Viral Video: The Age Of Stunted Brands

August 5, 2014 11:46 am

ATM Viral VideoHave you seen the recent video of the really cool stunt where some bank gives away surprise gifts to customers through their ATMs?

I’ll bet that viral video is getting a ton of views. They might even get some through this blog post. Hooray, social media!

SodaSure, it’s kind of reminiscent of that soda company (which one was it again?) that gave away weird things through their vending machine, but still.. it was a really cool viral video.

Remember how at the end of that soda viral video how a giant 6-foot long sandwich came out of the vending machine? That was really memorable stuff, a great stunt.

But I have to to say that in that genre, creatively the viral video that some airline did was probably my favorite. A real tear-jerker.


Which airline was it again?

You know the one I mean, where whatever the airline was had all these amazing surprise gifts coming off in baggage claim. Everybody I know passed that around at the time.

I wanted to see that again before I wrote this, so I Googled “airport baggage claim gift viral video” because I had no idea what the brand of the airline was.

Ephemeral Media, Stunted Brands

Today, media is incredibly ephemeral. If you’re a young consumer, you probably have seen and enjoyed dozens of these kind of viral videos from brands from all over the world.

You know, like the one where they put some button on a city street somewhere and you could push to add drama? I think that was for some life insurance company or something. Anyway, it was really cool.

DramaWhich brand did which stunt? What country was it in?

Mostly, we don’t know — any more than we know which cat was in which viral cat video, or what country the video with the skateboarders doing impossible basketball shots was in.

30 years ago it was possible to prop up a weak brand through extraordinary advertising. Today… I’m not so sure.

As human beings seeking entertainment, we’re better at remembering stunts than we are at remembering brands. But as marketers seeking attention, we tend to forget how human beings operate.

Doing stunts is fun, but it’s not really how brands are built for the long-term.

Great Brands Are Built On The Boring Stuff

I’m not knocking the creative effort, and I’m not saying it was a waste of money. Getting real attention — even for a few minutes — has real value.

What I am saying is that stunts are probably necessary, but they are not sufficient.

Increasingly, I think we will find that the best investment for generating long-term brand value will lie in doing an extraordinary job on the really boring stuff.

Flashy Is Easy. Boring Is Hard.

Doing flashy stunts is easy. Getting the boring stuff right is really hard, and genuinely exhausting.

We will need to make better, simpler, less compromised products. That means thinking harder about strategy. It means fighting off feature bloat every single day until the product launches. It means learning how to diplomatically challenge groupthink and ask tougher questions.

It means developing the political savvy to stop bitching in public — which never works. It means working up the courage to ask the *really* hard questions gently, face-to-face, behind closed doors.

It means knowing when to bring in a consultant who can tell the truths that you cannot afford to tell.

Don’t Be A Stunted Brand.

By all means, do stunts. Get attention. Go viral.

But when people get interested in the brand, make sure that the products are even more interesting and sexy than the stunt itself was.

In the end marketing is about getting attention, and then translating that attention into sales.

Don’t forget about that second part. It matters.

P.S. Below are the videos I referenced above. How many brands did you remember? More to the point, how many did you buy or use?

P.P.S. The only brand I personally remembered was Coke. Why? It was the most heavily branded. The stunt showed people getting joy from getting free Cokes. It was true to their positioning. Lesson: if you’re going to do a stunt, make the story as much about your product as you can.

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