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The Viral Marketing Virus

Listen up: Going viral is a benefit to creating great content, not the goal.

But if you’re really committed to creating a viral video marketing campaign:

Creating viral content is this easy.
And this difficult.
Here’s my fool-proof 3-step process.

Create content that strikes an emotional cord (funny, sad, inspirational) and is distinctly unique and you’re one step closer to viral. 
Create content that tells a story, not a tagline and you’re one step closer to viral. 
If your branding it, make the product part of the story, not THE story. 
Not all that helpful, right? Truly the devil is in the details. Storytelling. More art than science. That’s why there is no Einstein-esque formula for viral. If only “viral” were as simple as math. It takes time to create and make a story. Song writers, ad professionals, photographers, marketers, movie makers, writers, videographers, graphic designers. We’re all storytellers. And once in awhile a storyteller also gets lucky. And viral happens. Think of all the stories out there today. Not too many go viral, but does that make them not worth making? Of course not.

So, in honor of The Story, let me tell you one. About 4 years ago, I talked with Judson Laipply, whose own viral video 2006 “Evolution of Dance” received 70 million views in under 8 months. At the time it was the #1 most viewed video of all time on YouTube (waaay before Gangam Style). Judson’s performance tells a great story in an entertaining, unique way. When I asked him about his own viral video, he said that he put it up on YouTube as a fluke, that in fact, someone in the audience recorded it and sent it to him. Judson was as surprised as anyone at the response, he wasn’t already famous (like some other viral video creators)  and he didn’t have a huge social media following at the time.  Since then, he’s done several follow-ups but none so successful as the original. Today, Judson is a working motivational speaker. The point is, completely of the moment? Yep. Complete accident? Yep. Repeatable? Probably not. With all due respect to Judson, we’ve all been there, and done that.

It’s pretty rare that branded material go viral. If you look at the most popular YouTube videos of all time (YouTube Charts), not a single one is a branded video. Almost all of them are music videos (YouTube being to this generation what MTV was

viral, branding, video,

Bloomberg Businessweek 6/14/2012

to mine). Coincidence? No.  Does that mean that branded content can’t still be powerful? No. Check out the videos in particular categories. The all-time #1 video in the auto & vehicles segment is a COMMERCIAL. The Volkswagen/Darth Vadar commercial that originally aired during the Superbowl 2011 (you don’t even have to go find it do you? You remember it). Notably, none of the other Superbowl ads from that year or this year can claim the number one spot in any category. There were some great branded viral videos in 2012, my personal favorite was the Dollar Shave Club, which was appears deceptively simple, but once you break it down you realize its the product of a lot of talent and planning.

There is a theme here: either viral is completely planned, thought out and scripted or its completely of the moment, off-the-cuff. One is time consuming, expensive and lucky and one is JUST lucky.  Which are you? 

So go forth, my marketing compadres. Create amazing content in whatever medium you wish. Please. But create amazing content because its the right thing to do if your going to create content at all. Because by creating content, you’re saying something about your brand…whether 1,000 people see it or 1 Billion people see it. Create the best, most memorable content you can create. And move on. And remember, sometimes its about quality over quantity.

 Header Image: Creative Commons Karl Jonsson

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