How to escape viral marketing fads


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Viral marketing strategies succeed where there are first context and consistency.

No product or services can thrive on being spoken about briefly, and then forgotten. When a business rises into market consciousness, it should learn to stay there.

What is the difference between an aeroplane that taxies off the runway and a bullet that is shot in the air? Got a clue? The aeroplane taxies, lifts higher in contest with gravity and then stabilises for onward flight.

But the bullet ripples so fast into empty air then comes crashing down to an unplanned destination. Reason is the aeroplane has compass [direction], content, context, and continuity. The bullet, though faster in reaching higher altitude, is just a blast that soon comes crashing. That is what happens when going viral is the major target of a marketing strategy.

Take an example. Isn’t it interesting when you consider that ‘Psy’ of the ‘Gangnam Style’ viral hit has had such a decline that he is nowhere near a major mention in the media? That was a bullet attempt at marketing.

 However, the opposite is the case when you think about the body of planning that goes into the making and launching of artistes such as Beyonce. These folks have mastered success in such ways that their songs and albums cut across time.

What viral marketing does is to exploit the human tendency to pay attention to ‘surprises’, ‘odds’, ‘the unusual’, ‘the unfamiliar’, ‘the scandalous’ and ‘the mysterious’. But given time, ‘surprises’ and ‘odds’ become ‘the normal’; ‘the unfamiliar’ inevitably become ‘familiar’; ‘the scandalous’ loses its substance. The captivated audience move on and readjust to real life.

The viral marketer and the client here have had their moments of popularity. But marketing popularity built on elements of surprises, oddity, mystery and scandal will need more of that to survive. That is where the viral work loses out to a well-worked marketing engagement.

A well worked marketing engagement is slow to reach astronomical views but with consistency, it is like a ‘Tsunami’ that is boiling from beneath only to spill over a sleeping town in time.

This is how it works:

  1. You need to understand human psychology: The human mind is a ‘Blackbox’  that comprises complex patterns of behaviour. All it requires is to research and know what the desires, history, aspiration, hobbies, beliefs and opinions of your target audiences are. When these are known, build a product or an event around it, then create an online/ media discourses around them. Ever thought about what made the superbowl a phenomenon? It combines the 3 super desires of every serious American citizen – the desire to be entertained, the celebration of excellence, and the desire to preserve cultural uniqueness [American Football].
  2. Tap into the emotional space of the audience: There are certain issues that pull the strings of your audiences’ minds, get familiar with these and connect your brand with them. Love is a string. Caring is a string. Sport is a string, and more. Some festivals are strings.
  3. Focus on building a strong community: The reason soccer and football teams become strong brands in Europe and America is because they concentrate on projecting their image through a group of involved and emotionally attached community of followers. These effects have been known to spill across the globe wherever fan-base have been built. Choose a community (you could choose based on professional, social, economic, technological, spatial, or sports etc considerations) and build a strong affinity with them by constant digital conversation and spatial participation in things that matter to them.
  4. Create occasional enriching experience: Invite followers, supporters or members of your community for a rich experience that elevate their status or give them prominence.
  5. Never ever promote your brand through scandal: The popularity that scandal breeds is hardly lasting. In the end, it ‘cheapens’ the brand when the truth unfolds. What millennia (the new generation of consumer) hates is to be taken for a fool.
  6. Be fun, funny, smart, and a caring brand: Coca Cola hardly is different from other coca products but what they project into the minds of their audience is an image of fun and life. When an element of fun is built into your brand experience, especially in the way you communicate, you will hardly be ignored. That as well is why the soccer star Neymar, apart from his skills, is a social media hit and a fan favourite than Leo Messi and Ronaldo.
  7. Be inspiring: Once in a while be a lift to the soul of your audience by weaving words of encouragement and possibility into your communications. People like brands that pull them out of the ruts.

Now there you go. You can now engage your brand in occasional viral activities, if you like call it viral marketing, but at least you have succeeded in building a strong and engaging platform that can retain the audiences you pull during your one-off viral promotions!

Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka writes with simplicity and insight. He aims to enrich the Nigerian small business landscape. Through Hustle24 he connects entrepreneurs with information about new policies, enterprise solutions and opportunities that will aid their 'hustle'. He has written extensively for CobraReview, a product review portal, and served as a lead project manager for MarketingMix where he consulted as PR consultant for MTN Project Fame and Business Next Titan etc.


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