I am often contacted by wide-eyed inventors who want to know how my product, Woof Washer 360 (www.woofwasher360.com), went viral and what tips/strategies I could offer to get their product to do so also.
First; a bit of background:
Webster Dictionary defines viral as: : quickly and widely spread or popularized especially by means of social media
• a viral video
I’ll never forget the day my Woof Washer video went viral. I must have refreshed the Facebook post no less than a hundred times that day. Each time I did so, the video views literally went up tens of thousands of views. I was floored with excitement.
On June 25th, 2015, Stephen wrote on Facebook “Whoa! InventRight student Ryan's product idea has absolutely exploded on social media! If I'm reading Facebook correctly, it's been viewed more than 25 million times already....”
We didn’t know that this would be just the beginning of what would later be called the “Viral Hit of The Year” and become a video which is now approaching 70 million views and over 1.1 million shares from Woof Washers official page alone. It has been viewed and shared tens of millions additional times on other Facebook/YouTube pages/posts.
This extreme interest quickly got Woof Washer product spots on just about every major media outlet you could imagine including, but not limited to, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Rachel Ray, Jimmy Kimmel, Live With Kelly, Innovation Nation, HSN, Animal Planet, Buzz Feed, Trya Banks Show, Nissan Motor Corps, major news outlet, etc etc.
This however is where the story gets lost a bit in translation. See, what people seem to forget is that my video was not simply a video that I recorded with my cell phone in my backyard. That was not a prototype in the video. No, I had already licensed the product to a small company called R&H Direct. The video that went viral was a professionally produced commercial by Direct Response Commercial Production Company giant, Concepts TV (conceptstv.com). The product in the video was not just a prototype, it was the final manufactured product. We had a script, human actors, animal actors, multiple sets, a director, stage lights, HD cameras, that famous pitch man voice we all know, and everything else a production company uses to produce a commercial. This cost my licensee tens of thousands of dollars.
Shortly after, my licensee hired a marketing agency to create a Facebook page for the product. As they were creating the page, they took a small soundless snippet of the commercial, and put it on the page as a “place holder” while they continued to build and flesh out the profile. It was never meant to be seen. That’s right..it was never meant to be seen.
Shortly after, all of the major DR companies who had previously turned me down were now reaching out to me with heavy interest. It was a complete role reversal. The companies I was pitching were now suddenly pitching me. Ultimately I sub-licensed the product to industry giant, Telebrands. (We can talk about the pros/cons of a sublicense in a future post).
So you may be saying to yourself, “This all sounds great why wouldn’t I want this?”
The commercial was already airing on National TV while the viral video was simultaneously playing. Unfortunately, and as Andrew mentioned in last weeks webinar, the demand was so extreme that we simply didn’t have enough product to ship. As you likely know, lead times from China can be very long. Typically product would come in from China on a ship and take around a month to arrive. In an effort to meet just a small portion of the demand, my licensee had to have product brought in by air freight. Ouch, a costs they didn’t see coming.
Several months of negotiations took place before the sub-license was finalized. Telebrands decided to film a new commercial, this time with the new improved version. The ideas is that we would drum up the same amount of buzz before blitzing the brick and mortar retail shelves with inventory. An additional commercial was filmed, this time with the new and improved foldable version. The commercial had the same actors, same clothes, same sets, same dogs! Basically we tried to re-create the same commercial, simply using the new and improved product. Though this time, the commercial didn’t get nearly the views the original did. It still did very well, but a far cry from the original results. Even the professionals couldn’t establish virality a second time! We had shipped to every major brick and mortar store including Bed Bath and Beyond, Walmart, Target, etc. We tried to generate the buzz to the same heights again, but it just didn’t take to the same level.
Now suppose you put a product on Facebook and it did in-fact go viral. Do you have product ready to ship? Do you have deep pockets behind the scenes pushing the product? If you are following the inventRight plan you are likely licensing, which means you will not have ready to ship product yet. It is important to remember that at the time the video went viral, we did have product. An equally, if not larger problem, is that companies who are very quick to market with massive production capabilities are likely to get to market many ..many .. many months sooner than you could ever dream of. Here you have generated all of this ‘buzz’ and you don’t even have a deal yet! This could become a very big problem.
The lesson learned was very clear to me. Nobody can predict a viral video. If there was a magic formula, everybody would be doing it. Heck, even Concepts couldn’t do it twice.
A unique product and the addition of adorable dogs was a big plus, but outside of those two factors, there isn’t a single person on our team that could identify that incredible success.
If you are fortunate enough to hit at an level of virility, strike while the iron is hot and be ready to ship product. If you can not handle the influx of orders, going viral could almost certainly get your product knocked off before you have the chance to see your pride and passion in the hands of eager consumers. You have just proven there is a demand! Traditionally, many months and many marketing dollars are invested to answer this question. You have just taken away all the risk for the scrupulous companies looking for the “Next big thing.” Just ask the inventors of the Fidget Spinner and countless other viral product’s inventors what public disclosure online did to their product. Some great stories. Many not so great.
Going viral was a game changer for me, however my product was already on the market and was in conjunction with national television spots. 800 numbers were taking and shipping orders with major distribution channels. This was a mass market product that happened to have the benefit of a viral video behind it.
In closing; it was never the intent for the Woof Washer commercial to go viral. It was never even a thought. For your product demo, focus on being yourself, organically share your vision, show your benefits with the utmost clarity and most importantly, be incredibly innovative! Thousands of videos are uploaded to the internet everyday. Which of those go viral is anybody’s guess. Do I have any advice on how to make your video go viral? Yes, stop trying so hard!