Kony 2012: The Marketing Lessons

Just three days after its release, more than 70m people had viewed or seen parts of the Kony 2012 video, so what does this new breed of activism mean for brands, asks Nicola Clark.

Can a viral video change the world? The charity Invisible Children clearly believes so.

At the time of writing, its half-hour video on Joseph Kony has notched up more than 76m views on YouTube and propelled the atrocities perpetuated by the Ugandan warlord onto the international news agenda, and to the pinnacle of Twitter's trending topics worldwide.

Of course, translating these views and tweets into a tangible change in the real world can't be achieved simply by sharing YouTube videos.

However, before retreating to the well-worn path of criticising 'slactivism' and consumers who attempt to ease their conscience through a tweet while doing nothing about the issue, it is worth recognising the phenomenal impact Kony 2012 has had in a matter of days.

Putting the inevitable backlash that has accompanied its huge ascent to one side, there is no denying that this is the fastest-spreading viral video in history.

Of course, gaining the impact of Kony 2012 is not within the reach of any given brand or cause, and the emotional pull and moral outrage the campaign has elicited is in many ways unique. However, the success of the campaign underlines the phenomenal power of social networks.

According to YouTube, 60 hours of clips are uploaded every minute. Attention is perhaps the scarcest commodity in the social-media world, so while viral marketing is the future, it is not an easy win for brands. At the heart of the Kony viral phenomenon is not a complex algorithm, but the simple art of storytelling and the enduring power of emotionally compelling content.

In the words of director and narrator Jason Russell: 'Humanity's greatest desire is to belong and connect, and now we see each other, we hear each other, we share what we love and it reminds us what we all have in common. This connection is changing the world'.

THE UPSHOT

What marketers need to know about the power of viral video marketing

Adapting to a hyper-networked world

Viral videos have irrevocably changed the face of marketing. In a hyper-networked environment where individual consumers have become media channels in their own right, brands can be built up and knocked down in a matter of minutes. Real-time marketing has become more than just a buzz phrase; it is changing the way smart brands do business.

Beware the backlash

While it would be almost impossible to predict the phenomenal rise of the Kony 2012 video, the scope and scale of the backlash is somewhat inevitable. Fearful brands may rely on disabling comments on YouTube, but recognising and expecting the dark side of social content is essential for success. Addressing comments openly and preparing for negative PR is essential.

Don't underestimate your audience

Digital experts have long argued that two minutes is the optimum viral-video viewing time for consumers. Similarly, online publishers have long viewed 'the fold' as the threshold few consumers will cross. The half-hour Kony 2012 video exposes the flaws in these assumptions.

Nicola Clark is head of features at Marketing you can follow her on Twitter @nickykc

Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

Oasis #springasmile digital campaign gets people doing good deeds
Coca-Cola: 'Don't approach bloggers with a fait accompli'
Tesco CMO Matt Atkinson: 'It is so important not to stereotype mothers'
McDonald's gives Ronald a new look ahead of global 'Fun times' social media push
In pictures: BrewDog opens first craft beer shop BottleDog for 'beer aficionados'
Facebook ad revenue leaps $1bn as it invests in targeting
Malteser or Maltesers? Mars takes Hershey trademark dispute to court
Apple Q2 profits top $10bn as iPhone sales soar
Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers