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Malena's Brands with Purpose vs Purposeless Brands

Can brands be both viral- and purpose druven in marketing?

June 12th, 2017 · No Comments

Marketers chase the formula for viral marketing campaigns with the verve of alchemists working to turn base metals into gold. Whilst there have been wildly successful campaigns devoid of meaning, in my view, the most impactful are those fundamentally driven by purpose.

At Shell, our #makethefuture campaign supports energy innovators to find the answer to the energy challenges of the future. We recently collaborated with artists, clean energy entrepreneurs and the local community in Rio de Janeiro to launch Shell’s #makethefuture music video, “Best Day Of My Life”. It leveraged international artists to amplify the message and make the video engaging, yet the key was the fact that it’s underpinned by real-life projects around the world.

Since its launch in late September, the video has been viewed more than 201 million times. It’s secured a steady spot on several “most shared video” lists and is the third most-shared campaign of the year.

Of course, viral campaigns with no core purpose can still be successful in terms of metrics, but I question whether all those shares and “likes” equal true impact. Enduring or not, an effective campaign is one that’s shared globally, becoming part of the curious, unpredictable world of Internet culture.

The million-dollar questions remain: What drives people to share? What creates pure, pass-along potential with purpose?

While you can never predict or guarantee virality, there are a few ways brands can encourage it through purpose-driven campaigns:

Communicate your core value, from the inside out

Your editors and producers are as important as the brains behind the brand. Across social media, companies are lucky to hold an audience’s attention for just 16 seconds, so content must immediately communicate a concise, compelling message.

Evian’s “Live Young” campaign is a great example of this — dancing and roller-skating babies in the “Baby and Me” and “The Roller Babies” videos were simultaneously memorable, entertaining and surreal. Importantly, they also reflected the brand’s vision of instilling youthfulness in the hearts and minds of those who drink it.

Own it

It goes without saying that a specific marketing campaign should be integral to the brand and the brand integral to the campaign. Whilst Red Bull does not consider it an advertising campaign, its “Stratos” stunt, which sent Felix Baumbarther into outerspace, was astronomically successful (literally) — more than 9.5 million viewers tuned in to the live-streamed event. Red Bull’s core value is adrenaline and adventure, so they created a campaign that was a perfect fit.

Authentically connect with your audience

Brands depend on audiences for success: They’ll ultimately make your campaign viral or not, so you must connect with them on an poignant level. The Always #LikeAGirl campaign film, demonstrating the feminine hygiene brand’s commitment to empowering girls through puberty, was viewed more than 85 million times. The #LikeAGirl film aimed to transform the phrase ‘like a girl’ from an insult to an empowering expression. The film was highly shareable as it resounded emotionally with women of all ages — transcending country, culture and creed.

Another enormously popular campaign is Royal Philips’ “Philips Everyday Hero”video. The film reflected Philips’ intention to put human beings at the heart of its healthcare strategy, and was viewed over 32 million times. The video — inspired by the true story of window cleaners dressing as super heroes to amuse children in hospital — was hugely successful as it highlighted the importance of human connection and empathy to bring joy to the lives of others.

Then connect your audience with each other

Facilitate bringing people together, allowing or even encouraging consumers to communicate and reach out to each other, creating or reinforcing a feeling of community. Take the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge for example, which raised more than $115 million during an 8-week period. The Ice Bucket Challenge created a sense of community as each participant shared their own video, and in turn nominated friends to continue the challenge, creating shared experiences and reinforcing connections.

Don’t just “touch and go”

Perhaps most important, brands can’t expect to make one video and disappear. While I thoroughly enjoyed them, I wonder where the follow up was after some of the most viral campaigns, such as the Australian public service announcement campaign and Cannes winner “Dumb Ways to Die,” or Volvo’s “The Epic Split” featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Brands benefit when they keep audiences anticipating what’s next — it’s the beauty of campaigns such as the John Lewis annual Christmas ad, and the strategy behind our own #makethefuture campaign.

Help people feel good

Don’t underestimate human nature’s vanity, especially in today’s selfie-obsessed society. People like to feel and look good both off and online, so your audience may be more likely to share if the message makes them feel good too. This connects back to purpose — if a campaign is underscored with meaning, people want to be connected to it and consequently more likely to share.

Walmart’s “Fight Hunger Spark Change” video gained over 12 million views in its first week, reflecting Walmart’s commitment to hunger relief. At the same time, it also gave the sharer a badge of support for the fight against hunger, and the satisfaction that their single demonstration of online support would be translated by Walmart into a pledge to help Feeding America provide ten meals.

Engage on multiple levels

With reducing attention spans, today’s communication needs to grab attention and then maintain engagement. Music plays a strong role in many of the best examples, as does universal story telling. Beyond the first impressions, the activity will deliver value for brands if it merits multiple views and contains elements to debate or decode — a great enduring example being Cadbury’s “Gorilla,” which was just named the public’s favourite add of all time in 2015).

Deeper social engagement beyond simple sharing will also fuel the viral effect. We need to respect the intelligence of our audiences and stimulate conversations. Brands should use a creative wrapper, but don’t need to spoon-feed the message or underestimate the enjoyment of discovery.

Create lasting impact

Our “Best Day of My Life” music video isn’t the end of it. We’ll continue highlighting the stories of Shell’s support across a variety of initiatives to deliver more and cleaner energy for the needs of our growing world population. This activity is not about expressing hollow intentions or beliefs — it’s about action. In my view, it’s important to show that such collaborations can foster change and deliver a positive and lasting impact.

If what we do is driven by purpose, I hope that more people anticipate what comes next —some may even ask how to join in. The more people engage with the cause, the more we can generate change. And that’s a really good reason to keep chasing that viral gold.

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