Going Viral: Lessons from the Battlefield

Content that goes viral is the ultimate end goal of online marketers. The very term “viral” suggests content that is contagious, being spread from user to user at an exponential rate, like an epidemic. It implies that the message is so strong that marketers no longer need to physically spread it, because it spread itself. It’s content that is so good that you once you see it, you can’t help but want to tell someone about it. This month has truly shown us the potential power of viral content.   We should start at the beginning. Last month, Volvo released an ad featuring 80’s action movie star Jean Claude Van Damme. As Van Damme has a cult following online, this would already have been noteworthy enough, but Volvo didn’t stop there. Instead, they had him do the splits (a move he is famous for) perched between two Volvo semi-trucks, which were driving parallel to each other. In reverse.   It’s small wonder that the ad went viral instantly, gaining millions of views within hours. A month on, 65 million people have viewed it, voluntarily, many of them multiple times. It was the one minute and seventeen second definition of successful marketing.   Within hours, Channing Tatum released a spoof of the ad in which he attempts to do the splits to promote his upcoming film 22 Jump Street. Sure enough, within hours he also had millions of views. As of now 14 million people have seen his ad.   But neither of these successes, one by a major corporation, one by an A-list actor, could match what happened next. A tiny media company called Delov Digital released the ultimate repartee, featuring a fake, CGI short of online meme-king Chuck Norris, also doing the splits. Between two airplanes. With all of Seal Team 6 piled up on his head. In the shape of a Christmas tree that ultimately lights up.   The video got 5 million hits within 5 hours of posting, and is now approaching 19 million.  

The Lessons

  These kinds of results are incredible because of the insane level of exposure they provide. One single such event can turn around the fate of an entire company. Here are a four things you can learn from this phenomenon and hopefully apply to your own marketing:   1. Viral content requires an awareness of popular culture. The videos would not have gone viral if they didn’t have the capability of resonating with a huge number of people. To design content that has the potential to go viral, look for a common denominator that is universally understood.   2. Viral content provides value to its viewers. This value is the reason they choose to share it with friends, and ultimately making it go viral. The value can come from a variety of sources, but the largest source, by far, has proven to be humor.   3. Viral content is often ridiculous and exaggerated. Think of the Gangnam Style video (which was the first Youtube video to reach a billion hits). Viral videos tend to offer a no-holds-barred approach. They present information in a bold, new way (what a great way of touting the suspension of Volvos!) Viewers can sense this ingenuity, and can’t help but respond to it.   4. Viral videos can piggyback off each other. This is by far the most important lesson for small businesses. The latter two videos we discussed could not possibly have happened without Volvo coming up with the original content. The timelines of the two later videos, released while people we still discussing the original, was perfect for going viral. Volvo did the work, but all three reaped the profits.   You might have noticed that all the viral examples we referred to are videos. If your company hasn’t branched into video yet, it might be time to start thinking outside the box, as Delov Digital did. Now get out those notepads and start brainstorming!   Volvo Trucks – The Epic Split feat. Van Damme (Live Test 6)   Jenko’s Epic Split   Greetings from Chuck (The epic christmas split)   [templatera id=”10394″]

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