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10 Ways to Make Marketing Go Viral

10/02/2015 05:04 EDT | Updated 10/02/2016 05:12 EDT
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Drive Thru sign for fast food painted on asphalt

With the weather getting cooler in the fall and NHL season starting back up on October 7, many Canadians thoughts turn to hockey. And no brand has aligned themselves better with this Canadian passion than Tim Hortons.

This week, Tim Hortons uploaded a series of commercials to YouTube featuring Nova Scotia hometown boys Sidney Crosby and Nate MacKinnon serving up coffee at the Dartmouth Tim Hortons drive-thru -- the stunt was called "Sid and Nate: Drive Thru Rookies."

The pair bumble their way through orders, charm surprised patrons and pepper their speech with just enough "sorry's" to make something already pretty Canadian even more so. It's a series of 30-second spots destined to be broadcast more widely, but not before the chain ensures they garner lots of word of mouth plus a good dose of media tossed in. If you haven't seen the spots, have a look at the YouTube link here

The original stunt was conducted and filmed back in July. It elicited numerous tweets, Instagram posts and Facebook statuses at the time, and even garnered TV coverage. But the right time to leverage even more word of mouth, mouse and mobile -- not to mention media attention -- is right now, just as hockey season begins and the accompanying ritual of grabbing Tims ramps up.

This campaign subscribes to many of the 10 top reasons things go viral, methods you too can use to spread your business' message.

1. Strong visuals Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts with visuals helped fuel the initial word of mouth, mouse and mobile plus media. But it was arguably the YouTube video that injected the latest round of coverage. All these media had strong visual components. So did the TV and newspapers that got on board. And let's face it: Crosby and MacKinnon are not hard to look at. Plus they're hockey heroes. Any picture with them would garner interest.

2. Use of a #hashtag Often things that go viral have a #hashtag. The original posts from Tim Hortons did not use one, but it appears the social media community adopted #DriveThruRookies. Hashtags help channel content so that people who hear about it through media or word of mouth can quickly tune into the conversation.

3. Timing While the timeliness of a topic affects word of mouth, the media is absolutely governed by it. Media looks for stories that play out well for when their audience will care. Canadians care about hockey at the end of September more than in the summer. That's why uploading the videos now made sense.

4. It got the attention of powerful social media usersTim Hortons has over 350,000 followers on Twitter, over 120,000 followers on Instagram and over 2.7 million likes on Facebook. There are about 10,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel. Simply by promoting it through their social channels, they received immediate exposure. Add to that some well-known sports and media folks in those databases, and the exposure became exponential.

5. Media monitor online for stories Online, print and broadcast media alike monitor online for stories to cover. Twitter is heavily used by reporters to find breaking news. Because they are in the business of gaining readers, listeners, viewers, or followers, they need to know when something is "hot." Twitter is their tool to find stories and detect if they are growing. Online trends feed traditional media, and broadcasts by traditional media such as print, TV, or radio in turn feeds online trends again. It becomes a vicious cycle of momentum-building.

6. Discredit authority or poke fun at a hero It's fun to watch two guys who are stars at playing hockey mess up the simplest of orders. The heroes are made humble, which makes them more personable.

7. The use of humour Of course, the spots are heavily edited, but that was done to make them fun and entertaining. The repetitive "sorry's" left me chuckling.

8. Media craves the unusual or unexpected Driving up to a Tim Hortons drive-thru is pretty common for most Canadians, but being served by your hockey hero is not. In the face of terror threats and faltering economies, lighter news sells. This one delivered surprise and delight. We lapped it up.

9. The use of celebrity Not only did the spots feature celebrities, they tapped their social media circles, which had extensive reach.

10. The power of storytelling It's human nature to love a story. This one had classic story composition: a hero or villain, a tragedy or challenge, a climax and resolution. The people entering the drive through were characters that helped flush out rich details through their reactions and responses. They became heroes along with the hockey stars. It's a story that will continue to unfold, as the people who were filmed continue to tell their story of the encounter.

Ultimately it was a very Canadian feel-good story, and a great match for the Tim Hortons brand in Canada. It followed the 10-point formula for generating more word of mouth, mouse and mobile plus media, which ultimately resulted in viral success.

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