The most desired outcome of any marketing campaign is to “go viral”.

Going viral is cheap but risky. While the term has recently become quite common and widely used, the concept is not new. Basically, going viral means that a person(s), company or organisation produces something that is so interesting and catchy that it sticks in somebody’s mind and they go on and share through word-of-mouth with their friends, colleagues and contacts, thus going viral!

Advertising and marketing companies have been at it for decades, anyone remember the silly Smash (instant mashed potato) adverts? The ghastly “Whassup” adverts from the late 90s? Once seen never forgotten!

Whether you like the delivery is not the point, it’s whether you remember the message and associate it with the brand and (most importantly) find it compelling enough to pass on to others, thus spreading the word about your brand or product.

The success of youtube is almost entirely dependent on viral communication, where people spot interesting, funny, horrifying or any other way memorable videos and send them around their friends and contacts using email or social media networks.

There are four ingredients to success:

  1. Get the message and medium right: Your message will only be passed on if it is saying something worth hearing and says it in a way that is somehow surprising or out of the ordinary and connects or relates to your target audience.
  2. Early adopters: Find a community of people who will be interested and passionate about your campaign. They will take it on board and be willing to pass on to others, they are usually among the first to get exposed to the message and who transmit it to their immediate social network, where they will connect with ‘messengers’.
  3. Messengers:These are people with an exceptionally large number of social connections and can amplify your message to hundreds of contacts. But they will only do so if you have something interesting to say and an interesting ay of saying it.
  4. Originality and Timing: Be the first to do whatever you are doing. Do not think that because somebody else has communicated successfully in one way, that you can guarantee success by copying them, you can’t! You will only go viral if what you are doing is both original and gets out first.

So how is higher education doing? Hmmm, not great I’d say. HE is a very conservative sector that is deeply sceptical of anything new or different. But there are some good examples. The most recent of which I have found is this video produced for the Central Institute of Technology in Australia.

It is very unconventional. You may or may not like the style, but there is some good information in there about the Institute and it is clearly doing its job, it has been viewed almost 2 million times is just 3 weeks!


2 responses »

  1. Paul says:

    “Unconventional” is a bit of an understatement! I would be surprised if anyone tried this approach in the UK, but you never know. And it’s all very well being talked about but will it make a positive difference to the institution?

  2. derfelowen says:

    Agree. I should have added that one of the reasons UK HE is not great at this is because it doesn’t need to be. Three reasons why:
    – Demand exceeds supply;
    – excellent global reputation and;
    – the value of HE (though often challenged) is widely accepted.

    If the HE sector changes shape (private provision, compressed degrees, bitesize learning, transnational competition) we might start to see more risk-taking.

    Time will tell if this particular example works. I would have thought that this example appeals to a lot of people who do not think HE is for them. Whether it persuades them to make the leap is another matter.

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