By: Mallorie Rosenbluth Long before the Old Spice Guy and JK Wedding Dance (remember those?) were finding their way en mass to our Twitter streams, Facebook feeds and Good Morning America segments,the concept of "going viral" has kept marketers awake at night, wondering if their next idea will spread like wildfire. But what does this concept really mean? Essentially, virality has to do with content or information getting spread from person to person really, really quickly. And the Internet has helped this happen like no other media. For a brand though, what does this provide besides some buzz, a spike of brand awareness and a temporary lift in sales (if you're lucky)? How does a viral campaign really help consumers? As marketers, it's our responsibility (and life's work!) to find ways to perpetuate our brands in innovate ways that make an impact on our consumers. We need to provide value. Viral is a bonus. Here's why:
1) Value lasts longer than viral - a big element of viral is generally a cool factor, meaning the information is exciting, funny, different, perhaps shocking and therefore promotes sharing between users. But that type of cool doesn't last very long. Most brand campaigns that go viral don't produce long-lasting business results. There's a flash in the pan component and not much engagement or relationship building. By providing value, you give your consumers knowledge and your brand the ability to be positioned as a thought leader its customer base will continue to come back to.
2) Value, not virality, creates loyal brand ambassadors - Since viral doesn't last very long, it doesn't give you the opportunity to establish long-lasting connections with your consumers. By providing value - in content, savings, customer service, etc. - you become a trusted brand and develop a relationship with your customer that goes beyond a single purchase or view of a video. These relationships are the ones that create super-fans and they're the type of relationships that only happen over time.
3) YOU can control value - As much as we hate to admit it, and as much as some executives like to expect it from their marketing teams, you simply can't control what goes viral. It's often the unexpected that takes off and it's rarely, rarely planned. And arguably more important, when something spreads fast enough to be viral, you (and your message) are subject to getting lost in pop-culture references and the increased probability of becoming a meme somewhere down the line. The messages exists without the brand. If you focus on value as the number one priority in any marketing effort and campaign - value to the consumer and to the brand - it's harder to lose control of the message.
In a perfect marketing world, every campaign we put out is value-based and goes viral. Unfortunately, there's no recipe for that sort of success. Value though, will always trump viral. Campaign virality belongs in the "nice to have" column. So long as value is in the campaign architecture, you'll find success.
What do you think? Does viral take the crown or is value the winner? Can you have both? Let us know in the comments!