Learning from The Fly: Leveraging a Viral Moment

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After last Tuesday’s vice presidential debate, there was one only topic that spawned countless tweets, memes and even merchandise. It wasn’t foreign policy, taxes or climate change. It was the fly.

A black fly landed on Vice President Mike Pence’s head and stayed for more than two minutes, capturing the nation’s attention. The fly received more mentions on Twitter than Pence or vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris, according to a study by researchers at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.-

Immediately, Joe Biden’s campaign team sprung into action, selling Biden branded fly swatters that included a play on the campaign slogan “Truth Over Lies” with “Truth Over Flies.” Within 24 hours, the campaign had sold out of 35,000 fly swatters. The campaign’s reaction is an ideal case study in leveraging a viral moment to bring attention to larger cause. Below we’ve pulled together the three lessons brands can learn from how the Biden campaign capitalized on this moment.

  1. Act Quick

In order to leverage a viral moment, you must act quickly. Viral moments burn bright and fast and then they’re gone. Part of the Biden campaign’s success came from posting the fly swatters for sale just one hour after the fly landed on Mike Pence’s head. The Biden fly swatters would not have had the same impact, if they were announced a week after the debate. In one week, the news cycle moves on and the story is no longer relevant. To capitalize on a viral moment and capture attention, brand responses need to be fast, often within the same new cycle as the initial viral incident.

  1. The Message – more than humor

While the Biden campaign fly swatters may bring a smile to your face, there is a deeper message connected to the product, with a nod to “Truth Over Lies.” Zach McNamara, merchandise director for the Biden campaign, explains to Mashable, “The goal is to strike the perfect balance between stressing the political gravity of this election and providing some much-needed comedic relief.” This connection back to the overall message is important for brands when seeking to capitalize on a viral moment. A funny brand response to a viral moment will get attention in the immediate term, but a larger message that connects back to the brand is what gives a moment staying power. It’s important to think about how a lighthearted viral moment can be used to re-enforce messaging.

  1. Beyond the Moment

The Biden branded fly swatters drew countless people to the campaign store website, regardless of whether or not people purchased them. Once consumers are on your website, you want to keep them there. For the Biden team, this was done through suggesting other similar merchandise and a large link to Joe Biden’s campaign page, which outlines his policies and encourages donations. For brands, if a viral moment has brought users to your website, you want keep them on your website, learning more about you and exploring your other products. Be sure your website is optimized and includes language that resonates. A website should invite readers to stay and become fans of a brand.

If leveraged properly, a viral moments can bring a wave of attention to a brand, just as it did for the Joe Biden campaign. In order to capitalize for your brand be sure you are ready to act quickly, keep your message front and center and have a strong digital presence. Keep an eye out for the next “debate fly” that fits with your brand and you’ll be buzzing with success.

Don’t forget to vote!