Guest Column: ‘Going Viral’ is instant proof of success: Shubhranshu Singh

A look at the recipe mix that produces better results when marketers want a campaign to go viral

e4m by Shubhranshu Singh
Published: Apr 23, 2018 8:56 AM  | 4 min read

“It has gone viral,” these words are a source of immense joy to marketers.

Stated inelegantly but accurately, something ‘going viral’ is instant proof of success.

On gazing upon it with a telescope we can plainly see that Virality – Buzz – Word of Mouth, are all different expressions of the same underlying phenomenon.

Since the beginning of civilization, word of mouth has been recognized as an endorsement of society, in general, extolling the virtues of a product or service. It is seen having a higher value than self-seeking advertising, which marketers feel obliged to do.

Its spontaneity and effervescence are valued at a premium.

There are no established and acknowledged definitions of WoM, buzz or virality. 
However, broadly one may posit that:

WoM is the process, Buzz is the qualitative signifier of its positive effect and Virality is the entire phenomenon taken together with an implicit sense of scale and immediacy.

The curiosity for virality is fuelled further because of its invisibility. Where does it start, get accelerated, get slowed by drag and end? These are unseen and largely unknown maps.

What is more – the entire consumer world comprises endless intersecting lines of exploration and overlapping subsets. Connecting these is the job of influencers, opinion leaders, evangelizing consumers and fans.

Why is virality important? It is important because it is rare and precious.

We live in a world of Overload, Cynicism and Hyper-Connectivity.

Consumers have too many distractions and are overexposed to commercial ‘me too’ messaging. They are looking for endorsement and opinion from folks they see as experts. Word of Mouth is more realistically –Word of Relevant Mouth. We believe and care more about the experiences of ‘People Like Us.’

Secondly, consumer belief is very fragile. Too much razzmatazz accompanies everything put out formally via the campaign. A Puffery –Vanity – Insincerity filter comes inbuilt when consumers get exposed to these campaigns. Therefore, when someone who knows you well pushes something to you, naturally, your acceptance and interest levels are high. The interest has been equipped with ability because almost everyone has access to internet and content is spoofed, shared, commented upon, liked or ridiculed. Very little gets qualified for instant success but this is why virality is subjected to constant scrutiny.

No rocket science here. But what more?

Not every brand or category needs brand building through virality. There are plenty of iconic brands built moving with a steadier gait. It also depends on your target audience and competitive position. Virality is too erratic to be seen as an essential part of the marketing mix.

It is desirable but is it dependable?

This, to my mind, is the recipe mix known to produce more results:

1. Populate content in as many overlapping networks as feasible.
2. Engage influencers like the press, celebs, sports icons, politicians, etc. wherever there is a following.
3. Engage experts – from iconic to the hyperlocal. This builds relevance and texture.
4. Get brand platform social media to build clusters and communities – elusive in tangible terms but when you do, it helps push your message
5. Do geographic assessments. Local matters – folks talk online to folks who are still physically in their communities.
6. See linkages – fashion, luxury, cosmetics, travel, cuisine, for instance, will have several linkages of interest and followers. Pull all those levers if you are in related categories.
7. Emotional stimulus provokes an emotional response. Affinity is often about the right emotions.
8. Let the product and service seeding start concurrently. A lot of buzz and virality gets provoked by curiosity and novelty.
9. Cluster leaders and those who have a large following should be lavished with product attention.
10. When you hear silence in related categories and competition, that’s a white space or share gain opportunity. Go for it.

Finally, a viral is a contagion. It needs to spread person to person. People must get close to spread a virus. The virus seldom passes without the host being receptive. Mutations are natural. A virus, unlike a diamond, is not forever! To reach the maximum number, in the short term, is the key. We should note that it is the best renditions, not the best ideas, that go viral.

Next time in Midweek Marketing, let us apply a microscope and inspect what is doable and known empirically to trigger the virality.

(The author is a marketer based out of Mumbai)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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