Monday, December 8, 2008

There's only one must-have rule for being viral - be legit

Viral campaigns were born of necessity. Whether it was a small film production or cheap start-up business - both with no money - or a large brand that was getting no cut-through in other media. Both these examples had a necessity to go viral to get to their core market.

Some key components of viral campaigns are:

> Use non-traditional channels
> Be irreverent
> Be legit

The third one is the biggest one to get right, because if you're not legit you're going to get yourself into a whole lotta mess.

But what the hell is "being legit" when being viral? Isn't viral all about smoke and mirrors? planting the seed for discussion? Well, yes and no. Creating mystery is one thing, but trying to pull the wool over your customers eyes is another.

The best way to explain is to use examples.

BAD viral blogging - Walmartingacrossamerica - where a couple travel from Walmart to Walmart across America. It turned out this blog was funded by Walmart although no recognition was made. A description of the uproar can be found here.

And now we come to the next round of viral controversy - the viral video.

The past few weeks have been abuzz around a Guitar Hero video posted on You Tube that turned out to be created by the ad agency with the Guitar Hero account.

This is it:

The problem with it was that it never acknowledged that it was essentially made by Guitar Hero. Therefore you could assume that although it was 'virally' and amateurish there would have been a nice budget behind it. It's still a great video, but in the world of gaming, game makers are game makers and fans are fans - game makers cannot impersonate fans, the two worlds must not collide!

What happens when fans revolt? You get great parodies just like freddiw made (warning, this video seems to have been removed from You Tube).

So how do you get it right? Derek Powazek has suggested the EA video they created for Tiger Woods 09. EA did not start the joke, but thought it good enough to get in on. Essentially it started with a fan showing how in the new game Tiger Woods could walk on water. From there, EA had the last laugh!

Check it out:

There will be plenty more case studies on viral campaigns that get it right and those that get it wrong. They key is to be legit with your audience. You do not need to give away all the mystery, far from it, just make sure that if you have a vested interest, let the fans know. In the case of Guitar Hero it may have been as easy as posting the video on the Guitar Hero or ad agency's website with a caption - can you beat this?

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