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?
(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?"
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.