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Do not Wait for a Viral Campaign Idea for your Brand

As a marketing professional, you’d have encountered these wonder stories about brands being built around viral campaigns. We had the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association become an overnight talking point with their “Ice Bucket Challenge.” There’s the ‘Pokémon Go’ buzz still doing the rounds for Niantic Inc. I admit to succumbing to the persuasive digital campaign run by the “Dollar Shave Club” and becoming a subscriber!

These out-of-the-box ideas have set the marketing community thinking about how we could learn from and apply some of these wonderful ideas to our own brand building efforts.

There is almost a longing for a “shortcut” to brand popularity, or attempts to manufacture a miracle campaign.

Creating something out of nothing using digital is what the fraternity wants.

And if you are the one to run digital for brands, today is a tough time. The campaigns which have gone viral dominate the discussion table.

CMOs wax eloquent about their vision to do a viral video. In fact, there are requests such as “We need a viral video every month.”

I’ve heard of several ‘Viral video workshops’ being conducted by “experts”. Clearly, the pursuit has fallen short of its expectations since we hear about no more than 5-10 truly viral campaigns in a year.

Terms such as “virality coefficient” and “viral reach” are a rage.

This Dilbert strip might in fact not be  very far from reality.

The worry is that this quest to make something out of nothing, however “visionary” it may sound, is taking a disproportionate amount of mind-space of marketing strategists.

We need to take a pause and think. To start with:

  • Brand building is a long term investment. We can aspire for spikes in reach and recall, but cannot solely rely on them.
  • Will we stake it all trying to get to a viral campaign idea on digital or should we balance our pursuit with fundamentals?
  • The halo effect of viral campaigns does not last too long, unless the underlying brand has already enjoyed good equity. Ask those subscribers of the “Dollar Shave Club”, if they haven’t switched back to good old Gillette. Or for those raving about the Ice Bucket Challenge on whether they recall the acronym for ALS. Importantly, will they contribute to the cause this year? Longevity of perception and consistency is important.

Digital and social media deliver the fundamentals (and more predictably). What are these fundamentals?

  1. Am I reaching my chosen audience?
  2. Am I reaching enough of my chosen audience? (Share of Voice)
  3. Am I engaging them with my communication? (Share of Mind)
  4. Am I doing this frequently?
  5. Am I doing this consistently?
  6. Is my communication showing my brand’s meaningfulness and distinctiveness in a clear manner?

There’s an exact science for the first 4 metrics on digital. There’s the art of achieving  #5, #6. And yes, we know which half of the marketing spends work on digital. Precisely, to the last cent!

The point in summary is to stay focused on these fundamental metrics on digital and perhaps not to relegate the medium as one for experiments or attempts to do something ‘viral’.

July 2, 2017
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