Viral marketing – the holy grail of the strategic digital marketing approach. At its core a simple integrated promotional communication posted to a mainstream social media channel, yet in execution a seemingly Herculean effort that is often more apt to go south as to achieve much hoped for success. What is the magical mixture that creates an epidemiologic-like sharing response from Internet users? How do we as marketers generate the next social media sensation in the form of an advertisement (without it being perceived as an advertisement)? Is it an accident, or a well-planned tactic?
The answers to these questions are elusive, and at the same time grist for innumerable articles by marketing aficionados across the globe. Of all the blog posts written about viral marketing, this is yet another. While the content will likely decline to offer any as yet unsuggested insights that have not already been repeatedly considered, it will nonetheless attempt to examine some of the universal components that are common to viral marketing campaigns. To begin, let’s examine five characteristics that always seem to be included in achieving the viral effect:
- The message arouses emotion. Viral marketing messages predictably awaken some type of sentimental reaction, whether it be touchingly poignant, knee-slapping humor, or any other incited sensation that makes us feel on a gut level. It is for that very reason we watch movies and series which are scary, romantic, and/or funny. These factors are innate in storytelling, at least the ones that are given the most attention by word-of-mouth (WOM) transmission. The ability to evoke some emotional effect is the essence of timelessness in tales told throughout the ages.
- The message includes a call-to-action. Giving a purpose to act offers a kinetic component, a motive to undertake, perform, and achieve. We have a need to be involved, to participate in events that center on social issues, whether to correct an insufficiency or to support a worthy cause. By doing so we partake in the community for the common good of all, demonstrating our worth to society as valued members. By embracing a call-to-action within the viral message, a reason to be concerned and motivated to engage in a physical or mental manner is enabled.
- The message is easily associated. By connecting the message to events that are timely, newsworthy, or otherwise readily related, the communication gains relevance. This is an important concept, since context is correlated to pre-existing interest. Association with occurrences that are significant to large portions of the populace are universally recognized, and create a semblance of connection. Being a part of the whole is an important consequence, as people characteristically want to belong to the group.
- The message has pervasive charm. Charismatic appeal is universal in nature. Attractive charm is hypnotic, a mesmerizing talisman that beguiles and enchants. While beauty may lie within the eye of the beholder, certain aspects of allure are common to all. Acerbic actor and comedian W. C. Fields refused to work with animals and children because he felt they shifted the attention of the audience away from him. A viral message which is charming captivates and fascinates the audience.
- The message is opportunistic. This dynamic goes hand in hand with association. Timeliness is pertinent, particularly with attention to those happenings which are topmost on the minds of consumers. Linking and relating the viral message to applicable circumstances is another instance of connection. It allows for bonding, and creates common ground on which many can unite.
One excellent example of an effective viral message was the Always #LikeAGirl viral marketing campaign, a series of videos which started out as a Superbowl ad. The use of the hashtag made the campaign recognizable across many social media channels. The strategic approach was useful in recognition of the capability of females, especially young girls as being every bit as effectual and accomplished as their male counterparts in physical activity. The campaign was valuable in spreading a message of pubescent female empowerment.
Viral marketing messages offer benefit and value to organizations, but can be difficult to execute in operation. Do you have suggestions for how to achieve the viral effect in social media marketing? Please share them in the comments below. And join Grannelle again next time for further exploration of issues and advancements in eMarketing!