When I think of brands that have been most successful in creating viral content, it’s usually those willing to go outside of their comfort zone to create unique -- and often, self-aware -- content. What do the best viral content creators have in common? Often, they’re not all trying to create viral content -- it just happens, because it’s good.
Here’s the other big dirty secret to keep in mind: Not all brands are built to create viral content. No matter how hard they try, some brands just can’t do it. For whatever reason, it’s just not in their DNA.
But for brands that want to try, there are some key things worth keeping in mind to up the odds for success:
Leverage Existing "Viral” Stars (and get social)
One interesting technique that has worked with several high-profile beverage brands and top gaming marketers is to leverage the star power of established digital “celebs” to create something unique. Take it further by leveraging the power of a celeb's social media footprint to amplify the message.
For instance, gaming marketer Ubisoft (a client) used digital stars SMOSH to create excitement for its holiday game release, "Assassin’s Creed III." The custom music video inspired by the game trailer has amassed a whopping 35 million + views to date.
Be True To Your Brand (but don’t fear the unexpected)
Some of the best viral content remains true to a brand and its message. Take for instance the Evian video “Baby & Me,” which has generated significant traction on YouTube. It’s a quirky video to be sure, but one that reflects the Evian brand promise of health and wellness. And how about the latest brand to become a viral sensation. Kmart hit viral “gold” more than once with the attention-grabbing cheeky videos “Ship My Pants” and “Big Gas Savings” that reminded consumers of great deals with a surprising sense of humor. Unexpected irreverence from this tried and true brand.
Don’t Try Too Hard (it shows)
The worst attempts are those created by brands who try too hard to create something “viral.” It’s not about how many cats playing pianos over rainbows you throw in a video, it’s about the quality of the content itself. If you try too hard, consumers will notice -- and they will mock you. A lot.
Content First (cats second)
But ultimately, in addition to any advice that you may receive when it comes to making viral content, it’s about creating compelling content first and foremost. The best content is that which doesn’t “try” to be viral -- it just ends up that way.