Sunday, July 18, 2010

Factors in Viral Popularity

What are the factors in viral popularity? How an idea or a video catches people's imagination and they send it around the internet until "everyone" knows about it?

Viral popularity is worth a lot to marketing firms, as illustrated illustrated by the Old Spice Man. Proctor and Gamble, who sells Old Spice, set out to create a viral phenomenon with slick, funny ads and chose the right actor (unknown Isaiah Mustafa.)

Proctor and Gamble sought to popularize the ads by seeding influential bloggers and twitterers with links to their stuff.  Craig Reise gives his views on why this campaign is so effective.   Proctor and Gamble has advantages no little guy has: they bought a commercial on the Superbowl with the Old Spice Man. This was five months before the big break out, but many people see and rewatch Superbowl ads. See it below.



According Social Capital Blog, seeding influential users is one of the keystones of getting a viral campaign started. Mathematical analysis of the internet shows that some users have far more influence than others since they are more linked in. If you can get just a small fraction of users interested, that can start the ball rolling.

According to everyone, the genius in the Old Spice Man campaign was filming quips to individual Twitterers. This was clever and speedy and got a lot of notice. "For example. They made 180 quips to Twitters and bloggers.

There is bad advice around about viral marketing especially: "It starts with the product." The smell of Old Spice does not matter at all to how many downloads or links there are.  I can't think of anything less relevant. Classic targeted marketing is wrong because the internet viral phenomenon will always chaotic. The marketer just better be OK with that.

In regard to Old Spice, the men's fragrance market has been trending down for years, recovering briefly with the metrosexual fad in the early 00's. I know, I poured my last bottle of Old Spice down the drain years ago.