Many of the client meetings I have often wind their way around to the subject of viral videos. Like the Holy Grail, viral videos have worked their way into our collective conscience as the be-all-and-end-all of video content.
I watched Monty Python’s The Holy Grail more times than I attended Economic History lectures during my uni days. The coconuts got me every time. That scene is worthy of being viral. But the journey that the Knights took to find the Holy Grail is perhaps more relevant here than the manner in which they traveled!
All journeys start out with a plan, a roadmap that guides us to our destination. And every journey should have a purpose. A video campaign is no different.
Creating relevant video content for your target audience cannot start with the premise of virality. The premise must be based on virility. The power of your video content comes from the message and how it resonates with your consumer or audience.
Just What is Viral?
Viral videos can be an extremely effective and cost efficient way of distributing your message to a large audience. And yes I use the word ‘distributing’ with intent. A viral video only becomes viral when it becomes viral. It doesn’t become viral because it was conceived with a viral genome that ensures its position at the top of the video food chain. The message, the creative execution, the big idea, the way it resonates with a broad audience or taps into the zeitgeist – these tings make a video become viral.
The question I always ask clients is, ‘does your message need to have such broad appeal?’ That is, will your video be relevant to people outside your business community, or sporting club, or cottage industry or cause?
Some of the client videos we make at Catfish are designed for internal communication. Executives wanting to ensure that their staff or stakeholders are properly informed of critical business issues. Even in these instances, we are often asked about the option of creating a viral video campaign. A smile always cracks on my face. “We can create a viral video, as long as you’re happy with the fact that it will be viral around the office, not around the world!”
It leads me to the most important step in developing a video campaign.
Know Thy Purpose.
By agreeing on the purpose of your video campaign from the start, you can more accurately measure the success of your campaign based on the number of views from your intended audience.
Most business videos are designed to share information, create awareness of a product or service, change perceptions of a brand, add value to customer service, or, of course, convert viewers into customers or members. Essentially, that covers the full spectrum of traditional marketing, above and below the line. And as we know, most of this activity requires careful planning, creative input, quality production and…a fair whack of money.
Global brands are the obvious players in the viral video market, because their audience is broad and dispersed. Here’s one of my favourite brand-driven viral videos from Samsung
Viral doesn’t mean Cheap
Have a guess how much this video would have cost to produce? I don’t actually know, but looking at the number of people involved, the time it would have taken to plan, choreograph and execute, on-location costs, catering, post production, management consultation and approval time, agency fees… I’d say in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Global brands are on the viral bandwagon because they can afford the ride. Take a look at the Top Ten viral campaigns on the AdAge site and think about how much was spent on each of these viral videos: http://www.visiblemeasures.com/adage
My point is that many clients believe that viral videos are ‘accidents on purpose’. They are convinced that the quality of the video is irrelevant in order for it to be a hit. Sure, a cat clapping its paws in time with a Beyonce song shot by a five year old kid on an iPhone can boast 12 million hits. But we’re talking about your brand here. A cat is cute. I bet your brand isn’t. A cat is adored by half of the world’s population. I bet your brand isn’t. A cat clapping in time with the music is freakish. I bet your approach to marketing isn’t. This is why big brands spend big bucks making big ideas happen on video.
Think Global, Act Local
I’m all for clients being brave enough to think BIG. It’s an important part of the creative process. In many cases, I urge clients to set up a YouTube Channel if they have enough (good) content. Even if their videos are for a niche audience, that audience might hang around sites like YouTube. As long as the content and social network are relevant to your core audience (and the content is not audience sensitive) then go for it! Upload your content on as many free video platforms as you can. One of the easiest ways to distribute your content and maybe help it become viral is to post it on www.tubemogul.com
Viral is not a Strategy, it is an Affirmation
That was quick – I didn’t mean you had to post it on tubemogul like right now!
When a video becomes viral, it’s a sure sign that the message has captured the attention and/or imagination of a large group of like-minded people. It is a validation of an idea or a concept and it brings many warm fuzzies to the originator of the content. Maybe even a pay rise.
For most business applications though, the best outcome for any video campaign is that the content impacts on the audience that matters most. Reach, therefore, is not as important as relevance. My advice to you is to make sure you have a clear purpose with your video communication.
- Develop a content strategy.
- Know your audience.
- Craft your message, and
- Execute it well.
Yes it takes time and money to develop great video content, but it is an investment upon which you can expect a great return.
When you have a video that is virile, you have a much better chance of it becoming viral, if that’s important. For many businesses, it’s not. Perhaps it’s a case of semantics. We have adopted the term ‘viral’ when what we really mean is ‘successful’ or having great ‘impact’.
Just like the coconuts had a great impact on me: