As agency professionals we’ve all heard the dreaded words.
Create something viral.
Cue the proverbial “face palm:” head drop to the chest, closing of eyes, slow intake of breath, and then a lengthy exercise in educating the client on what making something “viral”’ actually means – and requires.
Forget whether the logic behind the strategy is right in the first place.
And yet, in many instances, virality can be an achievable and intentional goal. The caveat is the ability of the client – and all those involved in supporting that client – to do something, well, extraordinary.
The operative word.
Defined by Merriam Webster as “going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary” or “exceptional to a very marked extent.”
It’s while exploring how to make something extraordinary that most organizations realize that a strategy of intentional virality may not work for them.
It’s too risky – to me personally or to my organization.
It’s too expensive (although not always).
It’s too challenging to justify.
It can’t be controlled.
There’s no guarantee of success.
For others, extraordinary is essential to what they do.
The art of the extraordinary demands the ability of marketers to set aside each of these obstacles and explore what extraordinary means – both in the context of the issue or brand and through the lens of what drives an individual to share or engage with one piece of content over another.
It demands that marketers move beyond what we would typically define as our comfort zone – the usual, regular, or customary – and to embrace the unconventional, the bold, and the provocative.
Virality is not about being funny. It’s about being extraordinarily funny (and responsive). Case in point: Old Spice’s “The man your man could smell like” campaign (link).
Virality is not about being engaging. It’s about being extraordinarily engaging. Case in point: The ALS ice bucket challenge (link).
It’s not about being daring. It’s about being Extraordinarily daring or “awe-inspiring.” Case in point: Volvo Trucks’ Epic splits (link).
It’s not about being emotive. It’s about being Extraordinarily emotive: Case in point: Dove’s “Real beauty sketches” campaign (link).
And It’s not about being different and unconventional. It’s about being Extraordinarily different. Case in point: Melbourne Trains’ “Dumb ways to die” (link).
In each case, and by being extraordinary in their own way, these brands and campaigns were able to break through the content onslaught that defines the smartphone age and firmly grasp the attention of audiences.
But what are the ingredients of extraordinary?
Extraordinary takes bravery. A desire to be provocative and a willingness to challenge convention. It takes unwavering confidence – fueled by deep insight into the audience being targeted and the cultural context in which the brand operates. It requires an appetite for measured risk (and a mindset that if something goes wrong, it can be managed).
And, it goes without saying, it takes an exceptional concept and flawless execution.
During the 2018 FIFA World Cup, H+K was tasked to create something extraordinary.
To help adidas achieve its goal to become the most talked about brand in the build-up to the competition, H+K was challenged to take football into a broader cultural space.
With just over a week until the World Cup began, adidas set the internet on fire by publishing an iconic portrait which immortalized their lead player Leo Messi as the Greatest Of All Time – the GOAT.
What made this image extraordinary? It paired Messi the player – and an individual known for being intensely private – with a real goat. Contrasting Messi’s serious pose with the irreverence of appearing alongside a real goat, the image was simple yet immediate, unforgettable and – because the team behind the campaign knew that not every fan would agree with the image or the statement it was making – explosive.
The reaction from adidas’ target audience across social media was predictably intense. Emotions from Ronaldo fans ranged from shock to disbelief, whilst Messi supporters showed hysteria and adoration – all driving brand heat for adidas at the launch of their latest football boot.
The iconic image wasn’t lost on the wider world either as the story filtered through football media and beyond. And as the World Cup played out so, too, did the debate.
The approach was underpinned by the belief that a brand must do more than just sell product: they must have opinions on their consumers’ world. Backing Messi with a provocative, public declaration represented one of adidas’ boldest moves ever.
The reward for being extraordinary? Not only did adidas dominate social conversations at the World Cup, but Ronaldo’s goal celebration became an unmistakable impression of a goat and he even started sporting a goatee during Portugal’s second group match.
Brave. Provocative. Confident.
The result: extraordinary.
Is it possible to deliver extraordinary for every client and campaign? Probably not. But extraordinary is what we should all aspire to.
Going beyond what is usual, regular or customary. Going beyond good enough.
As the ruthless music conductor Fletcher explains to his student in the 2014 film Whiplash:
“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job.’”