June 28, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Viral Video: Piggybacking on Someone Else’s Happy Accident

Viral Video: Piggybacking on Someone Else’s Happy Accident

Who did what with
Matt Damon?

“I’m F^&%ing Matt Damon,” sang Sarah Silverman to boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel on his nationally televised show.  Then her confession video, the gag music video made with Matt Damon, swept the Internet, landing on YouTube and other web content sites with over four million views and counting.

Viral video, like the Silverman / Damon video and its brilliant follow-up (which, along with the original, is a bit NSFW) from Kimmel Damon chum Ben Affleck, is now a coveted marketing achievement. Surely, Kimmel’s show is experiencing some higher-profile exposure and reaching new audiences with two hugely popular virals debuting back-to-back.

Generally, aside from network-generated content, popular virals are created by two different groups: marketers or individuals. Frequently, the video that goes viral from amateurs concerns a brand or product, band or movie, that most people know or an experience to which we can all relate (think Star Wars Kid, Coke and Mentos, or Numa Numa).

Piggybacking on Good (or at Least Popular)

Marketers spend a good deal of time searching for a magic bullet, working against the odds to create a viral sensation in support of their brand.  Now, what is a marketer to do when a private individual hijacks your brand, uses your product in an inappropriate context or uses your name in such a way as to compromise your trademark.

Well, there’s the initial Diet Coke response, from spokeswoman Susan McDermott, published in the Wall Street
“We would hope people want to drink [Diet Coke] more than try experiments with it.”

Or the ol’ cease and desist, with brands such as Ford versus their Mustang (fan) Club and Scrabble / Hasbro versus Scrabulous following suit.  Subtitle this one the legally sound way to distance yourself from your consumers.

Then there’s the Snapple approach, piggybacking on a viral video reference.  Following the success of the Matt Damon video (which briefly mentions Kimmel’s love of Diet Snapple), Diet Snapple published an open letter to Jimmy Kimmel (found online here).  The letter capitalized on the video and created a marketing angle, generously giving Jimmy himself a case of diet Snapple as consolation and offering Kimmel’s viewers the same prize for
making public their infidelities.

Piggyback on existing video that you or your brand is fortunate enough to get mentioned in and continue an existing discussion.  Making backhanded remarks and filing lawsuits against the perpetuators of free brand publicity closes the door on existing conversation and distances consumers from the company.

Context is Everything
It is worth noting that every example of a brand or product brought forth in this article is either brand positive or brand neutral–meaning none of these references had a particularly negative impact on the brand.  These positive or neutral mentions of a brand make piggybacking on the viral phenomenon relatively easy, if the marketing communications team is creative enough to see an inlet.  The rule is simple: keep and extend the conversation while the focus is on you.

Sandy Kalik works at Topaz Partners, a public relations firm specializing in technology clients in the Web
2.0, mobile, online marketing and networking industries. She blogs at Sandying and at Tech PR Gems, and is a frequent female voice on Topaz Partner’s weekly PRobecast. Sandy can be reached at skalik@topazpartners.com.

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