Redefining What Makes A Campaign Viral

Redefining What Makes A Campaign Viral

Ivan Askwith, Director of Strategy at Big Spaceship, recently offered an insightful perspective into how brands could best engage consumers over the long-run.

Paloma M. Vazquez
  • 28 january 2010

Ivan Askwith, Director of Strategy at Big Spaceship, recently offered an insightful perspective into how brands could best engage consumers over the long-run by ceasing to refer to “viral” as merely a campaign objective – but rather as a deliberate choice to share quality content that a consumer will be motivated to share with others.

According to Askwith,

It’s time to accept a difficult truth: viral isn’t a quality that we, as marketers, have the power to bestow. In fact, viral isn’t an inherent trait that advertising can have at all. Viral isn’t what a marketing campaign is, but how that campaign spreads. And when a campaign does achieve viral propagation, it’s not simply a function of what we do as designers and planners. Instead, it’s a function of deliberate choices that each consumer makes about what is worth sharing and why.

The ultimate challenge for brands is to understand their consumers and their motivations well enough to offer them something valuable enough to share.  Askwith suggests that, rather than focus on creating something – anything – that might spread like a virus – brands should focus on offering their consumers gifts so valuable that they’ll want to share these with others.  And what makes a gift – or content – worth sharing?  Askwith poses three specific scenarios – each with unique purposes, motives and behavior patterns – in which people share content:

1. Contributing (1-to-Many): Sharing relevant content is often more casual and less deliberate, as in an online community.  Anything that might be interesting or useful has a good chance of being shared;  making valuable contributions is an important way to “prove” that one belongs, and the pride of being the first to discover something of value offers a powerful incentive to share.

2. Broadcasting (1-to-World): In more public spaces like Twitter or Facebook, the act of sharing is more about the person sharing than the person receiving. Sharing an opinion or thought here makes a statement about who the individual is, what they like, and how they wish to be perceived. In this context, consumers are likely to share anything that expresses their identities, opinions or strengths.

3. Gifting (1-to-1/Few): More private channels like email, IM and real-world conversations allow for sharing that is closest to gifting. The decision to share depends on relevance and value to both giver and recipient, since sharing is intended to strengthen relationships and reinforce shared values. Consumers here will be likeliest to share anything that helps generate, strengthen or sustain connections.

Ultimately, effective long term brand building – via “viral” campaigns or not  - depends on finding opportunities to serve consumers by appealing to their needs and motivations. The challenge for brands (and their agencies) becomes creating services, experiences, products and content that consumers will take a personal stake in sharing because it helps them express their own personalities, identities and values via social connections. And not just to make consumers carriers of our taglines and brand propositions.

Big Spaceship: “Getting Past Viral”


Japanese Face Wash Creates A Perfect Rose Every Time

Arts & Culture
Mobile Yesterday

Get A Better Idea Of How You Are Wasting Your Time

The TouchTime app is trying to revolutionize personal task management by providing detailed insight on how to be more efficient

Culture Yesterday

London Telephone Box Repurposed As A Tiny Mobile Repair Shop

Tools and supplies to replace broken screens or damage are neatly stowed away in these micro-workrooms


Get PSFK's Latest Report: Future of Retail: Technology Primer

See All
Design Yesterday

Conceptual Sportswear Created Out Of Futuristic Condom Material

A Dutch fashion designer is experimenting with new methods and fabrics to make high performance clothing

Fashion Yesterday

Fashionable Tassel Will Ensure You Never Lose Your Valuables Again

The device is fashion meets connected tech, that will help you keep track of your belongings at all times


Jeff Tangney

Social Media, Health, Enterprise Communication

Syndicated Yesterday

Would You Wear Wool Shoes To Save The Environment?

As demand for wool shoes grows, a number of US footwear brands are heading directly to the source: the sheep pastures of New Zealand

Sustainability Yesterday

Self-Healing Material Is Fashioned Out Of Squid Teeth

Penn State researchers have devised a new textile that uses organic proteins

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Search Engine Turns Your Own Drawings Into Photos

This image-matching software accepts hand-made sketches instead of keywords


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

PSFK Op-Ed august 24, 2016

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

PSFK Labs august 25, 2016

PSFK’s Workplace Vision: How The Nurturing Of Seeds Will Come To Define The Onboarding Process

Our Future of Work vision is a service that allows companies to assemble and deliver welcome packets that are uniquely focused on the concept of growth

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Illustrator Interprets The Experiences Of Blind Travelers

Artist Alby Letoy creates drawings of poignant travel memories for the visually impaired

Advertising Yesterday

Clickbait Titles Used For The Good Of Charity

An agency devised an unlikely campaign that uses clickbait as a positive force to drive awareness to nonprofit initiatives

Advertising Yesterday

The Best In Eye-Catching Olympics Campaigns

PSFK rounds out the Rio Games with our picks for the best advertising moments off the field

Work Yesterday

Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist

Arts & Culture Yesterday

Transforming Light Waves Into A New Art Form

An artist uses glass treated with layers of metallic coatings to create a unique installation called lightpaintings


Rio Olympics
Innovation Coverage From The Rio Games

Design Yesterday

This Windbreaker Lets You Explore The Outdoors While Charging Your Phone

The apparel includes solar panels that allow the wearer to stay connected through the power of renewable energy

Asia Yesterday

The Goal Of This Game Is To Not Get Laid Off From Your Job

A hit mobile app has you working really, really hard to not get fired as you climb the corporate ladder

Advertising Yesterday

Movie Critic Bot Guides Viewers Through Festival Offerings

The Toronto International Film Festival has created a Facebook Messenger chatbot to help attendants curate their schedule

No search results found.