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Schoolyard Fad-vertising: What 5th Graders Can Teach Us About Infectious Brand Awareness

Silly Bandz. Rainbow Loom. Bottle Flipping. Fidget Spinners. What do all of these catchy elementary school fads have in common?  And how can you infect your target demo with this type of happenstantial fandemic?
brand-fandomonium viral-brand-awareness Let’s face it.  Most of these “Made in China” one-hit-wonders have simply been in the right place at the right time, a serendipitous fluke, often prompted by an inexplicably catchy YouTube video, or with countless user-submitted stunt/explainer/demo videos, after-the-fact. By the time we (those of us over the age of 11) are catching on to it, the fad is already waning.  

So, how can brands capture this type of fandemonium at their carefully orchestrated point of launch? Is there a recipe to apply this same “gotta have it” frenzy to your next campaign? Let’s first explore the common traits:

NOVELTY: EXPLOSIVE

Everyone plans for their product or service launch to disrupt the market.  Something “new”, “never before seen”, “inventive”, “innovative”.  But novelty is fickle.  Attention spans are short.  Market disruptions quickly temper themselves. Once everyone has their hands on the “thing”, it loses its perceived value.

PURPOSE: CAPTIVATE

The purpose of your launch should always be to captivate.  Whether that means to entertain, educate, excite or gain advocacy, you need to first capture your audience’s attention and give them a reason to stick around for a while.

INTRICACY: SIMPLE

Big ad agencies task their brightest minds to develop multifaceted, fancy campaigns, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  But let us not overlook the forgotten art of simplicity. It’s often the products or services that can be applied to our lives without a lot of thought or effort that are the most appreciated.  There’s a reason Roombas are awesome.  Why make the concept of vacuuming complex?  

CATALYST: VIDEO

Here’s the magic ingredient: Video.  Launch your product or service campaign with a video component, and apply a Call-to-Action for others to share their experience showing their loyalty to your product or service.  

Think about it: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Harlem Shake, Planking, Mannequin Challenge all became fandemics because of the user-submitted video component.  Some have a worthwhile charity or legitimate brand behind them, and others (ahem, bottle flipping, I’m looking at you…) do not.  So even though it’s hard to pin down anyone lucky spark that will ignite a fadvertising craze, we do know a recipe for success almost always involves a video element preceding a community-building movement.

I still don’t think my son’s fidget spinner is worth $10 bucks, but his 5th-grade enthusiasm about sharing YouTube videos showing off his “super spins” is worth the small price I paid for it.  As a marketer, I can appreciate the value that this infectious schoolyard fad has created.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could apply this same enthusiasm to the value of *your* brand, too?  

So make sure your next product/service launch has the potential for explosive virality by putting a great video and an engaging digital strategy behind it, and then start doing your rain dance for lucky lightning to strike the overall initiative.

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