May 26th 2016

How To Turn Viral Stories Into Marketing Opportunities.

Posted by Will Shadbolt

Last week, Candace Payne went to Kohl's to return some items and found something so irresistible she had to buy it. In the parking lot she was so excited that she filmed a Facebook Live video to show her friends and family, in which she lightheartedly complains about having to share her purchase with her children before revealing what it is—a Chewbacca mask that roars when you open your mouth. After she puts it on, her loud, infectious laugh comes out and it's hard not to laugh along with her. 

The video quickly became a viral hit, garnering the most views of any Facebook Live video. Kohl's reacted quickly and within 24 hours their marketing team had posted their own video. It featured a group of Kohl's representatives at Ms. Payne's house with more Chewbacca masks for her two kids, Star Wars memorabilia, $2,500 in Kohl's gift cards and 10,000 points for the store's loyalty program. Not too shabby, considering the original mask was in the clearance bin. The Kohl's video also shot to viral fame on Facebook. Since being uploaded, Kohl's web traffic has increased by a whopping 101%.

The response from Kohl's helps illustrate a new way companies are starting to advertise: viral stories. The companies do not post videos of themselves, as it is difficult enough to create an authentic video that others won't quickly see through and there's no guarantee it actually will go viral. Instead, when a viral story or video relevant to their company comes along, they will follow up, usually giving the original uploader gifts or some benefits. Compare the success Kohl's has had with the Chewbacca mask to Apple Music's recent viral Taylor Swift ad. Though both brought their companies lots of publicity, the production costs for Apple—not to mention the probably exorbitant cost of featuring Swift—definitely cost Apple a lot more than the budget Kohl's used. And the Apple commercial only has about 17,500,000 views on Youtube, while Kohl's currently has almost 32,000,000 views—and that number is still climbing. By letting a viral hit appear on its own, Kohl's saved more money and got more publicity than if they had tried to make a viral ad on their own.

Another example of this happened this past April. A woman from England booked a flight for her and her boyfriend to go to Las Vegas for his 30th birthday. The flight was supposed to leave from Birmingham. When the couple arrived at the airport, however, they discovered that there had been a mistake: the flight was leaving from Birmingham, Alabama. The mistake was non-refundable. 

Newspapers picked up the story, becoming a viral hit and getting the attention of Virgin Holiday. The company keeps a large "Just Because" budget for events like this and decided to fly the couple over. But that wasn't all: they also put up the pair for five nights at a hotel. This story also earned a lot of media attention and has become much bigger than the marketing team ever thought. 

The moral? Sometimes it's better to let viral hits happen on their own rather than attempting to manufacture them, and when the hits do happen, be ready to act quickly. And if you're with Giovatto Advertising, you won't miss out. With our digital marketing toolkit, including digital campaigns and SEM & SEO practices, we're always alert and prepared for any viral videos to incorporate into marketing.

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