Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Viral Video, Propagation & The Role Of Agile Marketing

I wrote a post a in 2007 that has been getting more and more traffic in the past six months. Agile Marketing. Basic Premise - the speed of change and networked ecosystem has demanded that we change the way we market.

And you know, it's really bugging me because social media type people keep using the ecosystem word, but sometimes I wonder if they really get what that means.

We aren't just sitting here creating stuff in a box.

It's interactions (not conversations).
It's a system we are part of (not one we create or control).
It can't be predicted (the only means of prediction is simulation).

Gareth Kay has a most awesome post (that everyone should read right now) on a new study by Millward Brown on how less than 15% of TD ads are 'viral hits'. Gareth takes issue with the entire premise behind the study and how they have even defined viral (for the best bits make sure you read the comments where Millward responds and then so too does Gareth).

But it's not really their fault. All that they've really done is taken how traditional agencies and companies have defined viral. And should we be surprised? Most of them have used traditional media measurement models and applied them to online video.

How many people have seen my video (aka TV commercial that I put online)?
How many people have shared my video (aka turned it into free media)?

Humph. So much for the medium is the message. So much for who we are reaching vs. how many.

The truth is that if we continue to apply traditional advertising models onto mediums that have completely different dynamics we will continue to be disappointed with the results.

It means Agencies have to change but it means clients have to as well.

In the comments Gareth talks about some emerging research by Mark Earls and frankly an entire school of thought that is looking to changing behviour through action (and active media) vs. persuasion via watching (passive media).

Because if it is "less what we do and more about what people do to what we do" - shouldn't we be putting our Agile marketing beliefs to the test?

Peter had a great quote that he first used in a Tao of Internet marketing presentation in 1998 for magazines Canada (too bad we didn't have slideshare back then):

Emergent systems are those in which perfect knowledge and understanding may give us no predictive information.... the optimal means of prediction is simulation.

A big fancy way to say:

We cannot create viral videos.

We cannot predict what will propagate (why or even how).

We cannot create community.

We cannot apply mass marketing thinking and models to a networked medium.

What we can do is discover a pattern, observe the underlying dynamics, create something (a utility, a story) and put it out there - see what happens and repeat.

And until we do that, the only thing we will continue to repeat is our own mistakes.

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