Top 5 Traits of Viral Marketing Initiatives

My search for viral social media marketing campaigns had just begun when I knew I had found a strong candidate. After watching the video for about seven seconds with the sound on, my 11-year-old daughter called from across the room, “You watchin’ Dumb Ways to Die?”

“Uh, yeah,” I replied taken a little by surprise.

“Spoiler alert,” she says. “It’s a public service message for some railroad in Australia.”

And bingo: Instantly recognizable AND immediate recall of campaign intent.

This campaign taps what I believe to be the most powerful characteristic of a viral campaign: “exploit common motivations and behaviors”*. In this case, the video is sophomoric, mockingly violent while seemingly harmless, and very funny. Its power is boosted by being well-produced (good content is king) and very sharable via You Tube and Tumblr (both fitting the young target audience).

So I begin my top 5 characteristics of a viral social media campaign:

1. Exploiting common motivations and behaviors – This simply means it touches on what people are doing, talking about or thinking about. This was obviously an issue in Australia where train surfing and careless crossing accidents were commonplace at the time of Dumb Ways to Die.

2. Touching / Meaningful – Dove soap (Proctor and Gamble) launched “What I See” in 2013 and it provides a little mystery, a lot of humanity and a big touching surprise at the end. These types of videos make you say, “awww” or “wow”, and hopefully make you think about what you just saw and why they put it out there for you to watch.

3. Wanna Share It, See It, Do It – #urbanselfie is a unique campaign where retailer Urban Hilton Weiner gave a $10 gift certificate to anyone who Tweeted a selfie while trying on Urban’s clothes. This spreads your brand, shows your clothing line and it attracts more people into your stores.
Urban Selfie

4. Resourcefulness – Burger King played on our desire to watch viral web videos and launched a campaign of 64 pre-roll ads that be-moan the concept of pre-roll ads. You know, the ones that play before the video you’re trying to watch. The link above shows the concept and a small taste of the ground these 64 vids covered. That’s just smart – and entertaining.

5. Leading by Example – My favorite human characteristic also applies to viral campaigns, especially in the case of Giving. This benevolent campaign created by a Thai telecommunications company shares the story of how giving works and, in turn, can lead to giving back. It taps on Touching / Meaningful but in story form from beginning to end.

We should keep in mind that the millions of views these campaigns have generated mean nothing if they haven’t achieved their ultimate goal; the reason the campaigns were created in the first place.

Spoiler alert: My daughter is living proof that it can work!

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