Commentary

Viral Fireworks: Beautiful, But Not Worth It

On this July 4th, during the worst economic climate in decades, city event planners around the country asked themselves if they were ready to spend money on large fireworks displays. Many cities were not, and canceled long-standing traditions. We occupy the same economic climate as those city event planners, and it's about time we started asking the same questions about whether our viral campaigns provide enough bang for the buck.

In a recent chat with digital thought leader John Rabasa, he mentioned a term that I love: viral fireworks.  This means campaigns where the creative is viral, but the message has nothing to do with the value proposition of the product or service. You get meteoric growth, followed by an entertaining flash and then... nothing.

As long as you can keep the pace up, you can maintain the audience's rapt attention, but, like fireworks, as soon as the last entertaining flash has faded, you've captured very little of your audience's attention. Folks will remember the experience fondly, and may even attribute positive sentiment to your brand because of it, but they won't learn anything about what you're marketing. And that's assuming all of your campaigns work the way you expect them to -- just look at Cadbury to know how hard that is.

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By using viral video to subtly communicate the core value proposition, you can change people's memories from just a fond experience to remembering the core value of your product. 

Let's look at an example:

The recent campaign for LG Decoy featured a little person in a blue shirt who surprised Erik Estrada by jumping on his back; you can see the video here. It was then followed up with a video of the same little person, the hero of the campaign, sadly wondering down the street until he finds his match, an exact replica of himself, only bigger -- he hops on his double's back and they live happily ever after. We then learn that the campaign was for the LG Decoy, the first phone to ever have a built-in Bluetooth headset that you can disconnect from the phone to use. 

The video was still entertaining, and didn't beat the message into your head, but subtly, almost in its DNA, the video was able to share with you the product's best feature -- and those viewers will remember that fondly. Contrast that to most viral spots and you'll see why it pays to invest the extra effort in your content. Effective storytelling, after all, is what marketing is all about.

2 comments about "Viral Fireworks: Beautiful, But Not Worth It".
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  1. Warren Lanier, jr. from Bridge Point Marketing, July 14, 2009 at 2:39 p.m.

    Great insight Tyler...good stuff!

  2. Dyann Espinosa, July 14, 2009 at 3:18 p.m.

    Excellent points, I see it all around me. Goes back to the disconnect between creatives and the results the client is trying to achieve. Very impressive observations (and from a 22-year-old).

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