Tags: viral

Why #TheDress Went Viral and How Brands Cashed In

Beyond • March 12, 2015

This week wars broke out over the color of a dress from a Scottish wedding. Some saw it was gold and white, others as blue and black. #TheDress became an instant hashtag and the subject went viral. The question I want to answer for you is, why did this post go viral and not anything that you might have done? Trigger a Response The best social shares are those that trigger a response, asking something along the lines of do you prefer “A or B,” for example. In a fast-paced world where we’re dealing with thousands of bits of information a day, we want our engagement opportunities to be quick and meaningful – and we want to have a voice. Make it easy for people to get what they want by setting it out plainly. For richer content in industries that find it tough to simplify messaging, you can steer content around statements that are going to be either strongly supported or disagreed with. Piggy-Backing off Genius Had #thedress been a post by a scientific publication or organization, it would have been brilliant. Give the people something easy to grasp on to, something to trigger a response, and then follow up with how this is scientifically explained. In fact, plenty of scientific publications did just that with the highest grossing social shares topping well over the 300k mark for one group that decided to follow up with a video explanation rather than just a textual one. Sure they may not have thought of the idea, but they successfully piggy backed off of it just the same and that’s totally fine. People, already curious about the dress, are going to want to follow up and find out why people are seeing it two different ways. And therein you have a naturally audience. The rule applies to any news item really; you may not have come up with it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t run with it. Jumping in on the Conversation Kate Taylor of Entrepreneur writes a great article that gives some examples of the way brands were jumping in on the conversation. She notes that it’s not just about tweeting about the dress, but about steering the conversation so that you’re socially and trend-savvy, but still focused on your product and market. For brands, this meant picking a color combo and showing their own corresponding product. Specifically, check out the example she shows for Pizza Hut vs. Dominos. The former nails it by showing a golden white cheese pizza and going with that color scheme, while Dominos awkwardly shares a picture of pepperoni pizza and follows that up with, “…it’s actually red and white.” Awkward indeed. Dominos’ social share doesn’t work (and receives 20x fewer shares than Pizza Hut) because they weren’t on cue. We’re talking gold/white or blue/black, don’t add other colors to the mix – and by doing so you’re unnecessarily confound a very simple conversation, which was the reason it went viral in the first place. Taylor also noticed that surprisingly, companies are who affiliated with a millennial market weren’t quick to jump on this band wagon. She writes, “It\'s worth noting that the chains most frequently linked to \"millennial\" customers, including Shake Shack, Chipotle, Starbucks and Taco Bell were, as of 10:45 a.m. ET, free of tweets regarding the dress debate. The most important take away is the need for all social media strategies to have a responsive strategy to time-sensitive viral posts. You need to be able to adapt, quickly and well, in order to truly be socially engaging and on cue. As Jodi Phillips, VP of Media Strategy at BLinQ Media says it, “While viral moments can’t be planned for, retail brands should always be prepared to take advantage of these opportunities….Having a content strategy that plans for reactive right time/real-time moments is important.”


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The 3 Heads of a Viral Marketing Strategy

Beyond • January 14, 2015

Ask just about any marketing manager what they’d ultimately love to see, and you can bet they’d say it’s to “go viral”. But what does going viral even mean? If you recall the most virulent marketing strategy of 2014, it would be the ALS ice bucket challenge. And when you walk away from that challenge, even months later, the one thing you can quickly recall of the tip of your tongue is some charity called ALS. That right there is marketing goal and it’s the ultimate goal of any hard working marketing department. How you get there though, is another beast entirely – and it starts with changing your understanding of the word “viral.” Consider viral as the three-headed dog in Greek mythology, known as Cerberus. It’s a bold image but it’s also an important one. If you envision viral as Cerberus, it will help you understand that something as powerful inherently has three key heads that you need to feed. In our case it’s the following: Head 1: Campaign Rarely does a singular post go viral. It’s possible, if the post is catchy or just very well written with a strong trigger headline. Still, that’s a one off case. It’ll draw traffic and it might even get some conversion, but it’s still a singular case that’s unanchored to your brand. What you need to do instead is to create an entire campaign. A campaign is on-going, with a multi-platform strategy designed to draw attention to your campaign from different portals. Doing this correctly requires understanding what your audience wants, where they’re at (most companies, for example, still don’t consider that Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat beat all other social platforms for a youth demographic). Most importantly, it requires knowing what your brand is about. Head 2: Brand Message When I say, “knowing what your brand is about,” I mean understanding how the campaign message fits into and promotes your brand. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t have the right brand message, you’re less likely to achieve viral success. If you achieve viral success because of a strategic alliance (which is also head #3), then you lose a prime opportunity for press, brand awareness and conversion, just to name a few. Getting your brand messaging down right is also integral to something going viral; because, when you say “something” goes viral, that “something” is your brand. Sure, you could say that recognition is propelled by a campaign, but essentially the goal of that campaign is to promote your brand. Even if your campaign’s key goal is to create a call to action to encourage sales, donations, or event attendance, you’re still relying on your brand and message to drive traffic. Understanding this fact also helps you better plan the next the next step, alliances. Head 3: Alliances We use to call them partnerships, but now alliances is a much more impactful word choice that also gets across what we’re really trying to achieve in any successful partnership. A partnership is where you work together. An alliance is a union in support of a cause. If you’re viral efforts fall into charitable organizations, public works, government, social issues, or even thought leadership – then what you need is an alliance. Forging a coveted alliance is another thing. You’ll find that an organization is more willing to forge an alliance than a business is. However, to get a business to create an alliance with you, as either another business or organization, you’ll need to find some common ground in either social causes or better yet, in some sort of striven-for ideal. When creating an alliance, you’re going to need to be truthful about what you can offer and what you expect in return. Before you reach out to any point of contact, sit with your team to strategize the first two heads and have a brief drafted up that pitches what’s being proposed, what you’re looking to accomplish, what type of alliance you’re seeking, what can be achieved, and what are some expected deliverables along. It might be smart to also include how you’re going to measure success and what deliverables you plan on offering the other party. Perhaps there will be a co-branded case study or infographic? The more you can offer, the better chances your chances of securing a high-profile alliance.


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Advertisers Score Viral Ads with Winning Storytelling Formula (Part III)

Advertisers Score Viral Ads with Winning Storytelling Formula (Part III)

Beyond • March 21, 2014

The advertising industry’s move to push narratives, ties back to brand journalism and the idea that your product should have a core story tells us about ourselves through the lens (and the product) of the advertiser. However that doesn’t mean that a brand is cemented in the story it tells; rather, the story is a vessel for the brand and that vessel can (and should) change much like chapters in a book. Before the examples here, we saw advertisers playing with storytelling through Coke and (perhaps most memorably through perfected crafting) with Google India. The fact that we’re seeing these three viral ads, two of which are for lesser-known organizations, reinforces the practices and proves we’re hurdling in a storytelling direction at record speed. This means that marketers and advertisers who can’t develop a compelling story, won’t get very far. For those still scratching their heads at the drawing board, here’s a tip: if you want people to talk about you, you have to talk about them. Save the Children UK’s second-a-day ad, chronicling the life of an average school girl, went viral because it took a globally recognized issue that (over the course of a three year on going civil war), we’ve become distanced from. They bridge that gap by showing what it would be like if the problem over “there” hit home. Getting the average person to relate to something so complex and remote is a challenge. Save the Children keeps the concept simple by looking at the core humanitarian issues suffered by children; they don’t get caught up in geopolitics. As Time Magazine noted, a similar gesture was made by SOS Children’s Villages, a Norwegian nonprofit that “recently staged a candid camera ad featuring a freezing boy at a bus stop.” The story here was in documenting the reaction of the passers, nearly all of whom couldn’t help but act. The climax here is (brilliantly) in the passerby’s actions; they take the jacket of their back and offer it to the boy. A noble but simple gesture that punctuates the organizations point clearly: (a) this is one child you can see while there are many you cannot, and (b) if you can help him so easily, what about the hundreds of thousands Syrian refugees. It’s not everyday that a non-profit organization makes the headlines for their advertising. Causes, in general, seem to be doing a great job of this in recent times – and the Google Glass commercial highlighting the very grave issue domestic abuse in commemoration of the annual Women’s Day, was no lesser feat. Turning the page of a different story, iPad Air’s visionary ad that captures and inspires us, was in short, nothing less than what they were asking us to do. Using classic storytelling mediums of sights, sounds, and story, the advertising geniuses behind the ad created something beautiful artistic in the process – an ad that rushed toward us and whirled around us, playfully dancing to both verse and song, pushing us to do the same. Apple also set up a “Your Verse” page on its website, whose (according to BGR) “main purpose is to capture the many ways people use its iPads in different parts of the world.” These ads went viral but not in the way you’d imagine it. In a truly viral campaign, you’re going to a percentage of your viewers sharing repeatedly because they’re that moved your ad. They’ll share it the once; and then they’ll share it once or twice more over a few days because they want to make sure their network sees this video. They aren’t done discussing your ad. They want to conversation to continue. Here you don’t have the case of a serial ‘click share’ – rather, you’ve got someone for whom the message or the story in the ad has resonated so much that it has stayed with them beyond the share. Multiple shares are the mark of a great story. A great story doesn’t just get told once, it gets told by each listener and repeatedly to (sometimes the same but often) new listeners. Today’s advertisers realize you can tell a “micro-story” in just a few minutes – especially if you pair raw creativity with a winning formula.


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Advertisers Score Viral Ads with Winning Storytelling Formula (Part I)

Advertisers Score Viral Ads with Winning Storytelling Formula (Part I)

Beyond • March 20, 2014

In the battle for our attention, advertisers are now turning to the Holy Grail of marketing that has dominated the landscape for the last year: storytelling. Stories are as old as we are. They’re perhaps the most fundamental part of our humanity and that is why they stick with us even today in a technology dominated era. If you look at viral advertising campaigns in the last year, chances are they are ads that had a storytelling strategy. The examples here, the most radically viral ad campaigns this season, have all had the same storytelling vein in their campaigns. From war in London, to a day in the life, and a re-imagined classic, each visual narrative captured our attention by being nothing less than an epic story. The ads that I’ve tracked as having been most widely circulated and most talked about include (1) Save the Children UK’s ad showing what it would be like if the Syrian war occurred in a Western territory; (2) Google Glass’-inspired PSA for International Women’s Day, created by a team of London creatives with no affiliation to Google; (3) iPad Air’s rendition of a classic Walt Whitman poem, packaged in such a monumentally creative vessel that most don’t even know they’re listening to (or liking) classic poetry. The latter is perhaps the most innovative of the three, as Forbes writer Mark Rogowsky phrases it in an article titled Apple’s Latest Ad is Pure Poetry, “A commercial for a new tablet using dialog from a 25-year-old movie, delivered by a 62-year-old actor, quoting from a 114-year-old poem? Are they crazy?” It would seem so, but the ad, like the others here, is nothing short of clever…and brave. So what do these three ads have in common? Harrison Monarth of Harvard Business Review recalls the nativity of storytelling. In an HBR post called “The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool,” Monarth writes, “We humans have been communicating through stories for upwards of 20,000 years, back when our flat screens were cave walls.” Citing Neuroeconomist Paul Zak, Monarth credits storytelling’s ability to “evoke a strong neurological response.” Monarth offers Freytag’s Pyramid, a simple storytelling structure that moves along the five points necessary for effective storytelling: (Act 1) Exposition, (Act 2) Complication, (Act 3) Climax, (Act 4) Reversal, and (Act 5) Denouement. Act 1: Exposition A micro-story ad starts off by laying the foundation and opening the door to a wider sequence of actions. Act 2: Complication Called a “rising action”, a complication is a folding or layering or events. This is where one point or action blends into another to create a more dynamic story with various (yet related) points. Act 3: Climax Here we have the pivotal turning point. Here is where it all changes. Act 4: Reversal The consequence of a climax, the “reversal” mirrors the “complication” in the pyramid. It’s part a reflection of the complication and in part a sequence of events toward Act 5. Act 5: Denouement Called the “moment of release”, the denouement in ads differs from traditional storytelling because it doesn’t look to tie loose ends. They’re not necessarily offering you a resolution or telling you what happens. In advertising, act 5 is where the point is driven home.


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Marketing Mania: Smoking Kid

Marketing Mania: Smoking Kid

Beyond • February 14, 2014

Deemed as the best anti-smoking ad ever created, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation released a new PSA, called “Smoking Kid,” that will make smokers realize that their habit is affecting a lot more people than just themselves. In the 2:38 clip, two young kids each go up to strangers on the street that are smoking and ask for a light for their cigarette. As expected, the adults were baffled at their question, and begin to lecture the kids about the health hazards of smoking, such as: “No. You are too young.” “If you smoke, you die faster. Don’t you want to live and play?” “Smoking causes lung cancer and emphysema.” It’s all going well, until the kids bust out their own question for the adults. “If it’s so bad, why are you smoking?” Before they leave, they hand the adults a piece of paper that reads: “You worry about me. Why not about yourself? Reminding yourself is the most effective warning to help you quit.” Included was a help hotline at the bottom. Since it was uploaded on the Internet, it received over 5 million Youtube views in 10 days, was shared all over the news stations, and there was a 40% increase in phone inquiries by smokers who wish to quit. What makes this PSA so successful is that first, it strikes an emotional cord in the viewers by putting him in the smoking adult’s perspective and raises concern for the child endangering his young life. Only after their hearts have been softened, then the PSA dives into the same smoking risks and dangers that we all already know. This time, the dangers are more successfully delivered to our heart and mind. If we just heard those same old messages first, it would be easy to just nod our heads and say, “yes, I know,” and just brush it off and continue living life because we have heard them all before. All the warnings become like white noise that is easy to ignore. What has to happen first is to let our emotional wall down. Seeing young and naïve kids asking for a light yanks us out of our smoking slumber to immediately tell them how bad smoking is, hoping that they will understand. Once we are hit with the note, it makes us perceive that the concern we have for the child should be applied towards ourselves too. It is the same theory as teaching; you learn something better when you are teaching it to someone else. The adults are relaying the same dangers they have always heard themselves, and no doubt the message on the piece of paper will make those dangers stick with them more so now.


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How Email Marketing Will Evolve In 2010

How Email Marketing Will Evolve In 2010

Beyond • November 24, 2009

The trends we likely will see in the 2010 will include an increase in catering to the swiftly changing choices of individuals who can determine where, when, and how they read messages. With the continuing proliferation of computer-cell phone crossovers, the traditional paradigm of the \"computer user reading email\" will apply less and less in the future. Capturing A Fleeting Consumer 2010\'s consumer is on the go, and the email marketer must keep up with their changing lifestyles. The savvy email marketer of 2010 will provide a selection of information channels such as RSS feeds which the customer can select, or better yet, are pre-selected for them based on their individual preferences. The customer of 2010 demands relevance, thus the \"batch & blast\" and \"spray & pray\" techniques of the past will become totally extinct. Enabling the customer to shape and manage the incoming communication is a key point to this relevance. Quality will continue to trump quantity, and email marketers who are able to comprehend lifecycle and trigger behaviors will benefit greatly. Your Customer Is Your Friend, Not Your Target It will be ever more important to build consumer trust through total transparency and provide for their opt-in preferences. Once they are welcomed, then expectations must be fulfilled, and keep updating to fit their requirements. If the relationship sours, there should be valid alternatives to unsubscribing, again in order to suit the client. As many as 7 out of 10 individuals are long term opportunities, so the commitment to providing customized information in 2010 and beyond must be for the long haul. Drip campaigns can produce a three fold greater CTR, thus will become one of the primary B2B vectors in 2010. Say It In 140 Characters 2010 has been touted by some as the year that email will evolve into a multitude of innovative forms, overtaken by the explosion in communications channel choices and preferences such as: mobile applications & SMS webinars, webcasts & podcasts RSS feeds social networks ...and of course Twitter. The Twitter phenomenon is extremely important in the development of any email marketing campaign in 2010, as the generation which has been brought up on texting is about to enter the workforce: bringing with them their terse, dense, short word blasts, or Tweets. Providing a successful marketing message in 140 characters or less will prove to be the great art of 2010. A 2010 Viral Email Pandemic Given that more than 50% of the entire human race has a text-capable mobile telephone, the potential for this medium dwarfs the conventional \"email on a PC\" market. Therefore, the email marketer of 2010 must provide messages which render properly on full browsers, mobile browsers, and the basic text screens of the low-end cellulars. A pandemic of viral emails can be expected in 2010 as email marketers must develop new ways to encourage their recipients to pass along to family, friends, and their \"extended family\" in social networks. It will be increasingly important to ensure that these messages can be customized by the \"pass-alonger\" by providing capabilities to have endorsements or comments added. The basics of proper email marketing will become even more important in 2010, thus behavior-based customization of messages; creative low pressure subject lines; clear, display-flexible, user-focused email design; and genuine personality bordering on hip quirkiness, will be the keys to success in 2010 and beyond.


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