Viral marketing is like the weather: everyone's talking about it, but no one is doing anything about it.
You know why? Because you can't. That's right. You can't simply manufacture viral marketing. But don't tell that to some marketers. They're out there, practicing something akin to alchemy.
Think there's a science behind viral marketing? Or perhaps a secret formula? I think there's a bit of each, but they follow that famous saying by Louis Pasteur, "Chance favors the prepared mind."
While so many marketing efforts are more measurable than ever before, there are aspects to the practice that are still a combination of art and science. Good research trumps everything, but then again, so does common sense.
When it comes to "viral marketing" I think the secret sauce is simple: make it entertaining. If you know your audience, what they like and what will grab their attention, adding an entertainment angle to it (plus the ability to easily pass along the content) will make it viral. That's it. You may recall a mathematical formula I've used here before:
That's not to say it's going to work. Odds are, it won't. But this is the formula that has to be followed, in my opinion, if you want any shot at success. You don't just upload some half-ass video to YouTube and claim you've got a viral video. The 42 people who view it may think so, but I doubt your client or manager will.
Bottom line: you need to exercise good judgment, gut instinct, have some smart research insights, and know your audience. Come to think of it, this doesn't sound that different from traditional marketing, does it?
Thanks to Rohit Bhargava for issuing the challenge on this one. I hope I can bring these and other insights to Ad:Tech.