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Thursday, Jun. 14, 2007 at 11:45 am

What Makes Viral Campaigns Stick? (Part 1)

By Robert Gorell
June 14th, 2007

The only guy to buy a ZuneDon’t worry. This isn’t one of those “YOU are the experts (of the year/month/nanosecond)” pieces–even if that is true by default. Nope, I’m looking for the firms, brands, and campaigns that have won big with viral marketing strategies. Since monetizing on social media remains in its infancy, we’ve all seen would-be brilliant campaigns fall flat while the simplest/dumbest ideas took off like wildfire.

So, what can we learn from those who’ve done it right?

(If you’ve got classic or little-known examples of social media triumphs–and, sure, we always love to see the bloopers as well–please share them with us in the comments. Feel free to link to anything relevant, funny, or tragic.)

First, let’s look at examples of social media strategy from some of the more outstanding presentations at last week’s Future of Online Advertising conference (don’t forget to read Part 2 as well).

IndieClick President, Heather Luttrell knows plenty about the elusive 16-35 year-old hipster market. Their ad network of “150 community, blog, gaming, sports and pop culture sites, representing 35 million unique users and 1 billion impressions monthly” is no joke. For instance, they were working with LastFM back in 2003; when it was seen as a fad, not a $280 million bargain.

According to Luttrell, “Great advertising deserves a receptive audience.” In television, great advertising is dependent on popular, highly-viewed content to draw viewers. Online, great content can be everywhere. But in order to reach a wide audience online, brands must stay on the cutting edge to be able to identify the next big thing.

Don’t think you should watch the youth market for tips on promoting your brand? Why, then, is mom joining Facebook?

Luttrell talks of three categories of viral campaign tactics: Arrived, Leading Edge & Bleeding Edge.

superman_myspace.jpgArrived: Search, text advertising, buzz marketing, rich media, integrated community, community UGC (user-generated content), homepage takeovers (e.g., when a new movie comes out and they pay to re-skin MySpace).

Leading Edge: Featured content, advertising integrated with editorial (content-driven), integrated promotion and advertising (promotion-driven), behavioral/psychographic targeting, advertising content which invites user interaction, in-game ads, virtual worlds, new forms of rich media, intellitxt (text/video), niche media planning

okgo.jpgBleeding Edge: Advertising technologies replacing media planners, digital production of assets in overseas markets, record labels promoting music videos on video sites instead of relying solely MTV (e.g., the Ok Go phenomenon – over 18 million YouTube viewers!), monetization of online film distribution, mobile advertising, exclusive content, experimental video ad delivery, multiple custom niche communities, advertising following content (e.g., RSS advertising), integrated product placement (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is a good example product placement done right.)

IndieClick’s advice:

  • Be everywhere your audience lives in the online world with the right message for that community (or container)
  • Pair messaging/creative with content (right message, right look, right side, right audience)
  • Push the envelope and experiment with bleeding edge advertising techniques (but dedicate no more than 20% of your resources to experimental efforts)
  • Seek to improve your metrics and your client’s understanding of online performance
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Comments (4)

  1. [...] Part 1, we looked at some of the hottest techniques being used in viral campaigns for up-and-comers. But [...]

  2. Thanks for the great write-up, Robert!

  3. [...] What Makes a Great Viral Marketing Strategy? (Part I) (tags: viral marketing) [...]

  4. facebook has out done myspace for good

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