Monday, July 23, 2007

Good Viral?

One of the frustrating things about being an analyst in the hyped-fueled (hype is our business after all) world of advertising and marketing is that it's very hard to sort out what's working from what's not. I remember a day not too long ago when I found two articles on a previous Quiznos' campaign with completely opposite POV's, one celebrating it as a great success, the other damning it as a complete failure. Like most disagreements, this one existed at the level of assumptions.

You could say--and we usually do--that the market is the ultimate judge, but we all know it isn't that simple. Even when campaigns that don't "build business" right away, we often make other claims for them: e.g. they raised the brand profile, or attracted a younger audience, or will lead to long-term impact. And almost anyone who knows their way around a spread-sheet can find some sketchy data to support their claims.

This is especially true in emerging media, where the data is even thinner, and less available. Most of us have been making claims about the power of viral videos to generate buzz and engagement and drive business, but most of the analysis out there is just as impressionistic, based on taste. Here's a know | future, weighing in on one set of choices.

Social Media Experts like Joseph Carribis go further, listing a set of qualities possessed by good viral. A posting on his blog lists Entertainment, Utility, Reward and Uniqueness. . That sounds good too but it also sounds a lot like qualities of any good form of marketing. Equally useful and universal principles are posted designer Ben Terett on his Noisy Decent Graphics Blog. He lists Funny, Rude, Useful and Simple. Again, I like it. But for those of us who started working in the dark ages before web 2.0, getting the consumer/viewer/user's attention was pretty important too.

My favorite post--in terms of matching the medium to the message has be this post on Twitter--has to be here.

I certainly don't have the answer either, though I'm starting to think that the previous posts are exactly right: the best of viral is much (though not entirely) a lot like the best of everything else.

One of my favorites recently is the now semi-famous Will it Blend site for industrial blender Blendtec. There are any number of great creative and interactive touches to this execution, from the user-selected choice of an iphone to the ability to bid online for the destroyed device to the fact that it doesn't overplay it's hand with broad comedy. Most of all, though, I loved how it well it communicated the product benefit in such an unforgettable way. After watching this video, you have no doubt that this mother could chop through just about anything. And who doesn't want one of those?

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