Why did selfie go viral

Viral Marketing in Times of Corona

If you are expecting a blog article here that gives you ten good reasons why you should be doing viral marketing - or: viral marketing - right now, then please continue reading with the colleagues next door who are now on Xing and LinkedIn and elsewhere in are already in the starting blocks on the usual social media to post their article or have already posted it.

You will surely find these reasons here, too, but rather incidentally. In fact, it's about something else. To get a different understanding of what is generally considered viral marketing. Another understanding of what otherwise runs as a viral campaign.

If you are interested, then you will find some - seemingly loosely linked - viral thoughts that try to trace from very different perspectives and dimensions how viral dissemination works - and who uses them all.

Viral marketing as a promotional tool

But from the beginning. Actually there should have been an article here on the subject of "Funny Advertising". Hahaha. Actually. But right now only a few feel like laughing. Now there is Corona. And Corona will presumably continue to prevail for a long time. A virus paralyzes everything. Society. The culture. Sports. The economy.

As in Shakespeare's time because of the plague, the theaters have closed again today - and the opera houses and cinemas. Also the outdoor pools, the fun pools and - yes: also the brothels. The Olympic Games have been postponed, the European Championship. The Pope gives the blessing urbi et orbi in front of empty St. Peter's Square, two weeks before Easter. Production stands still in industry. Because the viral is going on.

Also in marketing. Maybe right there. Because marketing also goes viral. But what does that mean exactly: viral marketing? The digital brokerage house, Wikipedia, defines that viral marketing (also viral marketing or sometimes virus marketing) is a form of marketing that uses social networks and media to draw attention to a brand, product or campaign with a mostly unusual or subtle message.

Can that be expressed more soberly, excuse me: more sober? The idea behind this is, of course, that advertising, communication and marketing spread like a virus, that its messages, statements, images and content spread like wildfire and capture, infect, and not leave anyone indifferent.

That communication virally fires everything that sits somewhere on digital devices and does not click on "unsubscribe" fast enough. What does click here mean - mostly: wipes. Again the association of smear infection with viral communication, viral marketing.

Viral marketing can best be defined performatively independently of encyclopedic regulations. H. through a successful example of viral marketing itself, the benchmark viral marketing - and everyone has to think immediately of “Stuttgart Death Star”. Viral definition at its best.

The fact that the Swabian synchronization of the Star Wars scene would one day develop so much prophetic power that just reading the title could be worried about the sickness statistics of the Baden-Württemberg state capital and the dormant tapes of the car manufacturer there was probably also ingenious Never let Schwabinator Dodokay dream.

The fact is: Especially in pandemic times, “viral marketing proves to be an absolutely powerful advertising tool”. But the purpose of this is not to simply pray about the importance of viral marketing right now. The point here is not to emphasize in front of customers "in black advertising suit" that the "entire marketing budget is now invested in viral marketing".

The point is not to explain how viral marketing works, to name the advantages of viral marketing, or to cite the disadvantages of viral marketing against it. And then to underpin the whole thing with successful examples of viral marketing.

The thesis here is a different one: viral marketing does not have to go viral here, does not have to be understood here in the usual sense. Viral marketing means first and foremost communication in times dominated by viruses, in times of Corona. From everyone to everyone.

Marketing viral on the mattresses

What does that mean? Basically, another classic film comes to mind here, the “godfather”. Because the coronavirus literally "sent us all on our mattresses". This does not even mean primarily and cynically the sick themselves, but literally everyone who is no longer allowed to go on the street, who are no longer allowed to go to work, who have to stay at home, should keep quiet.

Just like the mafiosi of warring clans who are not supposed to meet on the street. All of us marketers are “on the mattresses” - in the home office. This is almost proverbial for the author himself, who ended up on a sofa bed in the study in search of a WLan-compatible place that has not yet been occupied by other family members.

But it also applies to colleagues who you no longer meet personally, but only in the context of video conferences that show excerpts of their private surroundings. It also applies to customers whose marketing departments have often been sent closed to the home office, if not immediately on short-time work.

This is accompanied by the setting or the changeover of the daytime operation. First the trade fairs were canceled. "Postponed" said many organizers. But when? Then in many places production was restricted or stopped entirely, campaigns were postponed, often canceled. And who, one wonders, keeps the business going?

A viral campaign here, a viral campaign there

More and more politicians speak out on the news saying that we are “at war”. And it's true: people die like in war. In some places very many, in other places (yet) none or only a few. From the discrepancy, many doubts grow as to whether all the measures are sensible, whether all the restrictions are appropriate, whether they are not being exaggerated, whether all this is not pure hysteria.

How are these doubts expressed? Viral, of course. The content is posted on social media - as interviews with immunologists, virologists or “just picked up from the internet”, but it is “definitely not conspiracy theories”. If you read into them, you ask yourself what they are, if not exactly that. And this “information” finds its “target group”.

Then there are the "supply bottlenecks". So far it has been rather bizarre. The toilet paper runs out. And if you want to believe all the people who complain about those who bought it in abundance, you'd think there are only those who make fun of it, but nobody who actually bought toilet paper.

It's a bit like the porn that nobody wants to see, but which can boast enviable high click-through rates. Right now - in times of the virus - they are clearly rising again. But back to the bottlenecks: there are of course the pasta, the flour.

Then the shops are closed, the restaurants, the cafes. Social life is frozen. The daycare centers, kindergartens, schools and universities are closing. The borders will be closed, flights will be reduced and local public transport restricted.

What forms of viral marketing are there?

And what, you might be wondering, does all of this have to do with viral marketing. Everything. Because suddenly everyone has become interest groups. Today everyone is a target group for themselves, who stand up for their interests and want to see their own needs met.

Professional groups whose fate has so far only marginally interested us - that is, most of us - are now celebrated as heroes in the news and on social media. Rightly. But why only now? And how long after a vaccine is available?

When you read all the posts on social media, you get a bit of the feeling that those who post them want to show that they have always said it and have always known it. Just what exactly? And why always only when it has already been brought into everyone's consciousness?

And anyone who does not obey the call to share the message quickly enough makes themselves almost suspicious in their target group, in their bubble, of not being exactly on line.

How harmless, on the other hand, was the extremely successful Oscar selfie by Ellen DeGeneres, which she and other Hollywood greats showed and which had an incomparable viral distribution with over three million retweets. And with what kind of smartphone was the selfie taken again? And who did it benefit?

Likewise politicians. Politicians who were written off yesterday or were simply not allowed to take part are now given their chance - at press conferences that are broadcast live. Where? In the social media, of course. How do they spread there? What's this?

Of course, this is also viral marketing. Other politicians, on the other hand, who at some point had been something and wanted to become something again, must now soberly step down from their black stone and realize that their time has not come for the third time. It could seem almost tragic if it weren't just tragicomic given the real tragedies.

Everyone is a target group, there is a campaign for everything

So for cashiers, for nurses, for everyone who is now directly on the infection front in supermarkets, one or the other campaign is now being started online, in which they advocate better pay.

The much maligned GroKo suddenly enjoys our unreserved trust again. 89 percent consider the measures to be appropriate. As if each of us longed for a curfew.

Mind you: Neither one nor the other should be questioned here: cashiers, nurses and everyone of different sexes should be appropriately rewarded - or receive bonuses. Just like those managers who are currently classified as no longer so systemically relevant.

The author feels that the measures are just as useful as the other 89 percent. The only question is, where was about half of that 89 percent in the past few years when the government did an equally good job, despite all the adverse circumstances? Despite all those who refused to form a coalition - be it among the parties, be it on the street.

The answer: you sat up with all the other "viral campaigns" that lamented all the unbearable circumstances in the country, wondering what is wrong in this country. Whereby one or the other might have lost sight of what everything works really well in this country.

What works pretty well with it: viral marketing - now also by the government. Because it is about information, information and more information. In a sense, it fights the virus with its own weapons - you already guessed it: viral.

Viral marketing turns the bottom on top

What becomes clear: Society is upside down. The bottom is turned up. Some hierarchies collapse. Some are strengthened. If you wanted to look for a rule, you would almost like to say: Everything is happening that you did not expect.

Even people are becoming friendlier again. One greets each other again more and more on the street. Probably because the contact is blocked. Maybe because you meet so few people that even in the big city it is easy to say hello to them all. In fact, it often happens with a smile. It is this we-all-in-the-boat mood that creates such a sense of equality.

And where does this feeling of equality live out? On the net, of course. It is spread there. And the network doesn't just mean the Internet and social media. This also includes radio and TV, because they are now mainly spreading online.

This is how everyone finds their target group. And everyone sends their message. And everyone spreads their message. A large provider of home loan and savings contracts asks everyone to play with the children, make love, work in the home office, but definitely stay at home.

What stands out: What spreads virally like the virus itself is the #StayHome, which some social networks also display as an addition to the profile picture. Some, who once again emphasize the expression of doing the right thing, even turn it into a #StayTheFuckHome, whatever that is supposed to do.

Dissemination is the currency in viral marketing

Dissemination connects the #StayHome with the message of the building society company and the viral press conference of our crisis managers as well as the conspiracy theorists who ask themselves what is wrong in this country?

What connects them with the initiatives for our newly discovered heroes of everyday life (who, let it be said again, really are - we shouldn't forget how the heroes from wars were usually received at home on their return, often unfriendly, left alone with their problems).

What do they have in common with the selfies that show less the celebrities that can be seen on them, but rather the marketing strategy that actually stands behind this picture? It's viral marketing. We all practice it. This marketing. We all ignore it. That marketing. We all get sick of it - this marketing in our own, in a foreign, in a political, and often already mind-terrorist respect.

Because everyone, really everyone, markets themselves - e.g. B. private, e.g. B. as a vegan, e.g. B. as a freelancer, e.g. B. as a thing, e.g. B. as thump. And in all seriousness: we ourselves are no better. She neither. If you didn't do it on Facebook with your last post, then on LinkedIn or Xing. And if you didn't tweet it, it was your last picture on Instagram: "Look here: What a great shot." Or: "A bit psychedelic in the home office #coronamonamur."

We all do viral marketing. Because that too is like a virus. They are campaigns in their own right. Each of us starts a campaign for this, a campaign for that, the main thing is that it is a campaign for what each of us thinks is a good cause. It's about viral and spreading.

Viral marketing is an opportunity

Strangely enough, what is practiced so ubiquitously does not seem to have reached the same extent in many companies. At least in the B2B area. Of course, something is posted for one or the other brand. But a clear campaign is rarely discernible.

It is then called dissemination. Everyone wants to spread. But the mostly uncoordinated individual actions do not spread by themselves. And the resources required for this are often not (yet) available. That is changing now. At least there is a chance: viral marketing in viral times.

What does the viral bring to companies? What does the viral bring to the brand? Which brand? Your brand. More attention? No, more sustainability. Modernization through forced digitization. Suddenly what we have only talked about for years becomes possible. The digitalization of marketing is driven by the viral.

The unusual, postponed trade fairs are a first step towards this. The first companies - for example Geberit - reacted immediately with a virtual trade fair on Instagram. In short, one approach at best, one example by all means and a good example on top of that. Almost immediately after the ban on contact, the first emails with offers that offered the realization of virtual online fairs went viral.

And these offers are spreading very quickly. The message is clear: you, dear customer, don't need the real trade fair at all. Everything that you would have shown there, you can show virtually and in viral use you can even reach and expand your target group more directly.

The target group? You can address them directly, you can make them aware of your brand directly. And the response is measurable. The success is shown in the leads, in the downloads, in the click rates. Dissemination, dissemination, dissemination is possible in many ways, many channels.

Some of them can be actively controlled and selected. And at a certain point, the viral marketing continues, passively. This is how viral works. First it's a campaign. They later become campaigns. And the campaigns become a habit. It will be our way of communicating content - via viral marketing. Is that cynical now in view of the crisis, the pandemic? The author thinks no.

Intelligent posts like this one were already circulating online again: "The coronavirus will financially execute more people than it kills - and that is the real catastrophe!" You actually have to read through this saying twice to ask yourself what kind of worldview the person who wrote it must have.You'd like to ask him to learn enough Italian to tell the poor Lombards personally: They're paying both - a high blood toll on life and economy.

But vice versa: viral marketing - marketing in times of the viral - can help to get companies back on track. This is already happening locally through virtual word of mouth. “Help save my favorite bar” is posted on Facebook, just one example of how a target group is activated again to order food online until the bar is allowed to reopen.

It is a campaign for the target group of the hospitality industry as well as other campaigns for the target group of grocery stores. The fish shop around the corner from me, the local butcher. And each campaign transports its content to its recipient via a different viral path.

Because the content is what counts in viral marketing, in viral marketing, in viral marketing or in English: im viral marketing - be it in brand building, be it in brand communication. At least that's how we see it in our advertising agency near Constance.


Christoph Siwek

Creative Consulting / Group Head Text
christoph.siwek (at) schindlerparent.de

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