Going Viral… In a Good Way

No I am not talking about ‘swine flu’.

Reading an article this morning by Dan Heath and Chip Heath (the book Made to Stick has just been rereleased and can be found at www.madetostick.com), I was reminded about the power of viral marketing, provided that proponents remember a few simple rules.  As I am sure you know, viral marketing is “a hip, low-cost way to reach a lot of people very quickly”.  And it doesn’t have to be humorous, silly, or weird.  Although it can be.  The traits of true viral marketing ideas are clear:

  • They evoke an emotional response (can be positive or negative)
  • They compel you to pass them on
  • They serve as an environmental trigger to talk about the idea – a reminder that helps it resurface multiple times

The auto industry makes regular use of viral marketing for new car models and building edgy brand attributes – most commonly observed among international car manufacturers (such as Toyota, and viral campaigns built around the Scion).  These so-called ‘unauthorized’ advertisements, that break enough rules never to see the light of day on television, make the rounds among Gen Y-ers on a regular basis. The segment that wants to see different, innovative and cheeky designs mixed with attitude when making a car purchase, since they  are so much entwined with image at that age.

Cleverly, Domino’s adept communications department turned what could easily have been an uncontrolled, and rather unwelcome, accidental viral un-marketing campaign (the incident of the employees tampering with the food on YouTube) into a viral branding vehicle that through their transparent communications, and controlled messaging around the incident, drove support for the fast food outlet, as the atrocious video was forwarded from co worker to friend to relative.

So, how might this apply to the business of real estate? If you think about the principles, there are surely opportunities for professionals in this industry to create their own viral marketing campaigns.  How can you enable your clients to want to pass on to friends that extraordinary experience they had with you? How can you create elements on your website or through your client follow up program that also make it easy to capture that experience and share it with a wider audience with the click of a mouse?  The easier it is for someone to communicate on your behalf, the more likely they are to do it… images, video, well written accounts… even physical direct marketing (see my previous blog entry “Ready, Aim…. Aim…. Aim…. Fire!“) can help you get there.

The final important thing to remember is that in this age, when reputations are both created and destroyed online at the speed of a spreading virus, creating a negative brand event (e.g. bad customer service experience) can’t be stopped with a vaccination either.

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