Archives for posts with tag: marketing strategy


Viral Marketing is not what you think it is.

The moment your client opens his mouth and utters the question “What about a viral marketing campaign?”, your stomach contracts and you experience a little dizzy spell.

You mean a crazy video that costs nothing and spreads like wildfire?

That lottery ticket for $1 that garners millions of dollars and a McMansion in Beverly Hills? Sure, we’ll be right on it. Let me just launch that Facebook page first. You know the one that will be shared with billions of Facebook users and become the #1 web destination in the world.

Viral Marketing is getting a bad name. Just like liberalism. Almost as bad as calling yourself a Social Media Expert.

Viral Marketing as an advertising strategy will almost always fail.

Clueless and/or desperate marketers are the only ones believing in the power of viral marketing as an advertising strategy.

A)   You have no money for a proper media initiative and, more often than not, you have a rather mediocre product/service to sell.
B)   You create something goofy/weird/bizarre
C)   Your goofy/weird/bizarre thing has to compete with other goofy/weird/bizarre things other people have created.
D)   You’re waiting.
E)   Mhm, it doesn’t spread like wildfire.
F)   Let’s create some fake controversy, something that will spread.
G)   Mhm.
H)   Maybe some bloggers can talk about it?
I)   Mhm.
J)   Press Release? PR Firm?
K)   Mhm
L)   Mhm

Viral Marketing as a marketing strategy is built in.

Viral Marketing is nothing new. The telephone was a viral marketing machine. It’s pretty sad to be the sole owner of a phone. It gets better when there’s a second phone. And really interesting when there are billions of phones.

Skype is a viral marketing machine.  Fax machines were. Facetime on my iPhone. And and and.

Viral Marketing works really well when you plan for it, when it’s integrated into your product/service. Viral Marketing is not about being goofy or weird.

It’s about producing something of value, something that makes my life easier.

It’s a pretty simple formula: What’s the benefit of a customer spreading the message for you? When I spread Skype for you, I have more opportunities to have video calls with friends. When I spread a goofy video, I don’t have any benefits besides the fact that friends might think “He’s the guy that sends out goofy videos.”

Spreading a viral marketing element is the easy part. Developing a value proposition that makes me want to spread it for you is the hard part.


My daughter is five years old. She’s a very agreeable person, easy to get along with. Unless she wants some ice cream. She tells me about her friend Jenna who just had an ice cream. She points out people eating ice cream. She comes up with health benefits of ice cream. And, if I’m lucky, she hugs me and exclaims: “I love you, papa.” In short, she knows what she has to do to make me do what she wants. That’s strategy.

We are strategists. It’s in our blood. A book is a strategy. I can buy one for my wife to cheer her up. To show my thoughtfulness because I didn’t forget when she mentioned the title a while ago. Or to make a point. There’s no deep thinking involved, it comes natural.

The biggest mistake brands make is to believe information is equivalent to strategy. Telling people is not enough. Using the information in the most powerful way possible is the ultimate goal. Car safety ratings are meaningless unless you couple them with the message that aggressive driving just became safe. A hotel room sale is nice but this message is more powerful: “even you can live like the rich and famous.”

Typical marketing objectives are “Drive incremental sales.” or “Increase qualified leads”. We nod our heads when those slides come up, not reflecting if these are objectives we should try to achieve. I would argue, your objective is NOT to increase sales. Your objective is to understand why people are not buying your product/service and changing that behavior. Sales and all other important metrics will take care of themselves. Any advertising campaign or Social Media initiative should have the objective of influencing perceptions that will people drive to buy, become loyalists and influencers.

Imagine a campaign for couches. Normally, what you get is a shot of a couch warehouse and screaming announcers annoying us with a sale message. Sure, it works. Kind of. It’s boring. It’s expected. It comes and goes. Instead, if I had to sell couches, I would talk about the little moments we all have on couches: the moments of joy when our football team wins, the little naps with the kid, the book that kept us awake all night on the couch. Creating emotional connections between people and my couches.

The perfect advertising strategy identifies the most compelling thing you can say, owns it and, at the same time, undermines any effort of the competition. You’re earning attention, winning the battle of mindshare. Great marketing/advertising strategy feels like a good meal or a good movie. It just feels right; it’s hard to define a gut feeling. But, there are some markers:

– Explain the strategy to your non-marketing partner. If they get it, the world will get it.

– It works as a video and on a napkin. Basically, it has to be so simple that one sentence can explain your strategy.

– The competition will hire a new agency because your idea was game-changing.

– Your co-workers will hate you. “I wish I thought of that”-syndrome.

– Make sure it passes the “AM-after-2-espressos” test. After a long night in the office, a mediocre idea might look like a Clio to you. Sleep, drink 2 espressos and look at it again.

A few days ago, my daughter crawled into my bed and told me about her nightmare: “There were monsters and then I ate ice cream and they were gone.” She’s a natural.