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Not all PR is Good PR: What to Consider Before Your Brand Goes Viral. 


In the digital age, a brand's popularity can ignite overnight, fueled by social media's vast reach. This phenomenon, known as "brand heat," illustrates how companies can rapidly ascend to market dominance. And, while going viral can help generate awareness and sales, there's a fine line between being hot and getting burned. 


Before your brand goes viral, there are some important considerations to keep in mind to ensure that the buzz generated serves your long-term goals and resonates positively with your audience.


1. Do Your Research.


Truly understanding your customer base is crucial. Who are they? What values, interests, and needs do they have? Conduct thorough research to gain insights into your target audience's demographics, preferences, and behaviors. This knowledge will guide your content strategy and increase the likelihood of resonating with your audience.


A prime example of the importance of understanding your audience is the Stanley Cup brand. Their niche focus on the mom community led to viral success and the resurgence of a 100-year-old brand. However, overlooking key drivers, like the importance of sustainability to this demographic, proved costly. Once it was discovered that their product may contain lead, the brand faced significant backlash and loss of trust among their core consumers.


2. Build a Strong Foundation


Ensure that your brand has a solid foundation built on clear values, messaging, and identity. Stay true to your brand's essence and maintain consistency across all communication channels. This ensures that when your content does go viral, it aligns with your brand's image and resonates authentically with your audience.


A cautionary tale in this regard is Audi's misstep with an ad campaign that garnered attention but veered off-brand. Despite attracting eyeballs, the campaign faced backlash from their audience, who felt that the tone and visuals, which did not include any images of cars, were not in line with Audi's identity. This serves as a reminder of the importance of staying true to your brand's values and voice, even in pursuit of virality.


3. Consider Long-Term Impact.


Brands need to carefully consider the potential long-term impact of their viral content. While immediate attention and buzz can be beneficial, it's essential to evaluate how the viral moment aligns with the brand's long-term goals and reputation.


Consider Pepsi's 2017 advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner. The ad depicted Jenner joining a protest and defusing tension with police by offering a can of Pepsi, seemingly trivializing serious social and political issues. The ad faced swift backlash for its tone-deaf portrayal of activism and Pepsi eventually pulled the ad and issued an apology. Unfortunately, the incident had a lasting impact on the brand's reputation.


While the allure of viral fame may be tempting, brands must approach it with caution and foresight. By understanding their audience, building a strong foundation, and considering the long-term implications, brands can navigate the complexities of viral content and harness its power for positive, sustainable growth.



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