Remember watching a video so funny or inspiring, you had to share it with your friends?

Viral videos have increased in popularity over the years thanks to the proliferation of video sharing sites such as Youtube and Vimeo that allow the easy sharing of videos. Brands are beginning to use viral video promotions in order to reinforce their brand image. Smart move given that the average person spends 15min on Youtube everyday and that it receives 2 billion views a day. Viral video marketing offers the promise of unparalleled levels of brand awareness and engagement.

However, the rosy picture is shattered by the fact that brand managers are ill-informed or have unrealistic expectations of the shiny new toy. They often delve into viral campaigns without fully understanding the intricacies of viral video branding; an ill-conceived viral video can ultimately damage brand image.

But fret not, we’re here to clear up some common misconceptions.

Misconception 1: Viral videos require less time, effort and money to produce.

For some strange and obscure reason, many people (yes, marketers too) seem to believe that these videos require less time and effort to produce. Snap out of those thoughts, because a truly successful video requires meticulous planning, great consumer insight as well as an appropriate budget in order to make it all work out-unless you’re lucky enough to get the right mix of elements such as content and timing right ALL the time.

The Old Spice video is a good case in point. It comes across as a low budget viral video advertisement. But guess what, a lot of effort, time and resources were spent in making it all happen.

In short, viral videos require more time, effort and money than many think they require.

Misconception 2: Viral is always GOOD.

Many viral video marketers are quick to glorify the successes of their videos. But it takes an astute critic to realise that they have seriously downplayed the possibility of the viral video backfiring on your brand. Instead of building the brand, a backfiring viral video can amass negative buzz which eventually damages the brand. The bad news is that there is no accurate way to control or predict the outcome of the video. Consider the case of Sony, the creators of the award-winning PlayStation brand. Sony is a company celebrated for their creativity and innovation. The company decided to employ a viral marketing agency Zipatoni to create a viral video to drum up interest for their new handheld device the PlayStation Portable. Everything took a turn for the worse from there. The video was so terrible that fans took it out against Sony on the social media sites.

Sony removed the video shortly. Making the following press statement.

“Busted. Nailed. Snagged. As many of you have figured out (maybe our speech was a little too funky fresh???), Peter isn’t a real hip-hop maven and this site was actually developed by Sony. Guess we were trying to be just a little too clever. From this point forward, we will just stick to making cool products, and use this site to give you nothing but the facts on the PSP.” Sony Computer Entertainment America

Fortunately for you, we found a surviving copy of the video on Youtube! P.S: Disengage from source immediately if you experience any form of discomfort.

Misconception 3: The odds of a viral video is considerably high.

It might seem true to the man on the street that viral videos tend to have a high rate of success. Not surprising, given the fact that we’ve seen spectacular examples in recent years (especially those awesome Superbowl ads). Perhaps this has encouraged brand managers to be extremely optimistic with regard to viral videos’ success rates.

But let’s not sugarcoat the truth any further. Success is not guaranteed, even if a Brand engages a reputable viral video marketing agency.

Millward Brown, a Brand and Marketing Research firm conducted a research study which involved 102 video ads. The study revealed that only 15% of videos eventually become viral.

To Chase or Not to Chase?

The promise of viral campaigns are alluring indeed. Viral campaigns offer unprecedented levels of consumer engagement and massive levels of word-of-mouth marketing. But in order for it to all work out for the Brand, the Brand manager must have realistic expectations and prudent planning. The fundamentals of marketing still stand; the expenditure on the Viral Campaign must be in some way relevant and justifiable to the core business.

With some common sense, and lots of planning, we hope brand managers will never make another mistake like this again.

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