Understanding viral marketing content
WRITTEN BY VANESSA CLARK - Mobiflock Marketing Director - [email protected]
Is viral marketing really a category in its own right? Is it either accurate or feasible to say you offer viral marketing services, or have launched a viral marketing campaign? This implies that you can plan and predict a campaign “going viral”. Or is it more a case of the best a marketer can hope for is to set the scene, make sure all the right ingredients are in place, and then, if the timing is right, see the campaign go viral?
The latest piece of what I would consider truly viral content doing the rounds on the internet is ‘Buck Norris’ – the video clip of 17-year-old cyclist, Evan van der Spuy, being knocked off his bike in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa by a red hartebeest. At the time of writing, in less than a month almost 12 million people have watched the original clip posted on YouTube, not to mention hundreds of thousands of views of secondary clips, as well as spin-offs (you know you’ve made it on the internet when someone spoofs you), and international news coverage from UK daily Metro to online newspaper the Huffington Post.
Key to the clip was timing, both of the filming and the encounter, but key to the clip going viral was Max Cluer, owner of Team Jeep South Africa and organiser of the cycling event posting the clip up to YouTube immediately, while there was still buzz amongst the immediate audience about the incident. These Twitter and Facebook conversations were an ideal vehicle for making the clip spread virally around the world, earning Cluer’s Team Jeep brand unprecedented exposure, thanks to the logo on Van der Spuy’s cycling kit.
This is also crucial to laying the foundation for a piece of content to go viral: don’t be overly promotional. Team Jeep was seen in the context of super-awesome content that was worthy of sharing. It wasn’t a Team Jeep advert. Brian Mung’ei, Head of Business Development at Nairobi, Kenya-based web and marketing agency, Pamoja Media agrees:
“Don’t make the campaign an advertisement. A campaign doesn’t need to educate people about the product but rather on the benefits of the product. Think of a perfect online ad as a ‘behind the scenes’ version of a normal commercial TV advert. This means one needs to have a different mindset in that it’s not pushing a brand or product, rather about story-telling. The product does not even have to appear anywhere on the video for people to understand the ad and remember it,” he says.
Bozza’s Head of Brand Strategy, Catherine Lückhoff takes it a step further saying: “You don't create virals – content either becomes viral or it doesn't. All you (agency, client, marketing person etc.) can do is to know your market and create content that is sticky. Our experience is that contextually relevant local content is key. Content has to add value; be that through entertainment, education, a combination of, or giving users access to information.”
Bozza is a case in point. Dubbed a mobihood - a mobile neighbourhood – Bozza allows communities across Africa to share their stories and interact via a mobile phone. It launched a proof of concept on MXit in 2010, with hyper-local made-for-mobile video content. Within three days it had 40,000 subscribers and within three months, 170,000.
It can be pretty scary for brands to realise how little control they have over their brand anymore. But for content to truly become viral, they need to give up this control – or face an unpleasant viral backlash, as Brandhouse found out when it lost its sense of humour back in 2009 over user-generated spoofs of its Lou Gossett Jr. ad campaign.
Pamoja Media’s Mung’ei advises brands: “The web gives the audience greater control of how to interact with the campaign such that they can save, replay and most importantly share the advert within their networks. Ensure the video is free to access, download, embed and share online. This is basically the underlying essence of viral campaigns. If someone has to log on to your website to be able to view the advert and then ‘like’ your Facebook page to share it, someone needs to get fired.”
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”