Growth5 Blog

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Makes Messaging Viral?

If any of you watched Celebrity Apprentice a couple of weeks ago, you learned not once, but twice how NOT to make a viral video. Both teams videos were so bad and un-viral, the corporate sponsor, All Laundry Detergent, decided not to post either video online, but instead chose to make new videos with Melissa and Joan Rivers that got a whopping 3,456 views in its first week of airing.

According to Dan & Chip Heath in the May 2009 issue of Fast Company, there are 3 reasons why these videos didn't work. They believe the following three "secrets" are the active ingredients in making messaging viral.
1. The messaging must be emotional. "The French psychologist Bernard Rimé has found that people almost compulsively share emotional experiences (both positive and negative), and the more intense the emotion, the more likely they are to talk about it."

2. The messaging must contain some element of public service. Passing the message along will save your life, save you money, brighten your day by making you laugh, etc...

3. The messaging must contain a trigger. "A trigger is an environmental reminder to talk about an idea. For instance, a golf tournament is an excuse to trot out your public-service info about the state of Tiger's knee, and a cup of coffee reminds you to talk about Starbucks's no-decaf-after-noon policy."

"If you want people to talk about your product or service, you need to ratchet up one of these three traits. Consider a 360-year-old Finnish company named Fiskars, which makes orange-handled scissors. If ever there was a viral-marketing challenge, it's scissors -- a product with all the sizzle of a RAM upgrade. Brains on Fire, a brand-identity firm based in South Carolina, helped Fiskars find the emotion. "We knew we had to move from a product conversation to a passion conversation," said Spike Jones, the firm's "firestarter." Jones and his colleagues realized there was one community that was indeed passionate about scissors: arts and crafters.

They found four arts-and-crafts zealots and christened them "Fiskateers." Then Brains on Fire asked the Fiskateers to select additional compadres who would support other people in their crafting hobby. (Notice the added public-service element.) Since the project launched, there has been a 600% increase in online mentions of the Fiskars brand."

I have added Made to Stick by Dan & Chip Heath to my reading list. I'll post the highlights once I've read it.

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