The Simple Secret to Virile Viral Marketing: SQUIRM

February 22, 2008

It’s interesting to hear marketers refer to a clip uploaded to YouTube as their ‘viral video.’ Hey, you don’t tell the marketplace whether something’s viral. The marketplace tells you.

Computer manufacturers release funny promotional videos*, but with 1500 views the CDC isn’t donning hazmat suits. Meanwhile, the same company’s tech support calls gone awry get 10x the views on YouTube in a short time. Uncomfortable.

A colleague penned a humorous email recently. His idea: what if we replaced corporate lingo for ‘big wins’ and ‘step-function improvement’ with ‘kick-ass’ and ‘blowin’ s**t UP!’ We laughed about it, and he edited a real memo detailing a technical team’s recent progress into this style. I made a mistake in forwarding that, and now it’s going viral through that technical team. That made me uncomfortable. It made me SQUIRM. Which is the simple secret to virile viral marketing.

The goal of viral marketing is to motivate individuals to pass something on – a video, an email, whatever – against their better judgement. SQUIRM means “Something Quite Uncomfortable Is Really Motivating.” Use it as a test for anything you want to go viral. In the first viral video I ever saw, a cat got caught on a ceiling fan and spun around. The camera panned out and you saw that they were filming this on a Nokia phone. I’m SURE there was discussion about the SPCA, about possible backlash, about “this is just a little too far.” Marketers at Nokia were uncomfortable about sending this out. They squirmed. But they got past it. If they hadn’t, I’d never have seen it.

If you don’t squirm a little, it’s probably cute. Cute’s nice. Cute’s not viral. Viral doesn’t have to be offensive, as the Blendtec videos show. But when they came up with that idea, somebody squirmed. Somebody said “We want to be known for high-quality kitchen equipment, not for an iPhone in a freakin’ blender.” They got past it.

Squirm. Get past it. Go viral. I wanted to change ‘virile’ in the headline to the blander ‘successful’ to make sure all are included and none are offended. I didn’t.

*For the record, Dell guys, the video you had to pull – the one where the Mac guy has the lotion in his man bag – was MUCH funnier. As an old Dell guy, I’d love a copy (hint). Stevie J’s lawyers, lighten up!

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2 Responses to “The Simple Secret to Virile Viral Marketing: SQUIRM”

  1. Aman Says:

    I envy you people, this thing in not for sale (yet) in my part of world 😦

  2. rsomers Says:

    Aman, what’s not for sale in your part of the world? The iPhone? The blender? I smell an untapped market…


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