What ‘viral’ lessons can we take from Kony 2012?

Viral, and more specifically the phrase ‘I want you to make me a viral video’ is something that we have covered before with our 3Rs post: Remarkable content, seeded to the Right people, leads to Results.

The Kony phenomenon comprises certain elements of the 3Rs, but also provides insight into additional mechanics of successful online video, which brands can take value from. These include:

Influence the influencers

Celebrities have been the greatest influencers to jump aboard the Kony express, disseminating links via their Twitter accounts, blogs and other personal media vehicles. The film’s director, Jason Russell, detailed how a list of high profile influencers was identified. The below image was posted on the Invisible Children site, and individuals could tweet prescripted messaging to these celebs to appeal to them to get behind the ‘Stop Kony’ campaign.

These efforts achieved Invisible Children’s desired results for increased awareness and content spread, but it is important for people to ensure that spam-like Twitter mention tactics are avoided during campaigns. The establishment of real, personal relationships between brands and bloggers, social media influencers, and celebrities is recommended, as opposed to automated message bombing that could have converse results.

Production quality

With the immediacy of the internet, and the devices we use to upload our UGC (user generated content), we have become less critical of the quality of the content that we consume. Messaging generally takes precedence over cinematography, but the Kony campaign demonstrates the advantage that a slick production has. Close to 90-million views of a 30 minute, online documentary is unprecedented.


Audience appetite for online video is not just limited to bite size three to five minute packages. If the messaging is powerful enough and the production quality has a strong enough appeal, people will watch content that lasts 30 minutes.

Are brands the filmmakers of the future?

The greatest benefit of the internet is that we have the ability to research information, but similarly, people are inherently lazy. Kony illustrates that we are slacktivists — keen to join a movement by tweeting, Facebooking, or embedding a link into our blogs because we feel we have done a good deed by supporting a needy cause. The concerning element of this campaign is that people were quick to criticise the atrocities of Kony, without substantiated facts and alternate versions to the story that Invisible Children portrayed.

Brands have the ability to produce remarkable content that attracts huge support and spread without question, as well as increase their base of brand champions. Think about Starbucks content. With fan numbers closing in on 30-million, just on Facebook, this is a captive audience of potential content disseminators who all share the belief that the brand is amazing.

Red Bull already produces epic adventure stories of extreme athletes and their quests to exceed their physical limitations. What if Red Bull produced and tracked the sharing of its content and rewarded the influencers who were responsible for the greatest spread with random acts of kindness like product or hamper giveaways? Online video has the ability to encourage fans to become far more entrenched in a brand and for them to feel emotionally connected to the messaging.

There are certainly broadband limitations in emerging markets, but as costs continue to fall, and smartphone adoption increases, video content will continue to be consumed, exponentially and the reason why it is such an important tactical weapon in a brand’s arsenal.



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.