With consumers more and more adept at skimming through the media clutter, advertisers and marketers are constantly scrambling for new, inventive ways to cut through and make an impact. With people’s attention spans growing shorter and their expectations continuing to rise, creativity and production values are amping up – and thus the viral marketing stunt was born.
So what does it take to effectively execute a live-and-in-person stunt or event that engages consumers and then gets them talking, spreading the word, and then, ideally, posting and sharing via social media?
1. A compelling narrative
You need more than a message. A well-crafted story that engages your audience is key to capturing their attention. As in any captivating story, there needs to be humor, intellect, social messaging, a strong storyline or an emotional journey with a payoff for those who partake in the experience. If you make a connection and move people in a funny or meaningful way, your message has a much greater opportunity for successful word of mouth.
2. Element of surprise
Juxtaposing environments is a surefire way to garner attention and gain buzz, chatter and amplification. Adding an element of absurdity or pairing opposites is often used in stunts such as flash mobs or impromptu theatrical vignettes.
ING staged an elaborate stunt (right) in a busy European shopping mall where, much to the shopper’s surprise, a cast of Renaissance Era actors erupted into a dramatic performance as the crowd watched in amusement.
3. Entertainment value
A critical component of most viral videos is, without question, pure and simple entertainment value. Highbrow or dumb humor, never underestimate what viewers seem to find amusing and worthy of sharing out among their peers and social networks. Whether it’s stupid pet tricks, giggling babies or sophisticated, high-tech productions, marketing events fall into as many niche categories as any other form of entertainment. While audiences can be fickle and differ depending on region, cultural or social values, knowing your intended viewer is necessary for an effective and well-received stunt.
4. Connecting with your audience
Giving the people what they want is not a new concept, but giving them something they didn’t expect or know they wanted is part of connecting your message to the brand – it also helps build brand loyalty and devout followers. By rewarding the die-hard advocates, one creates brand influencers who ultimately will spread the word to reverberate marketing.
For client Taco Bell, MATTER was asked to create an exclusive experience for their loyal enthusiasts to launch the new Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos. Providing these brand advocates exclusive access to the new taco gave them reason to seek out and enjoy a first taste, ultimately spreading the news to their followers. A flower shop in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood served as the unexpected venue to distribute the highly anticipated taco by using the secret password “blue bouquet” – hidden cameras captured consumer reactions. Within a few days of the New York event, the NY Taco Bell YouTube video (left) garnered over 1 million views.
5. Professional quality and realism
As much as the surefire formula for what causes an event to gain viral momentum is unclear, there are certain keys for success. Using professional actors, stunt people and authentic costumes or props creates a realistic platform for a strong story. Authenticity is paramount if the consumer is going to buy into the theatrics. A smart stunt that appears to be spontaneous is actually highly choreographed and precisely timed and, like any theatrical production, staffed with skilled, behind-the-scenes professionals who oversee and orchestrate every move.
Implemented effectively, the amplification opportunities of a successful stunt or experiential event are endless. Word of mouth, coupled with social media outreach, press coverage, content capture and viral augmentation, is a brand marketer’s dream and part of an overall content distribution plan requested and expected by many clients.
Sherry Brody is vice president at MATTER – Brand Experience and Events in New York.