by Josh Bernoff
As usual, Seth Godin has crystallized an idea more briefly and powerfully than the rest of us. Read what he says about viral marketing, and take it to heart. From his blog post:
Something being viral is not, in an of itself, viral marketing. Who cares that 32,000,000 people saw your stupid video? It didn't market you or your business in a tangible, useful way.
Marketers are obsessed with free media, and, as is often the case, we blow it in our rush to get our share. We create content that is hampered or selfish or boring. Or we create something completely viral that doesn't do any marketing at all.
I've pointed out that viral "campaigns" that work have to balance the desire for people to spread them with the value to the brand. Here's one that's likely to work -- but you do have to work a little to get to the brand (did you figure out who did it?). Good, but not that perfect balance. Still, 400,000 views later, a fine viral campaign. Here's what I said before about video, which is a fine watchword for anything viral.
When it comes to viral video, you need to make sure 1) you create something people will spread and 2) that the video carries a payload -- a message about your product. Fail on point 1 and your video won't spread. Fail on point 2 and you'll be a hit -- but it won't help your company. It's a very difficult balance. Blendtec hits it brilliantly, as does Greg the Architect. Very few others have.
From the Forrester Groundswell awards, here are a few others that worked well:
- Xanadu's viral campaign to get the Tony Award. They didn't get the Tony, but they won the New York Times theater poll.
- The Travel Channel's "Kidnap" application for Facebook. 1.7 million people "kindnapped" by their friends, have to go to the Travel Channel site to get free.
- Reebok's Run Easy. Share photos and Google maps of where you run.
- Swarovski Enlighted watch design contest. 2,000 designs later, Swarovski has new ways to sell its gemstones with sparkling new designs.
None of these embody Seth's principle that the best apps have viral built right into them. But we can't all create Facebook. Hit the right balance between spreadable fun for the visitors and value for your brand and you can still succeed. It's not easy, but it's worth it.