Archive for February, 2011
It’s a businesses greatest fear, but may very well be their most powerful tool: viral content. Over the past couple of years, the term “viral” has reared its head exponentially more and some have yet to understand the full meaning of the term when it’s applied to marketing and the digital atmosphere. Allow us to raise the curtain for you with wikipedia’s definition of viral marketing:
“Viral marketing and viral advertising are buzzwords referring to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of virus or computer viruses. It can be delivered by word of mouth or enhanced by the network effects of the internet. Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive flash games, advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or even text messages.”
The most important take-away of the definition: self-replicating viral processes. Next time you’re in a marketing meeting and someone blurts out “hey, let’s just make a viral video!” don’t succumb to the concept of sending it to your friends and family and expect them to send it to their associates. It is never the company or business that “makes” anything viral, it’s the audience that spreads the message. For your message to even have a fleeting chance at going viral, regardless of form, there are three requirements:
1. Make it genuine
2. Make it enjoyable
3. Make it memorable
From that point on, you are on your own, for the force is powerful and may turn against you. Social media and the closely connected internet has made it possible for negative comments to appear quicker than ever and spread like wildfire, sometimes forcing the hand of executives to act quickly and creatively for a (hopefully) appropriate response. Here are a handful of cases showing the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Old Spice Guy
If you have children between the ages of 12 and 24, there’s little doubt that they have heard of “the old spice guy.” Weiden + Kennedy, the ad agency for Old Spice, simply stuck a guy (well, a quite ridiculously handsome man) wearing a towel in a bathroom armed with a camera, some props, and a computer and wound up snagging the most prized Grand Prix award at the prestigious Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in June 2010 as well as a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial in July 2010. Users online were given the opportunity to ask the Old Spice Guy a question and a response would quickly be posted. The message was direct, enjoyable, and comical thanks to intuitive writing, making it irresistible for people to share the videos. The Old Sprice brand was not shoved down viewer’s throats, but the videos were enjoyable, genuine, and definitely memorable.
Domino’s Pizza Fiasco
In the spring of 2009, a video of two Domino’s employees surfaced and tainted the brand’s image with sights of the workers sneezing on ready-to-serve meals and even stuffing cheese up their nose and returning it to its proper place on the dish, of course with some extra “personal” ingredients. Within several days, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other sites helped this image-destroying video rise to over a million views, putting hot pressure on Domino’s executives to take action. Eventually, an apology was posted on the company website and current employees were even asked to spread the link through their own personal social media accounts. While the decision on whether to fan the flames or let it fizzle naturally is a tough slice to swallow, the company gained high marks for taking action and playing on the customer’s side of the field.
Taco Bell’s Mystery Meat
In January, 2011, a concerned California woman filed suit against Taco Bell with false advertising claims, stating that the advertised “beef” was actually more of a “filling” and didn’t fit regulated standards for considering the substance beef. As the news media caught wind of the story and began to air segments, Taco Bell was already hard at work getting to a viable solution. The first release was to an Alabama television station (WSFA) in a written statement: “Taco Bell prides itself on serving high quality Mexican inspired food with great value. We’re happy that the millions of customers we serve every week agree. We deny our advertising is misleading in any way and we intend to vigorously defend the suit.” Well that sounds great, but if someone did a simple Google search for “Taco Bell” what would they find? At first, the results were flooded about the lawsuit, but as the Mexican fast-food giant created online content through blogs, twitter, facebook, and other accounts, the sharing of positive content overpowered the negative, drastically reducing the lawsuit-related pages coming first in a search result list. To round out an aggressive stance on their passion for real beef, Taco Bell purchased a full page ad in the Friday, January 28th edition of the Wall Street Journal headlining “Thank you for suing us” followed by a full ingredient disclosure of their product.
If you decide to try making a viral campaign, make sure the resources used have the characteristics to naturally spread and be shared and if your brand ever encounters an emotional upset by someone who has access to a computer or a lawyer, be prepared to fight back with content—and quickly.
Regardless of industry or business, it’s important to take care of customers above anything else. In recent years, local businesses and national corporations alike have been noticing that user experience is an influential part of the decision making process. Individuals want to feel a connection to the product more than ever and there are several simple ways to help develop that connection for each potential customer.
Keep Content Updated
When a customer sees that you have the latest and greatest information, it increases perceived value for your product and your company. They know that your company is a thought leader and keeps on its toes. By knowing the latest trends and showcasing your knowledge to anyone potentially interested in your product, you’re proving your passion, something the customer recognizes and trusts.
Distribute Content Everywhere
With the easily accessible (and ever-growing) internet, anyone can access detailed information online with a few simple clicks. Often times, these are generated from search engines such as Google or Yahoo (in fact, 8 out of 10 internet users look to search engines before anything) and it’s important to cast your net wide and improve your chances of appearing in search results. Search engines now capture data from YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and several other popular social media sites. Different users will prefer one network instead of another, so press releases, blogs, videos, and any other outlet makes your content (more importantly, your brand) that much more likely to be found.
Keep Them Entertained
If you fill your content with too many statistics and facts, you may wind up boring your audience. Make sure to tell a story or give real world examples that help your audience relate to what you’re talking about. Even more, create a situation where your audience can relate to your product or brand. If your company has annual events, openly invite readers to see the company or meet others. When you can entertain, interact, and openly communicate with your audience effectively, you’ll create an everlasting impression and relationship between potential customers and your brand.
Bottom line—when it comes to keeping customers informed on your business or your industry, you can create value by proving you know what your talking about and are passionate about your business.
The social web is finally starting to really monetize its traffic, answering questions that many (including myself) have had over the last few years as to how social media companies would create value and make money going forward, other than simply connecting people and allowing them to create and share online content.
Zynga, the maker of FarmVille, Mafia Wars and a wide variety of other popular Facebook games, is now in talks with potential investors about raising around $250 million in new funding, which could value the company between $7 billion and $9 billion, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal.
The article cites “people familiar with the matter,” and notes that Zynga filed papers last April that valued the company at $4 billion. According to the WSJ report, however, “any decision to raise a fresh round of funding” by Zynga “could be weeks away and may not happen.”
If the talks come to fruition, though, the valuation would put Zynga in the realm of other hot social media companies. Twitter, for instance was recently valued at $8 billion to $10 billion, and Groupon meanwhile is said to be valued at between $15 billion and $20 billion.