It’s interesting how something becomes a viral sensation. From the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge which raised more than $115 million to #pantsuitnation a Facebook group of Clinton supporters that mushroomed from one to 3.2 million members in the days before the election, the Internet is an undeniable flashpoint in modern marketing.
While it’s every brand’s dream to ride the million-viewer wave, it’s a luxury few will ever enjoy. Those that crack the code know what makes people want to share their content: emotion. The emotional arc can be anything from laugh out loud hilarity or empowering self-awareness. It’s the secret viral ingredient.
One brand that’s masterful at viral sharing is Budweiser. We’ve all likely shared or watched their heartwarming Clydesdale commercials but two of their commercials stick out in my mind as favorites.
Harry’s Last Call
Budweiser paid homage to the Cubs’ World Series win earlier this month in a heartwarming way. The brand re-ran a decades-old commercial featuring the team’s patron saint Harry Caray. Then, seemingly just hours later, they released another two-minute video of Caray “calling” the final out of Game 7 over footage of Cubs fans in the moments before, during and after the historic win.
The brand’s marketing team came up with the idea 10 days before the game and secured permission from Caray’s estate and from the WGN network, the rights holder of the Cubs audio. After splicing together audio from previous games, the fan footage was captured during Game 7 near Wrigley Field. The commercial was approved at 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning and tweeted by the brand a few hours later.
It’s natural for Budweiser to be a part of huge events like the World Series, but my personal favorite viral sensation from the brand happened late one cold snowy night in Canada in 2012.
Budweiser Canada contacted two rec hockey leagues asking them to participate in a documentary they were filming. During the spot you see the players preparing themselves and their equipment for the game, heading to the rink, donning their gear. And then something surprising begins to unfold.
The brand knows how passionate hockey fans are and that’s what they wanted to show the world in this spot designed to give a Canadian beer league hockey team an extraordinary hockey experience complete with 600 fanatical fans, spotlights, play-by-play announcers and a confetti cannon. The brand also released a great behind the scenes video.
Brands dream of creating viral content that puts their brand in a spotlight but they will fail to catch fire. Their focus is off. It’s not about the brand here; it’s about tipping your hat to the enduring spirit of a Cubs fan or the unglorified recreational league hockey player.
Most brands would never dream of footing the bill to dress a skating rink for a hockey game, and hire hundreds of extras, a production team, two skating mascots, foam fingers, puck hats and who knows what else to set the stage. Even more, to be second fiddle. And, honestly, you don’t need a million-dollar production team to create something meaningful.
Brands need to see beyond themselves and beyond the risks of their ideas. That’s where the glory is.