Viral Campaigning: David’s pebble or the arrow in Achilles’ heel?
As part of the work we do, we were looking into beverage preferences of consumers. In the process, I came across an interesting article on how the Hollywood’s iconic character James Bond for a change maybe, has started sipping on a beer deserting his signature vodka martini. This has become a matter of great joy for tipplers online and they spoke of Heineken more reverently – if such a thing was ever possible - and went on a free advertising frenzy for the brand. Tweeple found an official excuse to pop a beer, as it was now being preferred by the double-oh-seven, the quintessential blend of machismo and class.
On the other hand, news that the Dutch brewer was sponsoring an illegal dog fight irked many. Pictures of the infamous event were circulated over the internet- the brand was under fire from Heineken enthusiasts and canine lovers. People got furious that anyone could have the gumption to sponsor such an event. They started conversation threads and mass messages that caused the brand to take considerable heat. Both consumers and admirers of Heineken posted queries on the beer maker’s web page repeatedly and asked for an explanation. They finally received an official statement that the pictures doing the rounds online were the result of an unfortunate coincidence. Heineken hosted an event the night before, and that they didn’t actually sponsor the dog fight. Heineken banners were not taken down from the venue, and this space was then made use of as an arena.
The message came a tad too late, since by then users had built up too much steam to let go of the hard feelings they had built for the beer manufacturer. Posts and blogs went viral and the internet doesn’t forget that easily.
In both the instances, social media played a vital role. Both for extolling and incarcerating an entity, when people wanted to propagate something good, or while standing up for a cause, they chose the web 2.0. The social media is indeed a potent concoction with viral tweets and posts as its arsenal. Viral marketing has totally evolved into a seamless network of people with its propagating centers spread across the world – internet users being the conductors. Comments and conversations that span over the social network, unlike news articles do not have a sense of time and feel to them; they are hence never considered things of the past. Someone looking at a post made by a blogger a year after it was published would still be able to relate with the author’s emotions. The same applies to the discussions in the social medium. And for the same reason corporate bodies indulging in online customer engagement need to know the crests and troughs of web engagement. It would all boil down to a single solution- Tracking. With a plethora of organizations tapping this opportunity and offering their services for listening social media chatter, it is actually the corporate that are on the gaining end.
A public event organized in central India might attract the attention of a user located as far as West Virginia or Outer Mongolia. For the same reason, it is almost unpredictable to detect a lone hotspot. There are multiple. The viral nature of social media can bring in the right results by a little bit of showcasing but when left unchecked, can cause a disastrous outcome altogether. This brings us to the art of managing a promotion’s message and keeping it intact and unadulterated: Campaign management.
In the Web 2.0 age, campaign management too has evolved further, if not wholly mutated. The age old notion of defining a target audience, creating an advertisement and measuring the campaign’s impact no longer stands good. The elements of engaging and constant tracking have kicked into the conventional campaign management process and this change has now become a crucial part of it. Old spice for instance has done an admirable job in their “Should your man smell like an Old Spice man?” commercial series. The video sequences produced by the company were actually responses to user comments and queries on Youtube. Through the videos, and with a load of help from Isaiah Mustafa, Old spice was able to keep away message distortion and ridicule at bay, thereby keeping the consumer sentiment intact.
Social media when harnessed properly can make a campaign as mighty as David’s pebble and produce gargantuan results. However, when left unbridled, the same can prove to be as fatal as the arrow in the mighty Achilles’ heel. Think of the ‘Kolaveri di’ song that hooked the global audience, with over 50million views on Youtube. It was a result of careful planning and strategizing by creative strategists at ‘Jack in the box Worldwide’, that turned the comical carol into an instant craze- even though not many understood the language or the lyrics. Think of it this way – a person’s ability to popularize something as mundane as a bilingual nursery rhyme through viral marketing is no mean feat. Over the cyberspace arena, where the mighty and the mean fight for their turf, the real question for corporate is “to be or not to be…”
- by Sarath Chandra
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