communication is essential to business making and it involves more than the ability to name your product, write a tag line or a press release. It's an intricate, rational and scalable effort and, let's face it, not anyone can do it.

6/02/2009

Disecting virals

If you work in advertising you have heard it by now: we want a viral. No, don't bother to explain to anyone that you cannot MAKE a viral, but you can try to make a really really fun video and then try to make it GO VIRAL.
I have been thinking about virals a lot lately, and an having a hard time deciding how to measure their effect or when to really recommend them. So this is what I was thinking:
Why do clients ask for a viral?
- they are a low cost production
- they do not entail media costs - you do not pay to have them broadcast
- they do not have to follow the pre-set media plan or business plan
- sometimes they are better off not following the brand book
- they are immensely popular, generate huge WOM
What are the immediate benefits of virals?
- awareness?
- likeability?
- sales?
(all of these should be the aftereffect of WOM - you evaluate WOM by its overall influence on awareness, leads and actual volume)
Possibly all these three are benefits, but here comes the catch: we have no actual data for any of them. There is no definitive case of a viral altering brand indexes, or sales (remember the famed Gorilla and the no so famous after-viral results, when Galaxy, Cadbury's prime competitor actually took over the category). That is because, as pointed out above, virals are off media plan, off business plan, off brand book - they are "rogue communicators".
Now, let us evaluate the possible benefits of a viral
- awareness, WOM - this is useful for a brand under 30% awareness. For brands with over 90% awareness the boring old regular media plan will suffice. I am having a hard time imagining brand support by only virals in a country with 35% Internet penetration. I am having a hard time imagining that in a country with 100& Internet penetration.
- likeability - surely, but not within your target group for all the reasons above. Being off brand and online :-) virals tend to appeal to the "web surfers", people who spend a lot of time online, who are susceptible to having a large mailing list etc. This disqualifies a bunch of mainstream brands whose main volumes come from people ...well, not like that
- sales - I am having a hard time finding a connection here but I am open to suggestions.

So, I guess, when recommending a viral or being asked to do a viral, ask your client "what is it that you are trying to achieve?"

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bine ca a valorificat Despot repede viralul cu "3 in p*&^ mea". Galerii de arta. E plin de cumparatori de arta pe iutub.

Mare awareness involuntar pentru U, totusi, si asta in populatie relevanta pentru ei.

Btw, ce-ar fi sa scoti "6 cai" pe TV?

dan said...

very interesting post.
I think the main shortcoming of virals is that they have to be funny (in order to go viral). and funny is not always an effective way to dramatize the product benefit. in spite of being the favorite angle of creatives everywhere.

in my book a good viral was Blendtech's "Will it blend?" videos. trully viral. on brand. on benefit. but I have no idea whether they moved sales. I suspect
they were not really on target. housewives and the internet ... hmmm ... I don;t see it happening not even in the US.

also, I agree with you: there may be a internet mainstream, but it's still way above the real life mainstream. most brands are not for the internet savvy crowd.

dan.florescu said...

I found that most of the times people marketing product offline try to adapt communications solution from offline to online.

Maybe one good question will be: For what products/type of products can work viral? Like generating sales!
And with this examples, to ask the client if he have a product like that.

Is viral working for “easy’ internet specific products? That are just a click away from buying? Yes.
Is viral working for generating traffic on websites? I think yes, and there is accountability too for the viral project.

Furthermore… if you do the viral with a hook to an online target you can get data, or begin to have data.