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Can You Really Make A Viral Campaign?

At the Consumer 2.0 Conference last week I had the pleasure of spending some time with Steve Wax from Campfire. The firm was the subject of a really interesting Fast Company article in November 2006 and I found Steve’s ideas very refreshing.

Campfire – founded by Steve and a few of the guys behind the Blair Witch Project – does these really complex online events/games/virals like Art Of the Heist: Steve made me stop dead in my tracks when he said (roughly) “people have to stop saying they’re going to ‘make a viral video’ because you can’t decide whether it’s going to be viral or not. It’s the same as saying ‘I’m going to write a hit song’ or ‘produce a hit TV show’ – it just doesn’t make sense”.

I’ve always said that viral marketing was the conscious use of word-of-mouth as a marketing tool but I really see Steve’s point. You can try to be viral, but can you really say something “is viral” before it has in fact “gone viral”?


  1. Michael Bellavia
    Michael Bellavia February 27, 2007

    Agreed. It’s a little premature to call something viral before it takes off. We look at for Kodak as more of a grassroots effort – connecting with people on a more granular level in a fun way about an issue that they all generally feel to be true. They knew going into making Blair Witch that it was going to be a ‘smaller’ movie in terms of budget, scope, scale, etc. Clients use the “viral” moniker in a few ways though – t describe a more lo-fi look and feel and approach, but also to say that they want a grassroots, initially under the radar hit – like Blair Witch, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Little Miss Sunshine, or some of the more classic online ‘viral’ breakout hits. That said, not everything produced in a low-fi manner and distributed in a grassroots manner will become the breakout hit. Hopefully the gods will continue to shine favorably on for Kodak.

  2. Carrie Oliver
    Carrie Oliver February 28, 2007

    A very good point. From from a budgeting perspective, wouldn’t it be wise to assume that one has to pay for new customers (or whatever the goal look for a way to connect with people in such a way as to inspire word-of-mouth? Or is this being too conservative.

  3. 10668844
    10668844 August 1, 2007

    But how does one define what qualifies as ‘going viral?’
    Is it by the number of ‘cool’ kids that tells others about it?
    Is it by the overall number of YouTube views?
    If the audience realizes that it is viral, is it still viral? It wasn’t that long ago, that to be viral, the general audience had to be kept unaware that it was really a marketing ploy. Now it seems that doesn’t matter.

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