Viral marketing—why such an off-putting term? Well, it’s become increasingly more fitting these days, standing for marketing efforts that usually comes across as crass, undesirable, and in-your-face. Spreading the word via the internet like a disease, into every appropriate (and inappropriate) channel, doesn’t sound like the type of marketing companies or agencies would want to engage in. But they do, all too frequently.
But it’s not all bad out there in the internet universe. A recent article in Gawker depicts an excellent example of a viral video. Check out this Schweppes ad, which became a YouTube hit simply because it is beautiful and “draws people in.”
In the article, Hamilton Nolan describes succinctly what marketing shouldn’t be: “A crass attempt to ‘go viral’ with some sort of shocking riff on a pop culture moment aimed at a specific demographic group. As many large corporations have learned, putting absurd amounts of money behind a web project is no guarantee of success.” We’ve all seen such ads, videos, and pictures scrawled across our Facebook news feeds.
But enough about what viral marketing shouldn’t be. This article reminded me what it’s really all about: Attracting and enticing viewers and customers by starting with what they are curious about. Capturing their imaginations, and making them feel an emotional bond to the video, website, photo…which extends to the way they feel about the entire brand.
As the brilliant, if emotionally flawed advertising executive Don Draper puts it: “You. Feeling something. That’s what sells.”
In the ‘real world’ we seek out experiences, people, and places that make us feel connected and inspired. Why should we think that our online experiences would be any different? As Hamilton Nolan says, “what is guaranteed is that, in the long run, quality things on the internet will become popular. They rarely are the product of a deliberate attempt to game the system; they usually happen organically.”
This advice applies to each and every company looking for ways to reach out to viewers online. Too often sites are missing a core emotional connection to their target viewers. This isn’t to say that sites should be overwhelmed by content; the content should be appropriate, relevant, and targeted, fitting with the brand identity.
Companies should ask themselves what the users on their site want and create content they will care about. And while the specifics vary on a case-by-case basis, these core facts always apply:
People want to be engaged.
People want to be inspired.
People want to feel connected to the brand and product.
Don Draper put it well in Mad Men: “The public can be engaged on a level beyond flash if they have a sentimental bond with the product.” The Schweppes video reminds us that viral marketing and branding should always be brought back to this personal level.