If You Want Go Viral Get Out of the Way

The great folks at Mashable posted this engaging viral video yesterday, rightly arguing that VW had hit the bulls-eye when creating this viral campaign. It not only confirmed their theory that making the world more fun can improve people’s behavior, it also demonstrated a fact that is easily forgotten as we over-think marketing and new media – everyone is innately qualified to create blockbuster viral messaging.

Now we can pick apart every video that breaks a million views on YouTube, we can codify their common properties and we can distribute the definitive guide to creating viral videos (insert kitten, baby or silly dancing here). But that is exactly missing the point. The key to creating anything that becomes a phenomenon depends on doing exactly the opposite.

Your success depends on what you’re willing not to do, including:

1. Your ability to not censor yourself.

2.You (and your client’s) willingness to not play safe.

3. You (and your client’s) ability to not measure the success of their brand in terms of data or sales, but rather by the goodwill that a little fun can generate.

4. You (and your client’s) willingness to make it not about you but them (the audience).

The ‘Dancing Stairs’ video did all these things well. Clearly VW didn’t over-think it as it wouldn’t take much to argue that this strategy (or these videos) is too unrelated to their cars to be justifiable. It’s clearly out of the ordinary and seems to be aimed solely at brightening the day of their audience. The brand logo only appears briefly at the end of each video and there’s no car in sight. Yet this one video (Complete with logo and inherent goodwill towards the brand) has been viewed over 1 million times on YouTube and shared with countless more.

Having worked in agencies all over the world – large and small, good and bad – I have seen time and again that what distinguishes an agency that consistently does good work is a willingness to embrace new and potentially risky territories. That often necessitates a brave client, but that bravery is often mischaracterized. Rather than a cavalier attitude towards the fundamentals of good advertising, or a disregard for measurable results, these clients simply recognize that fun things are simple, people like to have fun and there’s no need to over-think anything. In short, they let their brand be human.

So if you want to generate oodles of goodwill by allowing your customers to have a little fun, the best thing you can do is to start by having some yourself.

Can you name another brand that does that well? Or another great viral video by a brand?



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If only marketing was a science, there would be a formula which everyone would follow and consumers would respond accordingly. If only. Truth is, persuasion is an intuitive skill. Part fact, part style, part conviction. Part, but only part, science. We have to capture the imagination...



Under the able stewardship of Jitendra Sheth popularly known as Jake, Cosmos has clocked over 40 national & international awards in various categories. Cosmos came out a clear winner at the Ad Club awards and was adjudged the 4th most creative agency, and carried away a number of trophies.


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