I’d be willing to bet that 99% of people who have watched more than 1 minute of World Cup coverage on TV has asked a question similar to this:

“What the heck is that noise?”

Inevitably people find the answer. Either they call their buddy to find out if their TV is also making a strange humming noise that sounds like 1 million bumble bees or they head to the search engines and Twitter and figure out it’s the sound of tens of thousands of crazed soccer fans all playing the vuvuzela all at once – non stop for a 90-minute soccer game.

The obligatory follow-up question everyone asks:

“What the heck is a vuvuzela?”

Here’s the wikipedia definition:

The vuvuzela (English pronunciation: /vuːvuːˈzeɪlə/) , sometimes called a “lepatata” (its Setswana name) or a stadium horn, is a blowing horn approximately 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in length. It is commonly blown by fans at football matches in South Africa. The instrument requires some lip and lung strength to blow and emits a loud monotone.


So what does all of this have to do with Internet Marketing?

For me, this phenomenon is the latest example of why it’s so difficult to plan on building a viral marketing campaign. Don’t doubt this is a phenomenon, by the way. Here’s the ultimate proof: vuvuzela apps are flooding the iphone and android marketplaces. One app, Vuvuzela 2010, claims over 750,000 downloads. Remember, the World Cup is in it’s fourth day!

More than once recently I’ve been asked by companies to help them produce a viral marketing campaign or a viral video.

Here’s what I always tell people: while it’s not impossible to create that next great ‘thing’, the odds are overwhelmingly against that from happening and it might as well be impossible. Why? Because look at what becomes viral – a video of a young couple dancing down the aisle while they get married.There are far more effective ways to look for ROI in marketing.

Want more proof that viral is unpredictable? The latest example is a 3 foot piece of plastic, that probably costs 50 cents to make, has the whole world talking.

The bottom line is this: we all want to create the next great viral sensation. But the vuvuzela reminds us that viral can, and usually does, happen purely by accident. No one planned for this annoying horn to become the center of attention. The smart bet is to build a brand brick by brick, engage in the fundamentals of unique, optimized content with an efficient user experience. Sure, it leads to a longer road to success. But it works.And the ROI is far higher.

What are your thoughts? Let’s chat in the comment section below.

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