Clever Viral Marketing Strategies

As this is being written, Gillette’s “The Best Men Can Be” ad is generating outsized buzz. Some people love it, other people hate it—but either way, it’s attracting a lot of attention to the 118-year-old brand.

Granted, as a member of the Proctor and Gamble stable of brands, Gillette has a huge budget to draw upon to spread its messaging. However, having garnered more than 12 million views on its first day, it can be argued budget had very little to do with the realization of this ad as a viral marketing piece.

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Rather than relying upon budget, the ad leverages the basic tenets of viral marketing to strong effect. Whether you sell electronics using a platform like Shopify, or any other product, these clever viral marketing strategies can help you get noticed.

Leverages Popular Culture Masterfully

If you want to capture attention, a smart play is to find a way to relate your offerings to a trending topic in popular culture. In this case, the ad references anti-social behavior typically excused as “boys just being boys” and asks men to speak up and help put a stop to them. Perhaps predictably, those who stand to benefit the most from the message are outraged by it. This has ignited intense online debates.

Represents Out of the Box Thinking

In many ways, the people behind the brand are to be commended for taking such a stance. While it might seem like a no-brainer to bring a positive social message to the attention of the public, the backlash has been rather cutting. On the one hand, a lot of longtime customers are declaring they’ll never use a Gillette razor again. On the other hand, a lot of people are finding value in the message and are looking at the legacy brand in a new light. It’s hard to imagine a company taking such a risk 20 years ago. Had they chosen to stay within the “norms”, they wouldn’t be enjoying the attention this ad has brought them. Again, the ad logged 12 million views in one day.

Partners with an Unlikely Entity

Who could imagine one of the world’s oldest men’s products companies teaming up with #MeToo? This unlikely association is another element of the ad’s efficacy. And, while a lot of men might be put off by the ad, women buy razors too and Gillette does sell women’s razors. Anybody overlooking that fact misses a key point the Gillette marketing team seems to have embraced.

Pushes the Limits

Remarkably, because the message is so relevant, it’s hard to think of it as pushing the limits. However, given a large segment of the company’s demographic stood to be offended (and was), it pushes the limits of what can be considered traditional advertising. For years, one of the basic tenets of advertising was to avoid offending anyone, or distributing a message that could be considered controversial.

The Takeaway?

As you’re developing your campaign, ask yourself if it leverages popular culture, represents out of the box thinking, teams you with an unlikely partner or pushes the limits. If you can manage to incorporate all four of these clever viral marketing strategies you’ll definitely be a trending topic.

You have to make people feel something they’ll want to share. Whether it’s anger, love, sympathy, or antipathy, if you can elicit an emotional response in a large swath of the population, you’ll find yourself on a first-class ride to viral town.