Tag Archives: Viral Campaigns

It’s not as easy as it looks: the secrets of successful online campaigns

So what is the real key to creating campaigns that resonate with consumers? Rob Rose of iMedia Connection looks at some of the unnoticed work Wieden + Kennedy put in to make Old Spice’s campaign a success, and teaches brands some important lessons in the process. The first thing he emphasizes is the fact that Old Spice didn’t reach social media stardom overnight. Instead, it took three years of tweaking to achieve the perfect combination of satire, swagger and dialogue. Take a look at Old Spice’s progression, starting in 2007.

This level of patience is important for brands looking to make a mark in the digital community. Wieden + Kennedy kept retooling their ads as consumer responded, allowing them to create a hybrid campaign that combined the best elements of their previous videos. Brands that want to be online need to accept that it sometimes requires a long-term investment.

That brings us to the second key lesson: digital campaigns also require offline investments. Although the Old Spice phenomenon started online, to take it mainstream Wieden + Kennedy made key investments in traditional media. According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, Old Spice spent approximately $54 million on media in 2006. In 2007 Nielsen estimated approximately $80 million in media spend. It’s a safe assumption that the media buy for 2009 and 2010 was in the hundreds of millions of dollars (Rose). This mass exposure created the level of exposure Old Spice needed to fuel “The Response Campaign” that fed off consumer responses from Twitter, Facebook and other online outlets.

Finally, Old Spice is continuing to evolve. In his recent Q&A session, Rich Silverstein said, “Agencies will never stop pitching, whether you don’t have the account or you’ve had it for ten years.” This sentiment also has important implications for brand-consumer relations. Brands that don’t evolve as popular culture changes will cease to be relevant. Alternatively, brands that constantly strive to connect with consumers in new ways, tap into cutting-edge trends and play on the insights they discover will build long-term brand equity. Those that don’t will become passing fads.

Rose, Rob. (2010). 3 things you don’t know about Old Spice’s success. iMedia Connection. Retrieved from http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/27462.asp.

“Excuse me for saying this, but it’s only a f*@$%ing chocolate biscuit”

This phrase was uttered by an agency planner working on a new chocolate cookie for Nabisco.  His client mistakenly believed that housewives would be reduced to hysterics over a new product improvement that added an extra half-millimeter of chocolate all around the biscuit (Steel, 1998).   This statement reveals a painful, but accurate truth: most people don’t care about the intricacies of a product or service.

With the increasing penetration of online networks in the market, many companies naïvely cling to the idea that consumers are falling over themselves to comment on their brand’s Facebook page, Twitter stream, YouTube video and blog.  And of course after doing so they will promptly run to the store and buy the product.

Unfortunately, many brands are finding out the hard way that it doesn’t work this way.  While there may be 60 million Facebook updates a day (Qualman, 2009), but you can bet that most of them aren’t about products.  To understand how brands can develop effective digital content, we must first understand the core elements that make commercial messages successful.

In “Made to Stick” Chip and Dan Heath explore the common elements shared by   phenomenons such as urban legends and proverbs.  These messages went viral long before the internet was even conceived.  By exploring the commonalities between these messages we can learn important lessons on how to successfully communicate with consumers.  Below I explore the six elements of effective messages, and what this means for digital communications.

Successful messages are…


Consumers have always had limited memory capacity; now they also have highly segmented consumption habits, a diminished attention span  and a need for immediate gratification.  Tweets are 140 characters, status updates are rarely longer than a sentence and even URLs are being condensed.  Thus, if a consumer can’t explain why an online video or site is worthwhile in a sentence or two, it’s unlikely they will ever share it with their network.


The best messages talk in the language of the consumer.  Nabisco’s agency planner knew better than to talk to housewives about how many millimeters of chocolate were on each one of their cookies.  Even if it was put into terms they could understand, it is unlikely that it would break through the clutter and even more unlikely that they would care.  However, they might care if they found out their family was getting twice as much chocolate-y goodness for the same price.  This is an extremely important concept for digital messages.  Consumers have infinite entertainment choices and information outlets online.  They are not going to take the time to wrap their minds around a complex or convoluted statement.


There’s a reason why Old Spice and Nike enjoyed some of the biggest viral successes last year.  People expect deodorant to talk about how well it can keep you dry.  They expect an athletic company to talk about why their products make athletes great.  But these companies didn’t do that. Instead they discovered something the consumer was already familiar with – the desire to impress the opposite sex, the excitement that one moment of a championship game can lead  to glory or despair – and presented these moments in a fresh way.  It paid off: Old Spice’s sales doubled.

To fully understand how brands can develop effective digital messages, we must first understand what makes a message appealing to the consumer.  Although there may be a lot of important things we want to say about the product or service we are offering, it ultimately does not matter what we think.  By focusing our digital messages on simple, concrete concepts and presenting those messages in an unexpected way we can capture the attention of consumers in saturated medium and encourage them to share the experience with their networks.  In the next post we’ll look at how brands can leverage credibility, emotional appeals and stories to create consumer interest and involvement.

Steel, Jon. (1998). Truth, Lies & Advertising: The Art of Account Planning. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Heath, Chip & Heath Dan. (2008). Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Rev. ed.). New York: Random House, Inc.

Qualman, Erik. (2009). Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

What on Earth is Viral?

This is a post I wrote for my company blog, but I liked it so much I thought I would post it here as well. Enjoy!

Viral is the new buzz word – everyone in the ad industry is talking about it, and more importantly companies are jumping on the bandwagon.  The best part?  Small and large companies alike can get in on the action!  The tough part is realizing sometimes viral is easier said than done…and the fact that it uses a digital medium doesn’t always mean it will produce instantaneous results.  

It isn’t a viral campaign until it goes viral.  Although you can develop a viral campaign, you audience chooses whether or not to pass it on through e-mail, social networks, and websites.  

This means the campaign must be creative, different, and talk-worthy.  The user must derive some value from the campaign, whether it be a laugh, a useful, relevant piece of information or way to emotionally connect with friends and family.

Know your audience and what will be most relevant to them, and provide this in an interesting, innovative way.  If you do this, you  have given yourself the potential for a successful viral campaign.

Check out these top ten viral campaign picks from TimesOnline for some inspiration.

1. Nike: A Touch of Gold.  This campaign got 50 million views worldwide.  For those that aren’t football buffs, these ball handling skills aren’t exactly common – which sparked on an online debate over whether the clip was real or digitally produced.

2. Agent Provocateur.  Explicit? Yes. Effective? Most definitely – 360 million views effective. 

3. John West Salmon.  This landed 300 million views.  Proof that sometimes what people choose to pass on may surprise you.

4.  Quicksilver Dynamite Surfing. This ad made its way onto 95% of surfing websites…four days after it was released.  

5. Carlton  Draught. Most viral campaigns don’t have this big of a budget, but the sheer creativity of it makes it relevant to companies of any size.  It also shows how digital mediums can work with traditional ones: this ad was released two weeks before it aired on T.V. to generate buzz.

6. Trojan Games.  This site went up in 2003 to generate buzz and is still getting hits five years later.  Disclaimer: View at your own risk, its slightly provocative. 

7. Dove Evolution.  A testament to the real results a viral campaign can produce.  It positioned Dove as the “real beauty” company, which gave them a double digit sales increase.

8. Berlitz: Improve your English. This ad became so popular, the website it linked to couldn’t handle the traffic and had to be shut down.

9. Mentos and Diet Coke.  Paying attention to how people are using or talking about your product online pays off.  This experiment by Eepy Bird wasn’t commissioned by either company, but still got them major exposure. Well worth the 3 minutes.

10. Marc Ecko: Still Free.  The company caused some major controversy when they released a video on the web of a cover operation to tag Air Force One with grafitti.  It caught so much attention that major networks like ABC, MSNBC, and CNN covered the story and the U.S. Air Force itself investigated whether it had been simulated or was in fact real.