Let’s make a viral

Great idea, “let’s make a viral” and then everyone will see our video…

“Everyone” does not have to see your video/industrial film for it to be successful, only the target audience needs to see your video.

When you have some time to waste, really waste, go to youtube and see what are the most popular videos.  If you can promote your company by making videos of cats dressed in clothing, or kids picking their noses, go right ahead.  Just don’t ask me to watch, though if you really want me to it’s $200.00/hr for a review.  I don’t waste my time.

Unlike most other forms of marketing, viral video makes a claim that it can almost never live up to: It will be so compelling that people will want to share it.

To simply call a video ‘viral’ because it is intended to shared virally – much like calling a video ‘amazing’ because it was intended to be ‘amazing’. Whatever your definition of viral there many factors that can mitigate against the success of your video project.

So why do viral marketing projects fail?:

Great Expectations: Creating a hit viral video is like creating a hit record. It’s very difficult. Of the hundreds/thousands of viral-intended videos created every year for businesses only a handful truly go viral.

Viral video is free and easy! No it’s not. It takes time, expertise/talent and facilities/equipment to develop a good viral video. Having more is always preferred in all three of these production resource categories (in spite of the ‘do less with more’ mantra.) ‘More’ costs more, always has, always will.

Viral videos promote themselves! No, usually they don’t – they need help. ‘Video seeding’  is a common practice now for large scale viral videos where companies will help seed the market with videos by encouraging or paying influential bloggers, PR outlets and other influencers to promote a viral video. There are a growing number of companies that offer this service. Most popular corporate viral videos had a significant seeding component that contributed to their success. Is this in your budget?

Viral video is not risk free. Just grab a Flip and start posting your video online, right?  What if your video is embarrassing or just plain bad and it goes viral anyway? Would Apple or Coke or Nike allow this to happen? Does how you present your company to the world matter? Just who is going to make your video? Your teenager? Your child may be “cheap labor” but would you trust your accountants teenager to do your taxes? Doubt it.

It is very difficult to measure success of a viral video. Is 167,000 YouTube views a success? Are any of those viewers your audience? Did they associate anything in your video, in a positive way, with your brand? Will that video affect their behavior or attitude towards your brand? Can you measure any of this? Look at the most “successful” you tube videos, they are stupid, and pander to the lowest common denominator of society, they are generally made by children for children, they are not going to sell your product to your prospects demographic.

The ‘viral’ label is a distraction. “…and we’d like the video you’re going to create for us to be viral as well.” Clients want any video they do, regardless of the market, message and purpose to have a “viral component.” The way to create a successful viral video project is to start with that purpose in mind – the video is so compelling that people will want to share it. You can’t throw in ‘viral’ as an add-on to the project. Not only will the video not be viral, you may take away from the primary purpose of the video by trying to amuse, shock or bewilder people. If you really don’t care about your public image, make a “viral” video.

The term ‘viral’ is misused. I have read a number of recent articles that interchange the terms ‘web video’ and ‘viral video’ as if they refer to the same thing. A web video is any video that is consumed on the web. Viral video is a specific type of video that is intended to be so entertaining, or remarkable, or shocking that people will be inclined to share it with their friends and colleagues, again this will probably not bode well for your public image.

There’s a fine line between selling and entertaining. If no one remembers or associates your brand with the video then you’ve wasted your money. Conversely, if the video looks like a two minute product demo no one is going to share it. A great example – Coke does a nice job (as usual) in straddling that fine line between promoting the product – the whole video is about a Coke Machine!, and entertaining – brilliant. What do you think Coke’s budget was, I bet it was wayyyy north of $100K

To truly succeed viral videos have to be great. There is extra pressure on viral videos to be really entertaining, or shocking or… something. Some of them are great and some of them are just plain awful. A viral video has to great in order to spread virally. Good usually isn’t good enough. The advantage of promotion through disruptive advertising (TV) is that your television commercial can be absolute crap and people will still watch it. With the budget of “crap” commercials in excess of $500, 000, how do you think your $10,000 “viral” will have a chance? Oh, wait, you thought it was going to be made for free, by a teenager? Good luck.



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