Show me a marketer with “viral” on her marketing plan and I’ll show you an online video site that’s profitable. Advertising offline is getting harder with time-shifted television and declining viewership, and online advertising is getting more complex with paid-search prices rising and banner click-thru’s dropping. Given the low variable cost of viral, it’s natural that advertisers would want to experiment with it.
Advertisers beware. Getting people to promote your product by forwarding a viral video is not as easy as it appears.
1. Pretend you’re not advertising. If you want to piss-off your potential customers, pretend that your aren’t trying to sell them stuff. Their not stupid and if you are exposed… excuse me… when you are exposed the time and money that you have put into your viral video production will be wasted.
“Al Gore’s Penguin Army” is a classic example of a “funny video” that was exposed as having a PR agenda.
At first blush, the spoof seemed like a scrappy little homemade film poking fun at Gore and his anti-global warming crusade. In the movie, Gore is seen boring an army of penguins with his lecture and blaming global warming for everything, including Lindsay Lohan’s thinness.
But when the Wall Street Journal tried to find the guy who posted the film “Al Gore’s Penguin Army” — listed on YouTube as a 29-year-old — they found the movie didn’t come from an amateur working out of his basement.
The film actually came from a slick Republican public relations firm called DCI, which just happens to have oil giant Exxon as a client.
The proverbial hit the fan. Rather then achieving their goal, they effectively spent a great deal of money convincing the public that they could not be trusted.
2. Spend a fortune on production. I like to get paid the big bucks but if you are a business owner or marketer out there don’t spend a huge amount on a single viral video.
I’ve seen it payoff only once.
Here’s Smirnoff’s Ice Tea Partay.
Clearly this cost north of $300K to produce. But even if you pay that much, you might be better off giving it a “rough around the edges” look. Improv acting, sloppy camera moves and poor production can actually give your video that “consumer generated video” feel. There’s going to be a huge market for individual directors that can shoot viral videos for around $20-$50K, and it makes it much easier to get an ROI on viral video when you’re not having to recoup a big fixed-cost investment in production.
3. Make something good. You have to be extraordinary. Do you have any idea how many videos are uploaded onto google each day? How many millions of hours people watch per month? (You can find out here in my blog about using video with email) If you don’t step it up and make something quirky and remarkable then you will fail.
Seth Godin has a term called “Purple Cow,” which refers to marketing that is “remarkable” and worth paying attention to and talking about. Your viral video better be Technicolor Purple if you actually expect it to break through an increasingly crowded space.
What is remarkable? Take a look at the Volkswagen “Fast Lane” series. Would you view this content more than once, and show it to a co-worker or forward it to a friend? I would, and have.
4. Tell consumers instead of engage them. Don’t think of your viral video as an adaptation of a 60-second spot. You have got to be irreverent, weird, funny and different. The web has the ability to make the viral event a dialogue. Contests are a good example. There have been plenty of online video contests, but Mentos Geyser Contest is already shaping to be one of the most successful.
Check out all of the consumers creating buzz around a candy that was a 7-11 relic 6 months ago. Production costs for Mentos on those videos? Zero.
5. Set unrealstic conversion metrics. After someone watches your video, what do you think they’ll do? Will 30% come to your site? Will 10% buy your brand in two months?
Viral video is one of the most difficult-to-measure parts of your marketing mix. Sure you can count views. But none of the online video sites are yet able to track the viewers so you can conduct your Dynamic Logic unaided recall and awareness study. And very few people will take an immediate and measurable action.