The traditional way of building brand awareness & affinity was to run a cool tv ad that people actually liked. Classic metrics for a broadcast ad campaign are reach, frequency and recall. In social media, success is measured by the social audience - number of viewers that voluntarily download your video. Now anyone with a camera phone can produce a video and post it on-line. There are twenty hours of video being uploaded every hour, every day and some user generated videos like The Evolution of Dance build audiences of over 172 million viewers. While barriers to broadcast are low in social media, the degree of difficulty to breakthrough the clutter is high. For a brand to be remembered, it becomes very difficult indeed.
The pay-off for brands in social media can be huge. A viral hit can reignite a brand’s cache like it did for both Cadbury and Evian in a way that advertising cannot.
On-line, the consumer becomes part of the brand’s storytelling by tapping into the social tendency to share things - sharing the video, sharing comments with friends who pass it on to other friends. A great viral video can create immense separation from competition as did T-Mobile UK Dance and the Samsung HD camera phone. Viewership for a successful viral hit can be stunning, reaching over 10 million views each week for over a 14 week period. Others on the other hand, may reach 1 million viewers and then stall out. Why is that?
What is working?
According to Visible Measures, key success factors for the top viral videos are:
- they are whimsical, fun, don’t take themselves too seriously
- they challenge the audience and make room for conversations to happen amongst viewers (how did they do that??)
- the first week is critical – they need to burst on the scene and get at least a million viewers
- they are supported by a broader awareness campaign - offline & on-line - PR, purchased media, social outreach, etc
- after the initial burst, they have a sustained marketing effort
- music-video/video-tainment (i.e. Smirnoff Partay, BK Spongebob)
- interactive video/how did they do that (T-Mobile Dance, Samsung HD camera trick)
- stunts (Nike hyper-dunk , Microsoft's megawoosh )
- darn good storytelling (Samsung LED -sheep - my favorite!! Johnnie Walker's Walk)
Do they work?
Ultimately, the question for brands is – can you link these viral hits to business results. According to Visible Measures, the seminal piece of research still needs to be published but brands that do participate in this medium believe viral ads can create greater value because it feels more authentic if their product is promoted by fans.