Is Viral Marketing Dead?
Back in 1998 a movie came out about three kids in the New England woods who all died tragically. It was shot exclusively on handycams and it was a cultural phenomenon. Of course, I’m talking about The Blair Witch Project. This movie was a huge upset in the film industry due to how it was marketed: Fictional documents were made, fictional documentaries were produced, an entire lore was built, and the ONLY place to find this stuff was on the internet, which was finally becoming common in American houses. It’s commonly recognized as one of the first online viral marketing campaigns.
In 2016 a movie came out about six kids getting lost in the New England woods who all died tragically… And no one saw it. The Blair Witch, a pseudo-sequel, pseudo-remake, was critically panned and was – ultimately- a financial flop. The marketing was the same, though: Lots of lore, a fictional kickstarter, a youtube channel, FaceBook and Instagram accounts and enough lore to shake a stick at.
While an almost twenty year jump is no doubt going to change the game of marketing – we are no longer in the mass internet’s infancy – there has been a question wavering: Is viral marketing as we know it dead?
Okay, you’re owed a bit more of an explanation than that.
Viral marketing has gone from immersive marketing, where the effort was to make more or less “worlds” to engage fans, to memetic marketing, which is more sharable and need less explanation on average. For example:
Viral marketing is now the science of memetics. Memes are basically nuggets of information that you can repeat, share, or bond over without any explanation or prior knowledge. While there’s still room for the “rabbit hole” that the Blair Witch (and numerous other films) have attempted in recent years, memetics have taken over and have given us a bit of a “blueprint” to work off of:
- Keep it short
- Keep it memorable
- Keep it simple
- Keep it organic