted to the (fictitious) study of male menstrual cramps.
This campaign did hit “viral” status. Lots of talk, lots of website visits. But… people didn’t have any idea what it was selling. A typical quote:
“I am not quite sure what they are selling at menwithcramps.com, but I am buying it as soon as I can.”
Nice sentiment, but if you don’t know what you are buying, it is hard to buy, and you definitely can’t tell others to buy it. So, this team “sold” the site, but not the product. And most folks, thought it was funny and shared it, but wondered why someone had made the site, as they noted how professional it was. (Note: For awhile the site didn’t even link to the ThermaCare site, as it does now.)
Dove and Live Vault each have great examples of ads that became viral and got their message across:
Dove’s Evolution video hits both the emotion of how people feel, and goes to the core value of Dove’s message… real beauty. Even if it hadn’t gone viral, it would still be an awesome ad that got across their message, which has to be the foundation of your campaign.
Live Vault’s John Cleese video (requires registration) shows you can be funny and get across your message. They used Cleese as a doctor at the Back-Up Trauma Clinic. Every IT manager (their target) relates to this and it gets across the message of the pain that’s associated with “out-of-date, tape-based back-ups”.
So here’s my 3-step recipe for making something going for viral without wasting $$:
- Talk to prospective customers to find out:
- What is important to them about your product? E.g., ThermaCare’s [missing message] “relief”, Dove’s “real beauty”, Live Vault’s “easy, up-to-date recovery”
- Is there an emotional trigger for them around your product? E.g., ThermaCare’s “men understanding”, Dove’s “fake beauty”, Live Vault’s “out-of-date back-ups”)
- Make a campaign that you know nails what is important to prospective customers about your product.
- See if you can come up with a simple, unexpected, and concrete story around the emotional trigger. (For those of you that haven’t had a chance to read Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick, these qualifiers, including emotional, come from that book. This is the clearest set of qualifiers I’ve seen for viral yet.)
And if this doesn’t work, you can always attend the Viral Learning Center. (Thanks to the Church of the Customer blog for that one!)
So, what’s on my shirt? Well, I have an idea for small business marketing that may or may not be viral. It gets across a key message that many small businesses want to get across to their customers and it brings up a funny childhood emotion:
I know something you don’t know
See most small business owners start their business because they have an expertise that they want to share/live… something they are passionate about. I believe, if they created fewer logo shirts, and instead wore a shirt like this, they would be better marketers. This shirt would spark the conversations that they want to have… telling people about their passion.
I’ll tell you how it works! I’m going to be wearing this one at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival this weekend. Evan got me this trip as a Christmas gift (we are foodies), but we will also be talking to the chefs about working with us on culinary cruises for SureCruise.
Other shirts we’ll be wearing this weekend say:
Ask me about sea + food
Sea the world
Eat the world
Of course, I’ll also be sharing that Spreadshirt is what enabled me to get these targeted messages across simply, unexpectedly, concretely. See… I have several of the points going for viral on this idea! 🙂