Five things to back up and consider when your first thought is “I want something to go viral.”

My wife and I have been taking a few road trips with our 16-month-old daughter lately. To help pass the time (and keep my daughter sleeping in the backseat), we’ve been listening to TED Radio Hour podcasts in the car. And I have to say, I’m hooked. Before writing this week’s blog post, I had just finished up watching a TED Talk from Seth Godin on making things go viral. (You can watch his talk here.)

His ideas and thought processes triggered something in my own. I’ve heard many clients over the past 1-2 years discuss how they want to come up with something and “hope it goes viral” within their city, market, customer base, you name it.

Only, the key to a great idea and “hoping that it goes viral” isn’t starting with going viral as a goal, or with that in mind. We all need more loan volume, checking accounts and satisfied customers/members. So, what gives? How do we make it happen on a viral scale?

I’ve cherry picked my top five ways to do this (from Seth’s talk) and converted them into ideas for banks and credit unions. Here we go.

Be Remarkable.

As Mr. Godin points out, being remarkable isn’t about being “neat” or “cool.” It means there’s something about your product/service/idea/goal that is worth making a remark about.

It doesn’t have to be a good remark, either. It just has to have enough panache that causes people to want to stop and remark. The best tie-in I can make is this: there’s an art museum located on the fringes of downtown Minneapolis called the Walker Art Center. About 10-11 years ago, it underwent an expansion and renovation. When it was complete, I visited the museum to check it out. I was not impressed.

In fact, I can remember walking away from the museum and saying “I can’t imagine spending $67 million and ending up with that.”

But that’s not the point. The point is, the museum’s design itself was remarkable. And every time I drive by it, I cannot help thinking about how remarkably ugly it is.

The Point: Your same old, same old checking accounts and promotions won’t cut it anymore. They aren’t remarkable. Companies like Simple are taking away business because they are. Find a point of uniqueness and leverage it.

Which leads us to…

Who Cares?

The days of mass marketing are over. (This should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog on the regular.) But, creating a remarkable idea and having it catch fire is not only about target marketing. It’s about targeting your early adopters and marketing to them exclusively, first.

Think about introducing a new product or service at your bank or credit union. Apple Pay and Samsung Pay come to mind as of late. Now think about how to capture the highest adoption rates for those services in the least amount of time.

If you say “Target Millennials,” I’m coming after you with a pitchfork. Millennials are not always the answer to your early adopter target market challenges. In this example, take a picture of all of the people who consistently and constantly are asking for and readily working through new technology that is being provided at your bank or CU AND on the greater marketplace. Then devise a strategy to get them to adopt something and tell all of their friends about it.

The Point: With new, remarkable ideas, you cannot (should not) go to market with a full-blown strategy first. New ideas take time to percolate and…well…go viral.

Ideas That Spread, Win.

The best ideas are the ones that end up spreading like wildfire on the basis that they are just that remarkable.

Apple and Samsung Pay aren’t going to be adopted and the idea of digital payments isn’t going to spread because you get to pay for something with your phone, or how the backend of the system makes the payment. It will will spread because the service itself is remarkably different from how we have been paying for goods and services over the past ~35 years or so. And, because early adopters are telling their friends how useful, and, yes, cool it is. (Of course, adoption rates on services like Apple and Samsung Pay also rely on a healthy infrastructure, that’s a story for another day.)

The Point: Marketing campaigns don’t always achieve their goals. Think about one of yours that did not. What was the downfall? Likely, the concept, offer, promotion or product itself failed to gain traction in your market. It was scratching an itch that wasn’t there. Learn to find the itch.

Safe is Risky.

I personally love this one, because I’m writing a blog for bank and credit union marketers. Risky marketing is not typically in our behavior patterns. We stick to what we know – advertising a great rate, product features and benefits, etc. – and go from there.

I’m here to blow all of that up and tell you that risky works. Especially in a market (financials) that is bloated with safe creative and marketing concepts, risky stands out. Risky spreads. Risky wins.

The Point: Being safe in an industry among others being safe is the riskiest endeavor ever. Messages get lost in the shuffle. People are more inclined to ignore what you have to say. Go bold or don’t go at all.

Being Good is Bad.

This one, from the get go, almost looks like a typo. I know. But stick with me here.

In an age where our customers and members are craving authentic and meaningful experiences, being the best we can be is also stale and boring. Perfection is all-to manufactured. Your next great, remarkable, viral, idea is not one that is going to be perfect and appeal to the masses. Many people will look at it and say “that’s terrible.” Think about my comments on the Walker Art Museum from above. It’s so bad it’s good. It gets people talking. And talking is a good thing.

The Point: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Don’t test that theory out to the point of drowning yourself in negative publicity, but understand that it’s okay to fail once in awhile, too.

So, what are your thoughts? Are you ready to take your next idea and make it remarkable, to make it go viral?