It slid right by the first time. Just another silly video someone posted on Facebook. Then it popped up again, and again, and again. Each time being posted by people closer and closer to my inner circle. And then I watched it.
See that view count? Over 100 million views of Candace Payne, an everyday woman, being silly-excited about a toy mask. Nothing too out of the ordinary for social media, but this video got lucky and went viral. Payne’s video is now the most watched Facebook Live stream of all time. And that's where things got interesting. People wanted to share her joy. Kohl's online store sold out of the mask within a day.
You can't buy this type of publicity. No Madison Avenue hotshot could have sold the idea of an average person wearing a toy mask and laughing hysterically as a viable ad campaign to any Kohl's executive. Yet here it is. Candace isn't a professional advertiser. She's a passionate customer, and her enthusiasm is authentic.
No amount of advertising can match the power of an authentic message about what your product makes possible.
If she had been paid to do the exact same thing it wouldn't have worked. But her infectious laughter and the obvious joy she gets from a simple toy was magical. It got other people laughing and they wanted that same experience for themselves. Millions of people shared the video and many of them went to Kohl's to buy a mask for themselves. Kohl's couldn't have planned it.
It's About Authenticity, not Marketing
The power of this is in the realization that authentic stories about the value a product or service can bring into the lives of its customers are the single most powerful force in growing adoption of that product or service. That's part of Apple's secret sauce; don't talk about the product, talk about what the product makes possible.
In today's world of better/cheaper/faster marketing messages it's important to remember that people want authenticity. They want to see how things benefit them, how their lives will be enriched by something, even if it's for a brief moment.
Candace Payne is Hasbro's best accidental marketer. A flash in the pan? Sure. Will it work again? Probably not. But we can take lessons from this story when thinking about our own stories and how they're told, if nothing else but to remember that authenticity never gets old.
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