BELIEVE it or not, I still remember a time when the word "viral" used to have a more negative connotation, as in viral hepatitis or viral infection. Those are not the sort of "virals" your social media manager, or any other human being for that matter, would be happy to have.
With the media labelling everything but the kitchen sink “viral”, I thought it was high time to reclaim the word.
That sentiment only lasted until I saw a few of these supposedly viral videos that deserve to be called that – in the traditional sense of the word.
In its latest endeavor to produce an “unbranded” advertisement to woo audiences, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) commissioned I Hate Thailand. Go viral the five-minute video did, chalking up nearly 1.3 million views and over 19,000 likes on YouTube in less than two weeks, but it attracted its fair share of detractors who decried the overly scripted and unrealistic storyline.
To his credit, TAT governor Thawatchai Arunyik had the gumption to at least acknowledge the video was the brainchild of TAT. If unbranding is the way to go, yours truly thinks that NTOs should take a leaf from a French videographer’s film, Never Go to Thailand, on which the latest TAT video seems to be modelled.
TAT’s Singapore counterpart freaked out over the backlash surrounding a promotional video it did in the Philippines – best summed up as female tourist points at things and a positive pregnancy test kit – and took it off the Internet.
In fairness, videos have been used by many a travel brand to showcase the beauty and charm of a particular destination or product. But in this age of instant gratification and short attention spans, a viral campaign is one that will make the brand stick.
How a brand gets there is still questionable but KLM is proving to be pretty adept at oiling the social media machine and tugging the heartstrings.
Its recent video featured an adorable beagle, aptly named Sherlock, matching items misplaced on an airplane to the rightful owners. It doesn’t matter that KLM later said that no pups were hired in its new lost-and-found service, as the airline already has the world lapping up its canine private eye.
And not forgetting Air New Zealand’s epic flight safety video depicting characters from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit stories, branding itself as the “official airline of Middle-earth”.
Savvy marketing, in this age, remains an elusive art.