Naturally, I’m flattered. But more importantly, I’m glad we’ve started a dialogue about memes and viral marketing. There isn’t a magic, colour-by-numbers formula to these things, and it’s time people noticed.
Exhibit A: A couple of years ago, a client of mine developed a Digg-like website. The format was nearly identical, only their model was available in, like, 10 different languages. A more-of-same kind of web initiative that we saw so often in the late ’90s. They no longer exist now, of course.
Exhibit B: Recently, a friend of mine told me he’d been approached by an ad agency for a campaign that would turn bloggers into brand ambassadors. I don’t know anything about the context, so I can’t say what this campaign is really about or how strong the concept is. But I am fascinated at the ballsy move to exploit a highly democratized environment. So far, this hasn’t worked very well. On the web, more than any other medium, people know when they’re being advertised to, and when they find it off-putting, the ad gets panned publicly, and immediately. On Digg, if a user is suspected of prioritizing a corporation’s interests, they quickly get “buried,” seriously decreasing the value (and validity) of their contributions.
So really, it’s not enough to submit an article to Digg. You also have to be part of a community and contribute to it in a significant way…and even then…
It’s not enough to put your ad on YouTube. People have to find it interesting, relevant, funny, or all three…and even then…
It’s not enough to have a viral medium at your disposal. It has to be useful to the right audience, who can engage with it in a flexible manner…and even then…
It’s surprising that we’re still getting the “let’s go viral” requests when it’s clearly so difficult to control and predict a campaign’s viral trajectory. If it weren’t, everyone would have done it successfully by now. And unfortunately, focusing on a campaign’s viral value takes focus away from creating a sucessful campaign.
Quoth my buddy:
“First and foremost, anything we do needs to serve the client and their goals first, and resonate enough with the target market that they follow through on the calls to action given to them. Anything beyond that, as far as mass-appeal popularity goes, is a lucky cherry on top.”
Complimentary P.S. Here’s an ad I first spotted on College Humor. Millions saw it. Why did an ad about toilet technology do so well? You tell me. Does the same approach work just as well for a loofah sponge or Hamburger Helper? Probably not.