I've written quite a few articles about building and launching a viral marketing campaign over the past couple of years. In general, I write about the brainstorming process or how to put your pitches together. In this new series, I'll be looking at the six key components that make people remember a message and therefore, make it more likely they'll pass it on.
(I've pulled these six components from Chip and Dan Heath's Made to Stick and put my own spin on them.)
The Need for Simplicity
The first component you'll need to look at when building a memorable viral campaign is simplicity. We may sit around and shake our heads at videos of laughing babies or the eleventy billionth video of a guy getting hit in the head, but we pass these videos on for a reason. It's because they are simple.
If you think about the concepts that really stick in your head, it's the simple ones. We remember the catchy little jingles like "plop, plop, fizz, fizz oh what a relief it is" because they're simple. It's the entire reason tag lines and jingles were invented.
Finding the Core of Your Idea
A message can't spread if it can't be remembered. That means the absolute first step to creating a viral idea is to create an idea that's simple enough to be digested and recalled. To do this, you need to dig down to the very core of your idea or offering.
A great example of relying on simplicity to build your viral message is Office Max's latest back to school viral series. A company like Office Max has quite a few things they could focus on for back to school shopping...
When it came time to create a viral message though, it was important for the Office Max team to focus in on one key selling point. In the realm of viral videos, funny seems to play well... With the economy the way it is, cheap also plays well. With that in mind, they put together an outstanding series of videos to promote a series of loss leaders they're selling for a penny a piece.
The series, called "Penny Pranks" follows a fellow around the streets of New York as he finds out what he can buy with only pennies. He attempts to buy everything from a street vendor hot dog to a diamond ring and a used car. The videos are entertaining, especially since some include the person accepting the pennies and some show them pitching a fit.
Here's my favorite:
Each Marketing Message Should Push Only One Selling Point
At one point in the book, the Chip and Dan bring up an excellent quote by Frenchman Antoine de Saint-Exupery that explains the "perfect" simplistic design.
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
When it comes to building your viral message, you need to think carefully about the one key point you want to get across. If you're looking over your ideas while brainstorming and realizing you're trying to fit too many selling points into the mix, back up, pick your favorite and try again.
In part two, I'll take a look at the concept of embracing the unexpected.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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