Make me a viral video, and super-size it!

Tell me this hasn’t happened to you recently. A client comes to your office and asks you to make them a viral video. Marketers everywhere are reading trade journals, going to conferences, and learning of case studies where a video presentation topped a million views on YouTube. They want the same, and want you to deliver it.

As a corporate communicator, how do you respond? Got an unlimited budget, willing to compromise your integrity, open to the idea of lawsuits? If so, you can deliver a message that will spread and super-size the number of views. But in the real world – a world driven by content, messaging, and qualified sales leads – the process gets a lot harder.

Part of the job of a corporate communicator is to challenge concepts and requests received from clients… carefully of course. Organizations expect us to consider communication requests and offer clients our best advice. That’s why we were hired. How do you respond when asked to deliver a viral video? Below are some of my ideas. I hope you will comment and share some of your thoughts.

    It’s About the Brand: Arguably the most successful viral video of all time is Dove’s Self Esteem campaign. Web video, combined with a comprehensive website, provides thought-provoking, confidence-building programs and messages that embrace all definitions of beauty. For Dove, the campaign is about associating their brand with efforts to raise self-esteem among women, especially young women, and to widen the definition of beauty. For Dove, it’s not a product pitch, it’s about brand association.

      That’s where the money is.” OK, the truth is bank robber Willie Sutton never used the phrase to answer the question, “Why do you rob banks?” Still, it makes for a good story. It also makes the point that sales leads come from attracting the right audience, not just any audience. The formula for success will be somewhat different for B2B than for B2C marketers. For those in the B2B space, the total size of an audience is less relevant than who comprises the audience. The question needs to be asked, “Where is the target audience the viral video is aimed at attracting?” If the target audience is unlikely to be spending time viewing the hottest videos on the web, time and money might be better spent fishing where the fish are.

      Viral Does Not Mean Cheap: There is a cost to everything we deliver. The expense may be internal, inherent overhead cost (soft money), or above-the-line billable dollars. Yes, there are countless examples of amateur videos drawing big viewing numbers on video web portals. Countless numbers of animal lovers watch live streaming video of puppies sleeping in a crate. Drawing a big audience and delivering a compelling message about a product or service are two different things. Keep in mind the old production adage, “Good, fast, or cheap – pick any two.” How much time, effort, and money did T-Mobile spend in driving 10M+ web views of their highly choreographed dance number shot at Liverpool Street Station?

      “Show Me ‘da Plan!” To paraphrase a line from the movie Jerry Maguire, what’s the plan to incorporate a viral video into a larger, integrated Marketing Communications campaign? The success of Dove’s Self Esteem campaign is the completeness of the marketing initiative. While compelling, the viral video is but one element of the campaign. The resources available from the Dove website fulfill the need for specific, actionable information. What’s the call to action? A viral video is only one component. It’s the fun part no doubt. But a viral video does not stand alone; it must be part of a well thought out business plan.

      How viral is viral? Is the view target some arbitrary number based on a case study presented in a marketing journal? Is a million views really needed? How about 10 thousand? Come to a mutual understanding about how success will be measured.

    Why no mention of creativity in this post? Simple, that’s step two – after the business issues have been addressed. I hope you will comment and share some of your ideas.


    3 comments so far

    1. GroovyBrent on

      Great article! We have the toughest time convincing clients that “viral does not mean cheap.”

      The other thing that clients forget is tht “viral does not mean ‘for everyone.'” The best viral videos have a VERY specific target market and go after that specific market with a vengeance, punching as many of the target market’s buttons as possible. I think your example of the Dove campaign showcases this concept nicely.

    2. […] more ideas check out the post Make Me a Viral Video and Super-Size It! « Effective Crisis Management: Avoid […]

    3. deals on

      Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
      Nonetheless, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be
      bookmarking and checking back often!

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