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Is Going Viral An Effective Marketing Tactic?

It all started with a short video clip from Gary Vaynerchuk and an innocent Facebook status update. What resulted was a nice little debate about whether going viral is an effective marketing tactic. Nothing like a little social media action to get the blood pumping before tonight’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy. 

In Gary’s clip, an aspiring entrepreneur with stars in his eyes decides to go for the Hail Mary of all Hail Marys by asking Gary to tweet about his business to all of his followers. Gary commends the guy for his hutzpah, then quickly shoots him down for the bush league move.

Did the attempt to go viral work?

He’s the only person in this particular video besides Gary.

He clearly mentions the name of his business.

Said video has been circulated to all of Gary’s followers under the title “Don’t be this guy.”

Thousands of Gary’s loyal followers are curious as to who “this guy” is and click on the link.

“This guy” gets exposure to the same audience he was hoping to get exposed to when he asked Gary to tweet about him.

I don’t mean to go all Bill Clinton on the subject, but it depends on how you define “work.”

For “this guy” getting his name in front of 50 new people might be a huge win. Will he be the next McCormick or OLD BAY? Highly unlikely, but for “this guy” the go for broke viral strategy was probably worth the risk.

As we exchange status updates, Gary calls me out by asking me to name the name of the company mentioned in the clip without going back and watching it again.

Facebook discussion about Red Monkey Foods, Gary Vaynerchuk

My response was Red Monkey Spice. I wasn’t paying close attention as I’m not in the market for any spices at the moment. At the time, I had no idea whether I was right or wrong (I’ll reveal the outcome later in the post).

But Gary’s question also got me thinking. How many advertisements in magazines, on television, or the side of a bus do I ever recall?

I’ve watched TV for hours, flipped through entire magazines and, like Homer Simpson, have no recall of any of the ads I’d seen 20 seconds earlier.

Does that mean all advertisements are failures?

Maybe. Maybe not. If it does, then a lot of companies shouldn’t be “this guy.”

Going viral is almost always not a substitute for busting your butt and growing your company organically, but it can raise awareness and sometimes awareness can help you get over the tipping point.

Did “this guy’s” strategy work?

I say it did 1) because people are talking about it and 2) at least in my case, I was damn close on the name of the company—Red Monkey Foods—oh, and they are in fact in the spice business. Recall that's more than I can say for the bulk of the paid advertisements I've seen during my lifetime.

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