Startup Marketing 101: ‘Going Viral’

by Mark Selby, 20 November 2019

Creating a marketing plan is hard work and can require hours, if not days or months of market research.

Creating content for a successful viral marketing campaign, on the other hand, can happen spontaneously – if you keep an open mind and focus your marketing efforts beyond the realm of tired techniques such as product placement or celebrity endorsements.

Below, we examine five key lessons that emerge from reviewing real examples of viral content and viral campaigns on YouTube. Why did they work and what was the secret to their success?

1. Target and serve your audience – example:

This online business’s sensational 2012 video ad is a (pun intended) ‘f***ing great’ lesson in pitching. These guys identified a specific product to serve a specific need or desire experienced by a large segment of the population: men buying new replacement blades for their razors.

This clip has attracted 26 million views on YouTube and does many things right: clear value proposition, transparent product pricing and best of all, it doesn’t take itself too seriously (at all).

2. Encourage sharing – example: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Inclusive online marketing doesn’t get much better than this. Embarrass yourself and challenge three other people on social media to join in for a good cause – like raising awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It was simple, free, funny and a little humbling, even for the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos and Justin Bieber.

This clip of Bill Gates alone has attracted over 30 million views and helped raise the profile of the cause.

3. Go guerrilla – example: Burger King ‘subservient chicken’

Guerrilla marketing essentially challenges an organisation, small or large, to break out of its comfort zone and risk tarnishing its polished corporate image in exchange for notoriety and access to new market segments – say, a younger, more sarcastic demographic. This fast food chain’s hyper-literal mash-up of a new motto – ‘Chicken just the way you like it’ birthed a truly memorable piece of modern marketing back in 2004.

4. Celebrate the ordinary – example: Top 40 viral videos of 2018

This YouTube compilation reinforces the idea that reality is indeed stranger than fiction and that people are hungry for evidence of it – especially when served up in dollops of 40 clips at a go. Skateboarding dogs, a killer whale chasing a paddle board and a saluting sloth, this collection of mostly accidental videos has been viewed over 12.5 million times, not counting the views that the source material drew in.

5. Try and try again – example: ‘How to DAD’ channel

If at first you don’t succeed, make more videos. In this TedX talk, New Zealand dad Jordan Watson details his transformation to YouTube star, describing how a pseudo-instructional video intended to make work colleagues laugh ended up going ‘viral’ and attracting millions of views. He admits that you can’t plan a viral video. “What it really boils down to is persistence; us making these things up every week, like it or not, viral or not,” Watson says.

Are you an entrepreneur looking for new ways to sell your products and services? Read more of our blog entries on pitching and knowing your customers.

If you’re looking for an exciting, supportive place to base your startup, click here to learn more about what’s on offer at Innovation Warehouse.