Sleeper Marketing: The Art of Going Viral

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FEBRUARY, 2017

Every company wants to go viral.  If I had a dollar for every request I’ve heard for a viral video or viral social media campaign, I’d be set.  But it’s not as easy as just asking.  You can create a campaign with research, strategy, and the best of intentions that doesn’t achieve the goal of going viral.  In fact, ‘going viral’ shouldn’t be the goal at all.

Social media marketing is one current form of word-of-mouth advertising. Remember those conversations we had with neighbors over the backyard fence on a crisp fall day? That happens on Facebook now.  Remember going to a friend’s dinner party and seeing their new kitchen appliances? That happens on Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. And you can’t force people to talk about or show off your products in real life, just like you can’t force them to talk about your services online. So the goal isn’t making a campaign go viral.  The goal is to provide a product or service so wonderful, people can’t help but talk about it.

Let’s look at the Instant Pot as a recent example of this type of success.  Chances are, you or a friend of yours has become the owner of this incredible machine. (Note: This is not an ad for Instant Pot, I swear.) It is an electric pressure cooker, and owners of the Instant Pot describe themselves as Instant Pot cultists. Instant Pot doesn’t advertise on TV or even online much. In fact, the company ran for 6 years without any marketing plan.  So how is Instant Pot a success?

For the first 5 years, orders came in from big box retail and Amazon.  And then Instant Pot had an Amazon Black Friday sale which started a wave of social media buzz (word of mouth). And then people started using the product.  And loving it. And talking about how much they loved it on their blogs and social channels. The product quickly moved from food blogs to craft blogs to family blogs with no end in sight. Affiliate marketing and video demos have increased the reach of Instant Pot and continued to provide content fuel behind the product. Instant Pot went viral.

“Internet marketing is like standing at the top of a snowy hill, pushing on snowballs. Each snowball starts to roll, some getting further and bigger than others. Not every snowball makes it. Patience is key.”

What lessons can we take away from Instant Pot?  The first lesson is the one of quality.  The product would not be such a huge success if people didn’t love it.  The company first made a killer product and then trusted their customers to talk about it.

The second lesson is one of time.  Internet marketing is like standing at the top of a snowy hill, pushing on snowballs. Each snowball starts to roll, some getting further and bigger than others. Not every snowball makes it. Patience is key.

The third lesson is adventure.  You have to be willing to try new things. Platforms and channels change all the time and staying on top of the moving digital target (or having a digital marketing partner) is essential.

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