It’s relatively easy for a B2C (Business to Customer) campaign to go viral – just think about the Old Spice campaign, taking a brand long relegated to the dressing tables of men in their seventies and turning it into the source of one of the most successful viral campaigns of all time. When your product is something fun or a luxury, you already have a connection with your product’s fans. But what if you are selling something B2B – software for other businesses, or a niche service that’s pretty dry? Is the arena of viral marketing closed to you forever? It’s tricky to be sure, but companies have proved that it is possible – it just takes a little creativity.
Take e-commerce security provider Verisign, who wanted a viral campaign to increase their reach. When shopping online, virtual shopping carts can be abandoned at the checkout due to customers’ security concerns. Verisign decided to base their campaign on this, but they wanted to make it as funny as possible – and to keep their involvement subtle. So they came up with the character of Liberty Fillmore, the ‘cart-whisperer’, a man whose calling in life was to find and rescue abandoned (real-life) shopping carts.
The videos were an instant hit, and led to tons of traffic to the campaign website (nomoreabandonedcarts.com), that in addition to the videos included a competition to ‘Win A Thing’ that acted as a lead-generation tool. Verisign’s participation wasn’t obvious at all – they didn’t even mention it on their corporate website. The only evidence of their involvement was some small print on the campaign website: “What made me start this interweb site was when I started hearing all these stories of how many people abandoned carts on the interweb — on account of how they didn’t feel secure hitting the BUY button. That’s when I found out about Verisign and their Extended Validation SSL protection program.”
By generating genuinely funny content and not pushing the corporate brand – on the contrary, actively keeping it quiet – people engaged with the character Verisign created, sought to find out more about the videos, and were led naturally to the sponsor.
Another example of a B2B company doing ace viral work is Grasshopper, a phone technology company aimed at small businesses. They achieved their first viral success by sending out 25,000 chocolate-covered grasshoppers (yup, real ones) to a whopping 5,000 influencers, accompanied by an URL to a video on entrepreneurship they made. The reasoning behind it? Entrepreneurs should take risks… like eating chocolate grasshoppers. This quirky approach got them tons of coverage, saw the video viewed 8,000 times a day, and got everyone talking. Their next campaign saw them splashing out on a spoof of the ‘New York’ video by Jay Z feat. Alicia Keys, called ‘New Dork’, which received over a million views.
Like Verisign, they concentrated first and foremost on a video that would connect with their audience, but also on ones that had a wide appeal – people who didn’t own businesses could still find the video funny and pass on the word.
These two examples show that it is indeed possible to create a B2B campaign that can go viral – it just takes creativity. Don’t be limited by what your product offers. By all means use it as a starting board, but funny and interesting content can be more valuable than promoting your product outright; just make sure that, however indirect, it leads back to you.