Ivan Ivanov posted on 5 June 2017
Five major factors make up a proper viral marketing campaign. They include an overlook of current events, emotional uptick, the ‘WoW’-Factor, tackling a societal issue and using the correct social media platform.
Success can rarely be guaranteed and according to research only around one percent of online video goes viral. But the benefits of achieving viral exposure can outweigh the costs of attempting an online marketing stunt.
The perfect viral ad campaign often starts out as a simple crazy idea and morphs into a behemoth of online praise. In fact, the most successful viral ads were simple campaigns that somehow took a life of their own online.
Take last year’s Game of War’s The Legend 27 for example. In 2015, the company behind one of the most successful online mobile games, Game of War, spent millions to air a Super Bowl Ad featuring the infamous Kate Upton. While the ad was considered successful and managed to get people talking, it didn’t achieve the mainstream viral success the company hoped for.
Just by checking the YouTube views as the simplest of numbers as a statistical measurement, we can see that the most successful ad featuring Kate Upton from the Game of War marketing campaign achieved around 66 million views.
The view count of the ad truly is remarkable, but considering the cost of hiring Kate Upton and airing the commercial during the Super Bowl, the ad takes a back seat compared to the Game of War Campfire Stories online ad.
Accumulating over 155 million views, the ad became infamously popular for its ‘wow’-factor in the face of ‘The Legend 27.’ Whether intentional or not, the ad took a life of its own online and became one of the most recognized memes of 2016.
Another ‘wow’-factor viral ad from way back in 2010, the Old Spice The Man Your Man Could Smell Like commercial similarly took a life of its own and is one of the most memorable pop-culture commercials that aired to this day.
Considering the most successful viral online marketing stunts from recent times, it’s easy to see how aiming for success is an unscientific and subjective matter. Still, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a magical formula that can increase your chances of success.
When it comes down to the basics, every marketing campaign has the purpose of making an impression. This is especially true for viral stunts. The mistake marketing specialist often make is to think that to achieve viral success you need to go big or go home, but this is not always the case. Each successful viral marketing campaign shines in one of five categories. Some ads successfully tackle the latest current events, while others rely on the randomness of the ‘wow’ factor.
However, to dive deeper into the five pillars of viral marketing, we’ll take a look at some of the most recent viral marketing stunts that went completely astray. Without further adieu, here’s what you need to avoid when doing viral marketing stunts, as these five companies learned the hard way.
When thinking of a viral ad campaign that went completely wrong, probably the first that comes to mind is the recent Pepsi ‘Join the Conversation’ video. Deleted mere hours after airing and being uploaded to YouTube, the ad featured fashion model Kendall Jenner joining a protest and ‘saving the day’ by giving a policeman a can of Pepsi.
Pepsi’s marketing team did make the right move by deciding to tackle current events. With protests all around the U.S. and the world, it’s easy to see why a company would be positively encouraged to tackle controversial issues.
However, that’s also where Pepsi got it wrong. To play it safe, instead of sending a strong message throughout their campaign, they decided to do everything possible to avoid controversy.
In times where each protest is highly focused on a particular set of issues, Pepsi decided to go out of their way to avoid tackling these issues. By doing so, rather than showing that as a brand they understand the importance of current events, the ad ended up downplaying the idea of the public protest itself.
At least people often joked that in times of divided opinions, Pepsi did manage to bring people together in their disliking of the viral marketing campaign.
(The video shown was uploaded by RollBizTV and doesn’t feature the original music. The original ad has been deleted from Pepsi’s official social media platforms and they have issued an apology.)
To go viral a video often directly manipulates and expects an emotional response from a person. Whether that would be horror, nostalgia or awe, the inspiration of a feeling is behind each and every piece of viral marketing content.
In fact, it can be argued that without the promotion of a certain emotion, an ad can rarely go viral. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why the most viral stunts tend to lean towards a certain emotional spectrum.
Even so, when doing your campaign, you should try and avoid being insensitive about your direct manipulation of people’s feelings. This is a harsh mistake and the repercussions of which McDonald’s learned the hard way.
A recent ad from the fast food chain depicted a boy and a mother reminiscing about the boy’s late father. In the first part of the ad, the audience is pushed towards the notion that the boy tries to find something in common with his dad, only to learn that he couldn’t be more different. His father had a different eye color, body shape and they don’t even share character traits.
As the storyline of the ad comes to an end, the boy and the mother visit a McDonald’s, where the boy learns that his father ate the same Fish burger he likes to eat.
On the surface, there isn’t much that is inherently wrong with the idea of remembrance. In fact, some people even liked the McDonald’s ad. The reason why most found it offensive was the fact that the fast food chain was put in the direct center of the emotional storyline.
(The official McDonald’s Ad has since been pulled and thus deleted from their official social network accounts. The video was re-uploaded in full length by anarchi.st on YouTube.)
The ‘WoW’-Factor can rarely be measured in a viral marketing campaign. Whether that means going fully random with your ad or simply capturing the attention of your audience with a shocking message, the ‘wow’-factor is a turning wheel of online social networking.
Content-wise, coming up with a ‘wow’-factor message boils down to the creativity and the understanding of social engagement online. For example, a clickable headline must be unique, thought-provoking and inspire interest in the eyes of the reader. This often means that your message is ultimately going to be open to subjective interpretation.
Having this in mind, you should consider that your reader will be able to properly understand the basis behind your message and that you will be able to deliver on what’s promised within the message itself.
For example, a ’19-year-old man found the secret to life’ is an ambiguous headline that will certainly attract the reader, but with such a headline, the news agency and the journalist should ensure to have a provoking story that delivers and is up to par with the promise of the said headline.
Adidas recently made the mistake of overlooking what was meant to be a simple e-mail marketing message, resulting in a huge backlash in social media.
An e-mail titled ‘You Survived the Boston Marathon’ was sent as a part of a newsletter aimed at people that have successfully finished the Boston Marathon. What the marketing team failed to realize is that in the light of the bombings of Boston Marathon just a few years ago, the headline takes a dark turn.
The company has since issued an official apology and while their mistake is certainly understandable, you should make sure to properly title your content and double-check for mistakes.
Bringing to light the societal problems and offering support to people can do miracles for brand exposure. With the proper opinionated ad campaign, a company can further its marketing message and increase its reach by taking advantage of the highly interactive medium of social networking platforms.
In their most recent attempt of a viral marketing stunt, Dove decided to promote body acceptance by creating multiple shapes for their body wash lotion bottles.
While there’s nothing wrong with tackling a societal issue via a marketing campaign, Dove’s viral stunt mostly left people confused, offended and not pleased at all.
Changing the shape of the bottle just for the sake of the argument comes on top of the fact that the bottle of the shape had nothing to do with body shaming or lack of body acceptance in the first place.
It just goes to show how negligible a company might seem by sending a brand message through the push of a societal issue via a viral marketing campaign.
As we’ve recently discussed, many big-name companies have pulled their ads from the infamous video-sharing platform YouTube in what is now known as the issue around the YouTube Ad Boycott.
This has resulted in some major backlash towards those companies from the YouTube community itself. By boycotting the platform, the companies are now unable to take advantage of one of the most successful video advertising platforms online.
To go around the boycott and without losing ground by placing an ad on YouTube, McDonald’s and Coke decided to join forces and tackle the issue creatively. On a new YouTube channel, the companies unofficially placed an ad targeted towards the keyword search of ‘Where does coke taste the best’ with the title of ‘Search it.’
The ingenious ad takes advantage of the fact that when searched online, the term brings out results in all major search engines that McDonald’s is the place where Coca-Cola tastes the best due to the Coca-Cola company delivering their products to the fast food chain in stainless steel containers instead of plastic bags.
By placing the video and advertising with it on YouTube, both companies effectively went around the boycott, but they failed to take into account the YouTube audience that was still affected by the major blow suffered by their favorite creators due to the boycott itself.
Most major advertisers, including McDonald’s, have since reportedly ended their boycott, but the creative ad did receive a major backlash for trying to circumvent and bend the marketing rules of the boycott itself.
What the creative ad of McDonald’s ‘Search It’ goes to show is that no matter how ingenious your advertising might be, you should also consider the platform you are using to share your message.
As a whole, when planning your next viral marketing stunt, you should always check in with the mistakes of others and try to avoid going down the same rabbit hole.
While success can’t be guaranteed and social viral marketing can be subjective, being aware of the potential response from the media and the general audience will certainly steer your marketing campaign in the right direction.