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August 17, 2009

At some point in the last couple of years, marketing departments started seeing “viral” as the answer to most marketing problems. Now every campaign has a Viral element.

But, inevitably, big marketing companies rarely do viral well. Viral marketing works when no one knows what your product is, and you have something EXTREMELY attention getting. And, when that something is so “buzz-worthy” that people will be talking about it a lot.

When those two requirements are filled, you get something very nice. These requirements work best with movies, like Cloverfield or District 9, where you don’t have to do anything except convince someone that the 11.50 they’re spending on your movie will give them the answer to some burning question (like what is Cloverfield?)

However, even movies screw it up. I Love You Beth Cooper tried to start a viral campaign. And it failed miserably. And then there’s the times when marketers decide to try for viral hype for absolutely no reason. For example, what is this video below?

Cool stunt? No. Advertisement for insurance? No. If you guessed a viral marketing campaign for Microsoft project management tools, you are correct. (and insane).

First, what does this video accomplish? Are serious software users, CIOs, etc. going to be impressed because your product was featured in a viral video? No.

And, it fails the “Viral Tests”. Everyone knows what Microsoft is already, and a suite of project management software isn’t exactly an earth-shattering achievement. I could see something like this for Xbox, or Zune, or even (maybe) Bing. But Project Management?

Second, it’s attention getting, but there is nothing to sustain hype. Sure, you gained mention on a few blogs, but did you gain end-users? Doubt it.

Please, leave viral marketing for the movie studios. But feel free to make as many waterslide videos as you please. People need something to watch on Sunday morning before the NFL.

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