Can Experiential Marketing Help Something Go Viral Online?

If you have an advertising campaign or new product/service that’s been slow to take off, experiential marketing may be the key to getting it to go viral. Live events are more inspiring than television ads or plain old product announcements, which means people are more likely to take to social media and the Internet to talk about what they’re seeing. The result? A lot of positive attention for your company.

Before we go much further into how experiential marketing can help something go viral online, let’s start with a definition. What does it mean for something to “go viral?”

According to this blog post on the Houston Chronicle’s outstanding business and marketing blog, a viral social media post is one that’s been “shared, copied and spread across all social platforms. On Facebook in particular, going viral means that a post has generated a great deal of attention in the form of a high number of likes, shares and comments.”

So how do you get something to go viral? Here are several tips.

Plan a really creative activation. Videos don’t go viral because they contain something everyone has seen before. They go viral because they contain things people have never seen before. If you want your campaign to go viral, it needs to be highly creative and appealing to a wide (or extremely targeted) group of consumers. Thinking out of the box when it comes to your experiential marketing campaign is a best practice anyway. The ability of a creative campaign to go viral is another reason to come up with the most creative experiential marketing experience possible.

Make your own video so you know there’s a high-quality video out there. Consumers are willing to watch videos that lack a certain amount of production quality and polish. However, if every video of your activation posted by consumers doesn’t really show what you want people to see, it’s not going to do you much good. It’s worth investing in a video that highlights the most important parts of your activation and posting it to YouTube.

Promote it through a hashtag and social media so it’s easy for people to find and share. A high-quality video won’t do you much good if people can’t find it. Make sure you share the video on every social channel. Tag relevant people in the post so they know they should share it with their followers. You may also want to come up with a hashtag so people can more easily participate in a discussion about the video.

Make sure it has a good title and good tags/keywords. A memorable title and appropriate tags and keywords will also help people find your video once they start looking for it. It’s worth including all these things because it will help your SEO in the long run. In the short run, it’s definitely a good idea if it will encourage your experiential marketing campaign to go viral.

Feature something that tends to go viral, such as animal videos and celebrities. Everyone likes cat videos. Consumers also love videos of celebrities behaving badly, ordinary people doing extraordinary things, everyday heroes and things that make them LOL. If your activation involves something that is likely to appeal to a wide swath of people, make sure you make it the focus of your video.

Don’t try too hard. This article on Mashable argues that brands shouldn’t set out to make viral videos. It’s too easy to come across as contrived or trying too hard if that’s your only goal. It’s also easy for companies to confuse advertising with an authentic attempt to reach out to consumers and connect with them at a human level. Instead, the article’s author encourage brands to appeal to emotions widely felt in the culture at the time. This type of genuine, heartfelt content is much more likely to appeal to consumers and make them want to share your video.

Still not convinced experiential marketing can increase your chances of getting an ad campaign or company to go viral? Here are some examples of experiential marketing events that have done it:

  • Film studio MGM came up with a freaky way to promote the remake of the movie “Carrie.” They rigged a New York coffee shop with some serious special efforts and hired actors to scare the socks off unsuspecting customers with staged telekinetic events. A young woman sends a man soaring up a wall, scatters tables without even touching them, and makes books fly off the shelf as she tries to control her rage. A video capturing these moments – and the reactions of terrified customers – has been viewed more than 65 million times on YouTube.
  • Television station TNT sponsored several over-the-top experiential marketing activations in Europe to promote itself and underscore the station’s slogan (“We know drama”). During one event, TNT placed a red button in the town square of a small village and hung a sign that said “Push to add drama” over it. When an unsuspecting citizen pressed the button, they were treated to a show with an “injured” man falling out of an ambulance, a gun fight, a kidnapping, and a woman in lingerie riding around on a motorcycle for no apparent reason. The video received over three million views the first week it was posted. It now has over 54 million views.
  • Facebook turned the London Eye into a pie chart of British political conversations in a clever campaign designed to impress people with how powerful the social media network’s data collection tools are. Every night for a week, the huge London landmark lit up to show what subjects, political parties or candidates voters were discussing online. Besides informing the country’s political discussions, the campaign garnered more than 52 million impressions on social media.

At Factory 360, we can’t guarantee that one of our campaigns will help your brand’s message or event go viral. But we can guarantee that our work will contain many of the components of viral campaigns. We design highly creative experiential marketing events, can recommend excellent video production companies, help brands maximize their use of social media, and coach companies on staying authentic when interacting with consumers. Contact us today to learn how we can help your company spread your message far and wide – viral video or not.