There was a time when the word virus spelt doom to your digital life but nowadays it seems to be the buzz word for most brands. Well, they don't ask for a virus but they pretty much ask for ideas that can have the same effect - spread like crazy.
Essentially, viral marketing is marketing your brand through word of mouth. Viral Branded content, if found interesting, is shared with the consumer’s peers and this peer group with theirs, thus creating a viral effect.
The key to this viral effect is the content. The content if not appealing would die an untimely death no matter how hard you try to push it through paid advertising. But to create that perfect concoction you need to know the host first. Who are your consumers and what excites them?
There are many kinds of virus out there are you need to choose the one that suits your budget and most importantly have the desired effect. You have the ‘Tried and tested’ Viral, the one that people commonly use and never runs out of steam no matter what (like the common cold). You have the ‘New and Improved’ Viral, the one that uses a foundation of an old viral but in a new avatar (like a flu). And then you have the ‘Fresh and Famous’ Viral, the one that is completely a new kind of viral and a take on something that is currently in the news (like adopting children from 3rd world countries). Each of them have their own pros and cons, but all of them effective. But creating a viral is just not enough, you need to have a good plan to get it going yet not being so blatant about it (Sneezing in someone’s face transfers the virus but that someone is now disgusted by the way you transferred it. I suggest using the sneezing on your hands and then shaking the hands of the one you want the virus transferred to. Much more subtle and stealth). So plan not only for a good viral but also a good marketing plan to kick-start the viral.
Virals are a great marketing tools for surrogate brands and India too is coming of age with the quality of viral content created for the industry. The Dewarists is a good example of excellent viral content that will make for great brand rub-off. Now all they need to do is create bite-sized edits and convert a complete episode into snacking content. This kind of a virus would fall into the ‘Fresh and Famous’ category, completely new content made with the common vector of music but an entirely different take on the same. Other examples of great virus in this category is the Coke Studio, The Axe Video Episodes and the Red Bull Video virals. These virals need a good plan to kick-start the virals and make your consumers aware of the viral. The content of the viral should do the rest once they are exposed to the same. Though The Dewarists and Coke Studio is made for TV, the content, if packaged and marketed smartly, will get the maximum mileage in the digital medium.
The new and improved virals is pretty much the best one to adopt as this one has the maximum effect. Being that the foundation of the virus is already tested we know that the virus will be effective. Take what Sony did with something as simple as the cursor. A simple code can enable your website to keep the memory of Michael Jackson alive by changing the cursor on your website with MJ’s sparkling glove. Simple, Smart and Timely. The new and improved virals are ones that usually do not take much time to develop and require much less marketing as the topic chosen is most likely in the news.
Lastly, the tried and tested virals. Its something that you have come across in the past and have seen many versions of the same. In India, the Sholay or Rajnikant animated virals come under this category. Least amount of marketing spend required to push these virals but these in time have the most desired effect. These virals are best used when you would like a mass effect and your target audience is quite fragmented. most often some virals could be created by fans of your brands which end up amplifying your brand greatly and not costing you a single rupee.
With all these virals, engaging content is imperative. If the content sucks, so will the viral resulting in an abrupt end. I have often met brand managers that insist on virals to be created for their brands without a budget in hand. The misconception is that virals are simple easy pieces of content that can be done at virtually no cost. Good virals of today are elaborate (as seen in the examples above) and important for the brands. These virals enable their audience to share the content with their friends who are more likely to experience the same and share it with their respective friends because its come from his peer in turn creating a positive disposition towards the brand. After all, what better way to market your brand than through word of mouth?
Carlton D’Silva is the chief creative director at Hungama Digital Media and has spent over 15 years in the digital space. He takes insult when you call the digital medium new media…15 years should be old enough! Find him on twitter @TheWordOfGawd