Planking does not involve strips of wood!
Planking follows in the footsteps of legendary viral campaigns such as extreme ironing and the recent cat hugs kitten youtube phenomenon: viewed an incredible 30,757,859 times. The origination of planking is difficult to attribute but is believed to have started with comedian Tom Green (best known as the short lived Mr Drew Barrymore) with a quick uptake in the north east of the UK. Planking has spread worldwide as an underground craze but achieved real media attention after the unfortunate accidental death of a 20 year old man in Queensland as he was ‘planking’ on a balcony ledge. Ellen Page, Kristen Bell and Flavor Flav are all celebrities who have taken up the craze.
Just like extreme ironing planking has devoted fans who compete to take the most outrageous photo. And therein lies the key to it’s viral success: competitiveness, escapism and belonging.
Wikipedia describes viral marketing as: “Viral marketing, viral advertising, or marketing buzz are buzzwords referring to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives”
Pre internet viral campaigns (do they exist?)
The prevalence of social media and bookmarking sites has increased the popularity and enabled the speed of viral marketing campaigns. Pre internet, if you can remember, a viral campaign would have incurred a huge expense: TV advertising, media ad placement, or nationwide on site marketing. The unprecedented success of Crisco (an ingredient for baking), which was introduced in the US in 1908, attributed its market dominance to a cleverly marketed viral campaign. Crisco arranged society tea parties in major cites across America and invited the local prominent Ladies to attend. All products served were baked with Crisco. Once the upper social influencers began to spread word the product began to fly off the shelves. Imagine the cost of organising such a marketing strategy in comparison to the power of Digg and Twitter.
People trust consumers and peers more than they trust advertising (Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey).
Which leads us to the key ingredient of viral marketing: being influenced by people you trust. If you can attract the attention of the key influencers in a given situation you hold the key to success. Industry professors Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein claim that three ingredients are vital for viral marketing:
- the right message
- to the right messengers
- in the right environment
Crisco certainly hit the mark in their marketing campaign by targeting the key influencers for their products, so how does this relate to planking?
Leverage viral marketing with power users
Malcolm Gladwell talks about the impact of influencers, mavens and connectors in his brilliant book The Tipping Point. He illustrated how to maximise viral by using the key people in your target group to spread the message for you. These individuals will hold great influence over their own personal audiences, examples of this are power users in social media: Twitter, FaceBook and Bookmarking sites such as Digg and Reddit. A power user has the ability to spread your message like wildfire and send unlimited traffic to your link. Just like a social connector has the ability to get your message out to unlimited amounts offline.
Fact of life: people listen and are influenced most by their peers, associates and friends. Non more so than males aged from 15-30 where caveman chest beating and one-up-manship are ways of asserting their role in the pecking order of their social groups. It’s the way of life.
Human nature dictates that we love:
- The unexpected and surprises.
- To escape mundane reality through the bizarre and off-beat
- To stand out from the crowd
- To be trendsetters
- To be competitive (and win)
- To belong to a group
- To have attention bestowed
- To have some fun
Think about planking, it ticks all the above boxes and more.
Planking has stickiness
If several key influencers pick up on the new trend of planking and introduce it to their circle of influence, then due to the nature of a virus it is going to spread like wildfire as each individual becomes infected with the bug for planking and then passes it along. Six degrees of separation will ensure that very quickly a mass audience has been exposed to the virus. The real genius about planking is its stickiness: it ticks all the human nature appeal boxes. Planking is so off-beat that you can’t help but be intrigued and then your competitive spirit gets a hold as you think “I want to create something better than my friends, show off and attract attention for myself.” As I said non more so than the young male demographic which planking falls right into their circle of interest.
In summary how do we use viral marketing to create our own success?
- Create the unexpected
- Invoke strong emotion
- Target a specific demographic
- Release to key influencers
- Fan the flames with social media and PR exposure
A few Great Viral marketing campaigns:
This Gymkhana Infographic is part of the Gymkhana project with over 135 million views!