Friday, September 23, 2011

Viral Videos: Why Force Them?

By Eric Wiggins (MBA '12)

(This is an except from an assignment I did in my Buyer Behavior class; we made a blog entry on an aspect of consumer behavior as it relates to advertising.)

Within the last few years, the global phenomenon of YouTube has, in turn, given birth to another global phenomenon commonly referred to as the “Viral Video.” Companies have seen the attention these videos attract, and salivate to get a piece of that exposure. As these videos are quickly (and often inadvertently) able to draw hundreds of millions of viewers to a single YouTube page, it is very easy to see the enormous marketing potential.

As a result, many companies have tried to intentionally create viral campaigns. However, the essence of a viral video, and part of what makes it “Viral” in the first place, is the unrehearsed, unintentional, spontaneous moments that either happen to be caught on film, or contain so much humor and entertainment value that viewers feel the need to share.

As a result, many of these “Forced Viral Video” campaigns have failed, for example Sony’s “All I Want for Christmas is a PSP” video, which backfired and left a bad taste in the mouths of viewers: GM attempted to cultivate a Viral Marketing Campaign in which they challenged buyers to create their own advertisements. Too bad they were completely unprepared for the environmentalists who began to submit negative ads!

Orchestrating the creation of a Viral Video can have high payoffs, but can also be risky to a brand. As is the case with most high-risk investments, the payoff can also be high. Companies just need to make sure they are not trying so hard that they lose touch of the core reasons a video becomes viral – viewers want to be entertained, and they want videos they can share with friends and family. While examples of some of the more successful companies include the Old Spice Man, as well as the Evian Roller Babies,, and the “Will It Blend?” Videos by Blendtec, most others have not been so successful. If I could send a message to companies out there: before jumping on the Viral Bandwagon, make sure you're being genuine with your customers, because they are smart enough to realize when you aren't. Pay attention to your customers, focus on making a great advertisement, and people will want to share it. But no company should focus their strategy on trying to force a viral video campaign.

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