Ok kids, listen up! It’s science time, and today – we’re going to talk about viruses. Viruses are nasty things, as anyone who’s had one recently will attest to. They’re microscopic, often airborne, and only replicate within the cells of living hosts. Toss in this modern age of global travel and our often cramped quarters, and the little buggers end up spreading like wildfire!

Social Science

“Wait a second” you’re saying “I didn’t sign up for science! I want to learn about social media marketing and other magical things!” Well hang tight, because we’re getting there.

See, you can’t make a virus. You can’t really even make a virus do its virus’y damage – though considering the long history of biological warfare many have tried. No, all you can do is hurl that infected corpse or carcass over fortified city walls or into water systems and hope for the best!

Keep that image in mind the next time you are in a meeting, and someone says “Let’s make a viral XYZ!!”

Make It Viral!

Whenever I hear the above statement, a little part of me dies inside. “Viral” anything is the new black. It’s the latest catchphrase that the C-Suite has hung their caps on. The golden goose. The thing that is going to make or break your ad campaign, product launch, career.

But say it with me here – you can’t MAKE something GO viral!

Just like its root word “virus” – ‘going viral’ is an organic process. It happens naturally, or it doesn’t happen at all. For every Old Spice Guy or Volkswagen – The Force or Lolcats success story there are literally a bazillion other failures (ok, I can’t even explain Lolcats).

Unicorns Are Us

And here’s why: today’s consumers are savvy consumers. They are looking to be wowed by the next thing – even when they’re still watching the first thing. If you’re bringing a unicorn, it better be double-horned!

They don’t want to be spoon fed, and they instinctively ‘get’ when a company or brand is trying too hard. It’s a turn off.

Now, that’s not to say that you can’t do a little manipulating, and produce and present something that just might go viral. Of course you can! And you won’t even need to use any bloated animal parts in the process.

Here’s how:

  • gather the best creative minds your company has in one room
  • toss in food and lock door
  • go with whatever they come up with

Be Damn Good

Ok, I’ve oversimplified here, but the point remains the same. Lighten up. Loosen the reigns. And let people experiment.

You have presumably hired the best team out there. People who have their hands, heads and who knows what else in the latest and greatest. Let them do their jobs. Trust them. Allow them to inject humour or controversy into their work. Allow them to test-run campaigns that instinctively make you cringe a little. Be shocking! And take risks. Because here’s the one thing that every single viral anything has in common: it’s damn good.

I spent a long time making TV shows. I know how hard it is to make an audience like something – to come back night after night, week after week. And whenever I questioned how long a story should be my executive producer would tell me “As long as it’s good.”

Make the best damn product you can make. If it’s good, it’ll be infectious. It’ll spread like wildfire. And you won’t need to dirty your hands with biological warfare in the process.