If You Want Go Viral Get Out of the Way

The great folks at Mashable posted this engaging viral video yesterday, rightly arguing that VW had hit the bulls-eye when creating this viral campaign. It not only confirmed their theory that making the world more fun can improve people’s behavior, it also demonstrated a fact that is easily forgotten as we over-think marketing and new media – everyone is innately qualified to create blockbuster viral messaging.

Now we can pick apart every video that breaks a million views on YouTube, we can codify their common properties and we can distribute the definitive guide to creating viral videos (insert kitten, baby or silly dancing here). But that is exactly missing the point. The key to creating anything that becomes a phenomenon depends on doing exactly the opposite.

Your success depends on what you’re willing not to do, including:

1. Your ability to not censor yourself.

2.You (and your client’s) willingness to not play safe.

3. You (and your client’s) ability to not measure the success of their brand in terms of data or sales, but rather by the goodwill that a little fun can generate.

4. You (and your client’s) willingness to make it not about you but them (the audience).

The ‘Dancing Stairs’ video did all these things well. Clearly VW didn’t over-think it as it wouldn’t take much to argue that this strategy (or video) is too unrelated to their cars to be justifiable. It’s also out of the ordinary and seems to be aimed solely at brightening the day of their audience. The brand logo only appears briefly at the end of each video and there’s no car in sight. Yet this one video (complete with logo and inherent goodwill towards the brand) has been viewed over 1 million times on YouTube and shared with countless more.

Having worked in agencies all over the world – large and small, good and bad – I have seen time and again that what distinguishes an agency that consistently does good work is a willingness to embrace new and potentially risky territories. Often this necessitates a brave client but that bravery is frequently misunderstood. Rather than a cavalier attitude towards the fundamentals of good advertising or a disregard for measurable results, these clients recognize that having fun is simple and that over-thinking is not required. In short, they let their brand be human.

So if you want to generate oodles of goodwill by allowing your customers to have a little fun, the best thing you can do is to start by having some yourself.

Can you name another brand that does that well? Or another great viral video by a brand? What about a bad example?

Image Credit: WIRED

Image Credit: WIRED