What’s the link between the YouTube video of a naked Mancunian smashing into the glass door of a Spanish tennis court and global advertising? At first sight, nothing: the former is funny and entertaining, the latter is purely business. However, there is a link and it’s one that can make a significant difference if you’re involved in the world of advertising or marketing. The link is ‘viral’ – in other words popular.
To many the word ‘viral’ has unpleasant or morbid connotations: the recent swine flu epidemic is the perfect topical example of that. Viruses aren’t particularly pleasant in everyday life. In marketing, however, virus can be a great thing. Any concept or idea has the potential to spread globally, but it has to be something really special. Even that, though, is no guarantee that a product will suddenly go viral and become the ‘thing’ everyone’s talking about. Ideas only catch on and spread if people ‘want’ ‘to share them with their families and co-workers. Would 4million people have watched a naked Mancunian otherwise?
In 2008 the American company Blendtec released its ‘Will it blend?’ videos showing all manner of unusual items being put through a blender. The images took off globally, making it on to almost every news channel. Popularity though does not necessarily translate into profit. Would there have been any point in the company producing these entertaining videos, if the publicity did not generate extra sales? The answer is possibly yes, as any added publicity has to be good for a company’s profile, but Blendtec were also able to turn this increased online publicity into almost a 600% increase in sales – not bad for a day’s work.
So what determines whether an idea will ever go viral?
All any company can ever do is create an idea or an image and hope that it will take off. It’s not something that can ever be forced, but it needs to be so appealing that people will want to spread the word and recommend others do the same. There are some things, of course, that any company can do to make it more likely to catch on, but it’s worth re-iterating, there are no guarantees.
Give away valuable products and services
Giving something away may not seem to be the obvious tactic, but the principle is that it attracts interest in your product. The payback comes when those who are attracted to the offer go on to buy something else: in other words, spend to accumulate.
Be prepared if the product does take off
If what your company offers is so appealing, it’s important to make sure that systems are in place that mean many are able to view what you’re offering. There’s no point producing an idea that lots of people want to look at, if it crashes as soon as the numbers watching start to increase.
Make sure the idea/ product is easy to pass on to others
People will only pass on a message or recommendation if the process is simple.