The Secret to Overnight Viral Marketing Success

Catchy title, no?

Utter horseshit, yes?


I’ve said it before—and I’ll probably have to say it a zillion times again before anyone listens: YOU CAN’T CREATE “VIRAL.”

Viral is the happy by-product (or the unfortunate side-effect, depending on your perspective) of a campaign that artfully blends 6 key ingredients:

  1. Value
  2. Fun
  3. Creativity
  4. Timing
  5. Distribution
  6. Magical pixie dust

Ok, I’m kidding about ingredient #6. But the other five are not optional—they’re MUST-HAVEs. And they’re anything but “one size fits all”.

Recently, I had a client look me straight in the eye and say, “We need some good viral. And we need it FAST.” Some time between my desire to laugh hysterically—and cry hysterically—I found a moment to Tweet about my frustration with this ridiculous and ubiquitous request.

Here’s a quick sampling of the responses I got:

@mdurwin: Did you here this: Client asked for a viral video, I collected best ones showing kick to the groin, then asked for volunteers.

@meggiepoo: amen sister. i love it when a client says “i want to make a viral video.” it’s so adorable i want to smoosh their cheeks.

@mdaniel79: you mean there’s not a “Create viral campaign” key on your keyboard?

Sadly, no, my Mac did not come with the “create viral campaign” key. Perhaps if I upgrade my operating system?….

The next time a marketing pro or agency tells you they “do viral,” my suggestion is to run away. Fast. Or, just for giggles, ask them to show you the “create viral campaign” key on their keyboard.

Because it just doesn’t work that way. Your campaign might be brilliant, original, artful… but have no intrinsic value to the target audience—and it wont ‘catch’.

Or it could be immensely valuable but poorly distributed (read: Facebook aint a silver bullet)—and it wont catch.

It might even be useful AND strategically distributed… but boring as a conference room full of narcoleptics. If you don’t have all 5 of the first 5 ingredients… you’d better get yourself some pixie dust or kiss that promotion goodbye.

And speaking of promotion… let’s pause for a brief moment of shameless self-promotion, shall we?

The Genius is more than happy to help you—yes, even YOU—whip up some “really good viral, really fast”. So to speak.

At the very least, I’m happy to knock some sense into your boss/colleagues/clients about what viral really is and demystify the process of crafting a campaign that has the essential ingredients, and therefore, the potential to generate “tech-fueled word-of-mouth momentum” (a.k.a. BUZZ).

Gotta run… phone’s already ringin’…!