My nonsensical rant on viral marketing

My partner in crime jotted down a nice thought on viral marketing. Viral is so impersonal to me. It still conjures up images of illness.

But what makes something “viral”? We’ve heard a million times over that content is king. To an extent I agree but it’s only a third of the picture.

Because it’s not just content that’s king. It’s distribution that’s king. And it’s not just distribution but it’s media as well.

Sounds more like an oligarchy than a monarchy…

At the end of the day, the fundamental reason viral takes off is relationships. I send a piece of content to my network on Facebook. A percentage of them decide to pass it on while some just view it/hear it/interact with it. It’s why IM and Email have withstood the test of time because it’s simply the easiest way for me to get ideas out to my disparate network who have little in common other than associating themselves with me.

There is no trick to anointing the next piece of content viral. However, I don’t consider half the content we view as “viral”. Sure it gets page views, but is it truly viral or are you mistaking viral for a meme?

A meme is considered a basic unit of cultural evolution. Examples of memes include melodies, icons, fashion statements and phrases.

The Star Spangled Banner is/was a meme. The United States flag is/was a meme. “Give me liberty or give me death” is/was a meme, “I have a dream…” is a meme, and of course, “Yes We Can” is becoming a meme.

Chocolate Rain however is not. It’s a fad that made a big bang but had little if any staying power. Within the medium I suppose, it was a hit. But outside the walls of online? Far from it – as Dr. Pepper probably knows by now. It’s popcorn, puffed with air and easily consumed but with little staying power. Viral ideas, viral videos, viral sites are labeled viral because they swarm an audience. I think it’s time we rethink the term.

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