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Help, My Campaign Went Viral! Now What?

January 7, 2015 | Andrea Lechner-Becker | No Comments |

Last year’s awesome “Ship Your Pants” Kmart commercial nearly made me…well, you know. I mean, I think we were all caught by surprise by how hilarious their campaign was. I know I watched it at least 10 times and sent it to all my marketing buddies. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that Kmart store sales actually fell by 2.1% during that time.

So what gives? The Kmart campaign suffered from the same fate as a lot of Super Bowl commercials—incredibly popular to watch and share, but not very inspiring to actually make a purchase. I mean, let’s be honest here. Would a commercial really inspire you to shop at Kmart?

I guess that’s OK if your ultimate goal is just retweets and YouTube views, but unless you’re Budweiser or Coke or something immediately recognizable, you really need to make sure your campaign dollars are generating revenue in return.

The problem with a lot of viral content is that it lacks a real brand connection. Yeah, that Kmart commercial was funny as hell, but who really thinks of Kmart as a funny brand? Too often, marketers or ad agencies develop content with the intent to “go viral” (or even worse, to win them awards) without actually developing a full plan around it. That’s just lazy and poor strategy. So you made popular content—what now? If you can’t answer that, don’t launch until you can.

Here are some things to think about before you give your campaign a green light.

Make it an experience instead of a one-off.

Leads and customer reach you through multiple touch points—search, social, content, etc. If you launch a “viral” campaign through one channel and don’t features similar content on other channels, you’re creating a huge disconnect for your customers. It’s called a campaign for a reason. There should be layered parts to it so it feels cohesive and not like something someone just stumbled upon.

Case in point: Dollar Shave Club launched with a side-splittingly funny viral video, but their entire brand experience backs up the irreverent tone. And while their video had millions of hits, their sales are even better—12,000 customers in its first two days.

Keep it on-brand.

A cool, funny ad is great, but if it pushes leads to your regular boring website and they get your regular boring emails or mailers, they’re going to bounce pretty quickly. I think that was part of Kmart’s problem. It was a great idea, just for the wrong company. No one thinks of Kmart as cool and funny, and a few commercials aren’t going to change that. Make good viral content, but make sure it still reflects your brand.

I think Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign is a great example of this. And although you can’t attribute all sales increases to this campaign alone, Dove has nearly doubled its sales since the campaign launched.

Prepare for the aftermath.

If your campaign is successful, you’d better be ready to respond to the aftermath. You’ll have to tackle social media engagement, sales calls, product availability and fulfillment—so make sure you plan in advance for as many possibilities as you can. The last thing you want is to turn eager customer into pissed off ones. Talk about backfiring.

Lastly, for Pete’s sake, be sensitive. Don’t let a desire to be edgy take you into ATT or Hyundai territory.

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