Virality and The Power of 666? Uhm no….

Image courtesy of Facebook Analytics
Image courtesy of Facebook Analytics

Virality is a term often bandied about in marketing.  It means that you come up with a phrase, an asset, a meme that becomes so popular, people spread it amongst their peers which organically increases your marketing reach.  And the reality is that it’s like trying to catch lightning in a bottle.  Whether your talking about a Gangnam style video or the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, coming up with a viral idea is tough sledding for most marketers.  

Over 2 billion views as of March 2015
Over 2 billion views as of March 2015

But every now and then you do catch a little bit of lightning in your every day dealings.  I remember a meeting last year with my Product Director, Ben.  We had just added six months of practice labs, mentoring and class recordings to our Microsoft training as a key differentiator.  In our preparation to announce this big news to the outbound sales team, we were brain-storming ideas and a tagline to go out with.   We had to go with verbiage that would capture this key point quickly but Microsoft Training with the three sixes or 666 was definitely NOT going to work.  After bouncing around ideas for 30 minutes, I left Ben’s office scratching my head and started drafting the sales announcement.  

Luckily, necessity is the mother of invention and sometimes a bit of creativity.  Reaching back to some Microsoft webinars I had run recently, they were titled Unleash the Power of Microsoft SQL Server and Unlock the Power of Microsoft SQL Server.  Hey…  what if we just used the Power of Six?  The power representing these value-add customer features and those features powering the sales calls for our reps.  So out goes the sales announcement featuring “Microsoft’s Power of Six”  And definitely not the Power of 666!  

Sales training was done later that week by the Product Management team which loved the tagline and used it in their presentations.  Before long, our Microsoft training sales reps started asking me for more details about the Power of Six so I generated an internal sales cheat sheet.  And then to complete the story, we used the phrase “Power of Six” in future Microsoft training newsletters and emails reinforcing the tagline externally as well as internally. 

As with any marketing message, repetition is key.  I made sure to repeat it in a variety of outbound emails, landing page copy and social media to sink the message in.  And as effective as the “Power of Six” theme was, the main goal was to use it as a memory tool so customers would clearly understand the value-add and differentiators of our training exclusives.  After 3 – 6 months of use, I would have been happy to move to a new catch-phrase as our product evolved.  

The reality is that virality is unpredictable and very difficult to create and generate.  But you have to be cognizant about how your audience is responding to your message.  Based upon the internal response from our sales reps, I used their interest and take-up as a proxy for our external customer base.  But like anything, writing interesting, tight marketing copy is a skill.  And no different than getting to Carnegie Hall, it’s all about practice, practice, practice.  And keeping your ears open to your audience…  

Ron Wen


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