For most brands, viral earned media is more valuable than any other kind of media, simply because it provides the most consumer engagement at the lowest price.
And yet, it’s also the hardest to create – the best viral successes have a core element that you just can’t write into a budget: good old-fashioned luck.
That being said, viral success isn’t dependent entirely on the whims of the consumer – there are steps brands can take to lay the groundwork for success while waiting for their lucky moments. By rooting your brand’s strategy in real consumer insights and investing in that strategy despite the unknowns, your brand can stand poised to capitalize on viral activity if and when it happens.
It all came together for one of our clients, Post-it® Brand, last month, when a Post-it® War broke out between six creative agencies in New York. Over a year before, we’d started preparing for a moment just like this by taking four key steps:
- Building insightful strategy rooted in consumer behavior
- Securing a budget that minimized risk
- Designing infrastructure to prepare for a flawless execution
- Putting a process in place to listen to the consumer:
We knew that Post-it® Wars were popular in other countries, so we decided we needed a plan for what to do if one (or more) popped up in the U.S.
We knew we may not be able to achieve scale, because many Post-it®Wars are small, so we proposed a low-involvement, log-budget approach.
We designed war kits, made labels, stocked the product to fill our kits in-house, and drafted a challenge letter so that everything was client-approved and ready to go out the door at a moment’s notice.
And then, on May 12, we saw the following during our routine morning hashtag scan:
Two agencies on Canal Street in New York had organically started a #postitwar – and we were ready to take action.
We dove into social media to learn more about what was happening, searching out the real names of key participants in order to address war kits directly to them. We put our war kits together, using the pre-assembled cases and product and personalizing the accompanying letters, and kept monitoring #postitwar throughout the day. That meant, when a few more agencies joined in, we were tuned in, and could assemble even more kits to hit as many participants as possible.
Which is how, just a few days after the #canalnotes #postitwar began, branded war kits arrived in the hands of each of its combatants. The Post-it® Brand not only participated in the conversation, it was actually part of the action, helping to fuel the organic activity itself. Without our advance planning, we would never have been able to execute it so quickly and so well, but there was also a lot of in-the-moment customization involved. We had to keep listening, participating, and cultivating brand advocates in order to get the most out of social media and press opportunities – all of which helped the movement to spread to agencies in other cities, including Minneapolis, where we got in on the action locally by creating a giant mural of Zeus himself.
When it was clear the war was coming to a close in late May (see:Giant mic drop by Havas and Fat lady sings by Getty Images and New York Magazine), we helped celebrate its final moments by shipping replacement Post-it® Notes to the participants so they could “get back to work.”
The story received incredible press coverage during the two weeks of the war: the TODAY Show, CBS This Morning, CNN, Mashable, NBC News, New York Post, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Reuters, Digiday, Tech Insider, NBC Nightly News, Adweek and more.
Most importantly, the participants themselves talked about the brand favorably on social media over and over again. By the end of the month, the Post-it® Brand received over 650 million viral earned media impressions valued at well over $2 million, an extraordinary return on a small upfront investment.
Although we could have never predicted that the first big U.S. Post-it®War would occur in the media capital of the world this May, we were ready when it did, with a quick, professional response that put the Post-it® Brand right in the mix. This success is a testament to our client’s willingness to believe in the potential of viral marketing, to invest in creativity outside of traditional marketing campaigns, and to wait patiently for lightning to strike.