On the “Ask a Question” marketing page on LinkedIn.com I often see the following question: How can I make my go viral on the web?
It could be a website selling weight loss pajamas … an eBook on fractal theory … a copywriting home-study course … or anything else the marketer wants to promote.
Of course, what the marketer is really asking is: How do I get my valuable, clever, entertaining message about my product to spread like a virus across the web so I can make LOTS of MONEY FAST?
Viral Marketing is to Marketers What Immediate Gratification is to Consumers
Everyone wants what they want NOW!
Fat people want a skinny pill. Skinny people want a muscle pill. Poor people want a get-rich-quick pill. And flacid male people want a blue pill from Pfizer.
And marketers want to wake up in the morning and see six zeroes added to their PayPal account overnight.
Blame it on YouTube
Whether it was a video of an embarrassing, unlikely yet subsequently wildly talented performer on a TV talent show … or an awe-inspiring video of dung beetles doing it to the beat of Eminem … which then spread virulently across the web from one person to another by text, chat, email, Facebook, Twitter, phone call or over-the-shoulder viewing on a Blackberry in the office marketers quickly realized that viral is the new, best, must-have marketing pill!
So how do you create an emotionally and intellectually appealing promotion guaranteed to garner a gazillion views within 24 hours of it being uploaded to the web, and quickly make its creator RICH?
How do you harness the wind?
Viral by Any Other Name Would Still be…
… Engaging, stimulating, mass appealing, and ultimately ineffable!
The problem is: How does anyone know how or when the unruly, fickle and transcendent zeitgeist or just your target market will react to any statement, opinion, proposition, expression or product you proffer?
As a book, Harry Potter went viral. As a movie, Avatar went viral. As a marketing methodology, Mass Control went viral.
No doubt they were in the right place at the right time to strike a perfectly pitched note that resonated wide and far.
So will every fantasy novel, alien movie or marketing platform go viral even if theme and content are duplicated exactly? Of course not.
If Harry Potter, Avatar, and Mass Control had been released one or two years earlier, or later would they have had the same effect, the same appeal if the political, economic, or social landscape had been different?
And what if the same story line or marketing message had been crafted and delivered by someone else not J.K, Rowling, James Cameron or Frank Kern would they still have been a success?
If you fall in love with a blonde, tall, athletic, tanned, funny and intelligent woman, or man will you fall in love with each and every person who looks and acts exactly that way, too?
When you gaze into your lover’s eyes will you ever see, can you ever feel, ever be enraptured in that same way by the eyes of another person just because they may be brown or blue and almond shaped, too?
What makes a joke hysterically funny when told by one comedian and flat and stupid when told by another?
What can be taught? What can be learned? What can be patented?
The 3 Guardians of Viral’s Holy Grail
If you’re a marketer, three indispensable components must be present if your marketing message and your product will ever be disseminated at anything close to viral speed.
One, you must have a quality product one that eminently satisfies a proven and measurable need or hunger. It must have value beyond its price.
Two, your marketing platform and creative has to match and cater to the personality and sensibilities of your target market. You must understand them, speak like them and walk some distance in their shoes. You must have a passion to help, not to just make money.
Three, your target market has to be clearly defined and approachable. It can be delineated by gender, age, income or any other demographic or psychographic attribute, singularly or in combination, so long as they communicate with one another and can be reached initially by you. A communication network must be in place.
And the degree to which those three criteria are met, will determine the light speed and the distance at which your message and product will travel.
Concentrate on one component to the exclusion or the diminution of the other two will effectively produce a crashing and forgettable thud rather than a viral, self-perpetuating marketing bang.
Unfortunately, most marketers who ask: How can I make my go viral on the web … just want a magic pill that requires no effort, much less an understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
What they have yet to understand is that in the marketing world, going viral, as in getting big-buck lucky, requires the convergence of the tangible with the intangible; it is the hallowed marketplace wherein opportunity and preparation gleefully meet.
A great product, a well-planned launch and a continually evolving and adaptive marketing campaign none of which happens magically or overnight is marketing’s true, only, and attainable Holy Grail.
Going viral only happens, if at all, afterwards.
Barry A. Densa is a freelance marketing and sales copywriter. Read more of his irreverent musings, and download a FREE copy of his NEW eBook, containing 21 of his most outrageous rants, when you visit his blog: Marketing Wit & Wisdom!