6 Rules for a Message to Go Viral – The secret sauce of Viral Marketing Part 1.

Getting people talking is the key to determine the success of a marketing campaign. Marketers dream about thousands of people sharing their branded messages, products and services and receiving millions of likes and great comments.

This is the reason every company wants to make its message go viral. Viral marketing critically improves brand awareness and even sales revenue. Suddenly, your products and services are in front of millions of people.

According to Nahon and Hemsley, “Virality is a social information flow where many people simultaneously forward a specific information item, over a short period of time, within their social networks, and where the message spreads beyond their own social networks to different, often distant networks, resulting in a sharp acceleration in the number of people who are exposed to the message”.

Successful viral marketing campaigns are founded on two basic principles:

– Crafting a compelling message

– Creating an effective distribution system

This article will tell you how to craft a compelling message. I will explain how to distribute your viral message most effectively in the next article.

First of all, you need to answer the following questions before you run your viral marketing campaign:

-What is the identity of your organization?

Make clear what you do, how you do and why you do. Not every business will always have a purpose that means something worthy; the important thing is having something to stand for.

-What is the essence of your brand?

There is “one word” that underpins what your brand stands for.

-Who is your audience?

What ideas and messages resonate with your target audience?

-Who are your competitors?

Can you capitalize on a space they aren’t targeting?

The answers are indispensable for the success of every viral marketing campaign. When you finish the above questions, let’s go to the next stage.

How to craft a contagious viral message.

1. Use video – storytelling

“Having a shareable story is the thing you must do to succeed in marketing today”. Allen Adamson

Human beings need stories. Stories capture our attention, draw us in, and stay with us long after we’re done watching. You need to create a story because it is more persuasive than marketing claims.

Read this article, “Make a true impact with Storytelling”, and you will find a useful guide to master the art of storytelling.

Once you have your story, you need to tell it. One way to forge a powerful emotional connection is through video. Powerful visuals evoke emotions, driving a deeper engagement and more profound change in behavior, and humanize your company. Video-storytelling is critical if you want to make your message go viral.

The following video, Wall & Chain by Airbnb, illustrates a real-life story of two men who used to patrol the Berlin Wall.  This nice story shows the audience how Airbnb connects people all over the world.

2. Don´t talk about your product features!!

Talk about the emotional benefits of using your products.

“Most people would rather look smart than dumb, rich than poor, and cool than geeky.” Jonah Berger

Make people feel smarter, cooler or special when they use your products. You must know what topics or issues are relevant to your target audience if you want to make them feel smart.

This is the way Apple promotes its products. Let´s see the iPhone 7 + Airpods video:

You can increase how much your products or ideas are shared if you give people a way to make themselves look great while promoting your products and ideas.

You can also refer to topics related to your product. Knowing about cool things makes people seem smart and they might want to share it with people they think might benefit from it.

3. Associate your message to something bigger

You can link your product or service to a movement, trend, special day … When they think about it, your product will be linked. According to Berger, “Triggers are stimuli that prompt people to think about related things”.

The more often people think about a product or idea, the more it will be talked about. Top of mind leads to top of tongue.

What should you eat when you have a break? Obviously, a Kit Kat.

In some countries, Wednesdays are referred to as Hump Day.  It is the middle of the week, where one has to get “over the hump” before looking forward to the weekend.

This ad associates Caleb, the camel, with Hump Day:

Another good example is how KFC associated KFC and Christmas in Japan. It started in 1970, KFC offered its fried chicken to foreigners living in Japan because they couldn’t find turkey during Christmas. Since them, the Japanese have been flocking to KFC every Christmas.

4. Combine emotional messages with unexpected endings

My preferred viral messages are those that combine emotion (joy, humor or compassion) with an unexpected ending. The impact is bigger and makes people share it with their network.

Consider this advice if you want to lead your story to an unexpected ending: “Regardless of the subject-matter, the ‘set-up’ leads the listener down a familiar, ‘reasonable’ pathway. When this pattern has been established the punch line suddenly shifts their attention ‘laterally’ into a different, hitherto unseen track”, Edward de Bono.

Here are some good examples:

John Lewis – Man on the Moon, the lonely man on the moon in the ad raised the plight of many old people at Christmas.

Giving by TrueMoveH, a mobile communication provider in Thailand.

5. Use metaphors to present complex ideas

Some companies face a big problem when they need to create a great story based on their products. They struggle with crafting a message that explains their technical products.

In this case, you should use metaphors to make your message familiar. When you craft a metaphor, everyone will visualize and understand what you want to communicate. Metaphors can make your message more personal, more memorable, and more persuasive.

Metaphors work best when they’re simple, unexpected, and concrete. Please, check below this great example made by GoDaddy:

The video below is not a metaphor but uses visualization to explain the benefits of the product:

6. Make many many many videos

The real challenge of viral marketing is to release a series of viral videos. They will keep the audience engaged and your brand top of mind. It is important to plan in advance different topics and schedule them through the time. Dollar Shave Club and Blentec did really well.

Dollar Shave Club: “Our Blades are F***ing Great”. In total there are more than 50 videos. Michael Dubin, the Dollar’s Shave Club Founder, continues to personally appear in the vast majority of Dollar Shave Club’s videos.

Blentec released “Will it Blend?” series. They are the best because they made that millions of people were interested in a blender!

Well, this is the end of the first part. I would appreciate if you can share your ideas or comments about this article. It will help everyone.

To read the second part of the series click here – The Secret sauce of Viral Marketing Part II. How to effectively distribute your viral message.

Are you ready?



Chema Lopez

A Madrid Polytechnic University International MBA has worked as global marketing director in B2B and B2C international leading companies implementing global marketing and communication strategies to ensure business objectives and to optimize brands reputation and visibility on a global level.

3 Replies to “6 Rules for a Message to Go Viral – The secret sauce of Viral Marketing Part 1.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: