by Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) I have yet to have a meeting in 2018 which has not involved someone saying, “We need this to go viral.”

Marketing terminology is an important source of humour in any marketing meeting. From old favourites like “deep dive” and “game changer” to the much-loved “low hanging fruit” and “leverage”, they are used widely by marketing professionals everywhere to show that they, too, understand the secret language that is marketing-speak. It’s often not clear where they come from and why they have stuck. This is especially apparent for the most-used word as we enter the era of online content obsession.

Brand salvation

A virus, whether multiplying in your body or in your computer, has never been a good thing so it does seem strange that brand salvation seems to becoming more and more dependent on something as negative at this. On the flipside, a virus is ruthless and effective and multiplies at will.

It’s this behaviour which gets marketers salivating as they consider their plans for the year and start looking for that one piece of content which is going to make their brands (and themselves) famous. What’s become clear, though, is that very few pieces take off without some kind of paid-media seeding (another great marketing term) to boost it initially and get it in front of the right market.

This wasn’t always the case but, as social media platforms have made it harder to infiltrate news feeds, it’s become a necessity.

Content ingredients

But what of the ingredients of the content itself?

I was struck again at the end of last year by how good the original masters of this form of communication are. Red Bull released a 60-second clip which showed two skydivers successfully entering the open door of a moving plane. It was riveting viewing that kept interest right until the end and there was no doubt that it was a Red Bull piece that, of course, spoke to the brand’s high energy positioning. Ever since Felix Baumgartner made his historic jump in 2012, Red Bull has realised that content, where there is the immediate urge to share, is going to be the future.

So, entertainment that puts the consumer experience first, but with clear brand positioning takeout, is one key element.

Relevant to now

The other is content that is relevant to now. People want to feel as if they’re on top of what’s happening in the world. Putting a piece of content in their hands that refers to something topical that’s just happened is gold and the chances of sharing very high.

A great example last year was Airbnb’s #weaccept campaign, which came straight after one of Trump’s ant-immigration utterances. The short piece, which highlighted how “the world is more beautiful the more we accept”, was highly topical and, like Red Bull, spoke to the brand’s positioning and offering.


It’s simple, really — provide riveting entertainment and be highly relevant, and a brand’s piece of content should spread as quick as any virus. No marketing buzzwords will be needed to describe this. Just a simple “it worked”.


Martin MacGregorMartin MacGregor (@MartMacG) is managing director of Connect, an M&C Saatchi Company, with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Martin has spent 18 years in the industry, and has previously worked at Ogilvy and was MD of MEC Nota Bene in Cape Town. He contributes the monthly “Media Redefined” column, in which he challenges norms in the media space, to

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