It’s Going Viral People!

viral-marketing

When I first started researching for this blog post I found a couple articles outside of the reading. The author of one of those articles said: “I admit it, the term viral marketing is offensive”. I just don’t think that’s true at all and it’s kinda silly to think so nowadays. It’s because nowadays everyone is already aware of what viral videos and campaigns do and what they were designed to do.

I’m a visual learner so here’s a video and a pretty good info-graphic about how to go about viral marketing.


viral-marketing-cheat-sheet-sm

Source KISSmetrics

Because the real point of a viral campaign is to market your product, gain awareness, and ultimately increase revenue. There’s even been a bit of viral marketing done right here within the RTVF walls. We’ve all seen the extremely popular video Gangnam Style by Psy. A Korean pop star that now has over 900,000,000 views on YouTube.


But maybe you havent seen the video done by North Texas Television to promote their late night talk show. I think it’s extremely cool. The producers saw the success of the original and decided to make their own in attempts that it will go viral, to gain more viewers. Now this video isn’t in the millions of views, but it’s nearing 2,000 and that is something to be proud of.

When my group presented we talked about viral marketing and one of the most successful viral campaigns is the “Will It Blend” videos by Blendtec. We posed the question in class of why we thought it was viral and we came up with shock value. Who would ever expect someone to blend a $600.00 iPad? But it’s because of that shock value that has gained awareness to the brand. I’m sure if I was in the buying a blender market I’d go out for a Blendtec.

One of my absolute favorite viral videos and video series are the Ken Block Gymkhana videos. If you’re asking yourself, “what in the world is gymkhana and how do I pronounce that?”. Well one thing at a time. Check this out.

What was originally meant as just a cool infomercial for gear heads like myself turned into a  hugely viral video with almost 40 million views. It’s because of this video, that MILLIONS of people now know his name and support him in his current racing series. So not only does it bring in revenue for DC Shoes but the World Rallycross Championship also has a lot more publicity because of these videos.

This last one is simply because I’m a car guy. If you found the first Gymkhana video interesting, here is his latest where he drifts through the streets of San Francisco.

A Look at Viral Marketing

Viral marketing has always fascinated me. When executed effectively, viral marketing generates positive word-of-mouth about an upcoming product and can make ultimately purchasing the product, whether it be a film or a pair of sneakers, that much more exciting.

Curtis Silver’s article Organized Chaos: Viral Marketing, Meet Social Media begins by citing the success of cult show Mystery Science Theater 3000 and BMW’s The Hire – a collection of short films featuring Clive Owen driving awesomely in a BMW – as an example of pre-YouTube viral marketing, but there are plenty of other great examples of viral marketing campaigns. Take for instance Microsoft’s search engine Bing’s campaign to promote rapper Jay Z’s upcoming autobiography, Decoded. Check out this cool video detailing their approach to the project.

Clearly, this was an ambitious project, but telling by the end of the video, both Jay Z and Bing benefited greatly from this endeavor. This viral marketing campaign got fans and others excited about a product that normally a movie trailer or a billboard ad just couldn’t do. Allowing the audience to become involved with your product creates the feeling that they are a part of something in history, that they are connected to this one moment in time with others all around the world. That’s an incredible emotion to invoke in a person, and for Jay Z and Bing, it paid off. Oh, and just keep in mind what this huge project spanning multiple continents and potentially costing a hefty wad of dough to pull off was all for: A BOOK! Wow, I didn’t even know people read anymore…

So we’ve established that viral marketing can be a grossly beneficial tool to create buzz about a product, but just like other forms of advertising, like the online crowd-funding site Kickstarter, it is not for everyone. Just because it worked for one person does not mean it will work for you. Take, for example, the recently released video game Hitman: Absolution. Absolution is the latest installment in the long-running Hitman franchise in which you play an assassin-for-hire, and publisher Square Enix wanted to capitalize on its release by, wait for it, creating an app that lets you place death threats on your Facebook friends! Yes, that’s exactly what I just wrote. Let it sink in. Video game website Rock, Paper, Shotgun was able to document the horribly insulting site before it was quickly taken down by the publishers. In the app, you can create a contract in which the game’s protagonist will seek out your friend, based on bullying remarks like “her small tits”, and kill them. Then, the app creates a video and sends it to your friend!

This is not what I wanted to wake up to!

This is not what I wanted to wake up to!

A great viral marketing campaign can create an event that gets people out of their chairs and creates positive promotion for a product, but a horrible campaign can put a black eye on its reputation just as quickly, even if the product is of high quality. This becomes even more evident with the advent of social media such as YouTube and Twitter. With the touch of a button, one little message, one little app about killing your friends, can be sent across the globe, through a number of channels, instantly.

Viral marketing is a scary and risky proposition: letting your baby that you’ve worked so hard on into the wild and watch how the masses react. It’s risky because at some point, it’s in the peoples’ hands, and all you can do is sit back and watch. But it can also be incredibly effective in the end, creating anticipation for something hopefully worthy of the hype.

Nothing Beats a Good Pure Peer Promotion

My group presented during the “Advertising, Branding, & Viral Marketing” week and while reading Goodman’s article “Peer Promotions and False Advertising Law” I came to the conclusion that I don’t think anything beats a really solid pure peer promotion. I mean, come on. How cool would it be to have developed or be working for a company that has a product that people are that excited to talk about and promote on their own? Goodman defines a pure peer promotion as “… a spontaneous celebration, or denigration, or a brand produced by parties unrelated to, and not in competition with, the brand owner.” Plus, the Coke/Mentos example was just so full of joy it’s next to impossible to watch it with a straight face. Confession: I watched it 3 times in a row.

Goodman described two other types of peer promotion in the article.

FAKE PEER

Fake peer is about as terrible as pure peer is awesome. At least in this example:

It reminds me of the uncanny valley theory. It’s just too… not real.

450px-Mori_Uncanny_Valley.svg

Have you fallen for any better-produced fake peer promotions?

MIXED PEER

Goodman defines Mixed peer promotions as “… mixed with sponsorship when a brand owner solicits or adopts a pure peer promotion for its own publicity purposes” and describes them in two different categories, manifest sponsor involvement and hidden sponsor involvement.

1. Manifest Sponsor Involvement

As an unknown film student, it’s really easy for me to view mixed peer promotional opportunities as a win/win for companies and participants. Publicity and brand-awareness for companies and the potential for project recognition and prizes for participants.

A University of North Texas team was a finalist in this year’s Doritos Crash The Super Bowl contest:

https://apps.facebook.com/crashthesuperbowl/?page=watch&video=1154

2. Hidden Sponsor Involvement

I’m a huge fan of transparency, so this type of promotion rubs me the wrong way a little bit. The example listed in the text was the blog “Walmarting Across America.” Basically, a family didn’t explicitly state that they were getting compensated for a blog they were writing about the store.

wal-marting_across_america

Have you ever made a pure peer promotion? What do you think is the most effective?

Are We the Best Advertisers?

I remember when I was in high school, I would base my wardrobe on my friends and other students around me and I would get the video games that my friends said were “The best game ever!” When Kanye West wore those window blinds glasses, everyone had to get them (well at least I did..). And how did Member’s Only jackets become popular in the 80s? Or Jennifer Aniston’s hairstyle on Friends? For the most part they were self promoted by your peers. Ellen P. Goodman’s reading “Peer Promotions and False Advertising Law” uses the term “peer promotion”. Peer promotion is basically the advertising of commercial products by the consumer. How often does a friend upload a photo of the new Halo or Call of Duty on Twitter or Facebook the first day of their release? How often do you see a status update on Facebook about the thoughts of one of the new movies that came out? If you think about it, it is amazing what “tremendous communicative power that individuals can wield through digital networks and the impact of this power on industrial economies.”, as Goodman says in the reading.

All the “peer generated” material posted on blog sites like Blogger or WordPress, and video sites like YouTube or Vimeo, are some of the strongest forms of advertising. These sites were made for the people, so the people can create the content. We read and watch what our own peers create. People have more trust in their peers’ “non-commercial” speech than the actual producer of the product. This proposes the question, is the consumer the best advertiser? Do your peers advertise the product better than the company?

I believe the consumer is the best advertisers. As stated before, social media has become the main proponent for consumer advertising and non-commercial speech.  The article “Social Media and the Power of Peer Influence” says that 70% of consumer’s buying decisions are influenced by suggestions from a friend or family member online. For the most part, on Facebook. One of the earliest examples of great consumer advertising through social media is one we looked at in class, the Diet Coke and Mentos video. Due to that video, the sales of Mentos increased tremendously. Mentos did not have to spend a dime. A more recent example is the Doritos commercial campaign. People could submit their own created Doritos commercials and the winner would have their commercial played during the Super Bowl. This is peer promotion because Doritos did not spend any money on the commercials. The consumers created the commercial, which made you go buy Doritos, and you may even watch the other submitted commercials on YouTube. More free advertising for Doritos.

The Goodman article says that Advertising Agency magazine, in 2006, named the consumer “agency of the year”. This is even truer today as social media continues to grow. More and more people are posting their opinions on blogs, creating wikis, and making YouTube videos and even more are listening. We trust each other more than we trust the company pushing the product. Some companies do not even have to engage in social media very much because of peer promotion. So, how are you going to base your next purchase? On what the advertiser says or on what the consumer says?