What Kony2012 Teaches Us About Messaging and Branding

Most of your Facebook and Twitter feeds were lit up last week when the Kony2012/Invisible Children campaign hit. As quickly as it went viral legitimate criticisms emerged regarding the validity of their ‘aid’ intentions (which, by the way, very poor). Nonetheless, Kony2012 has become the most popular web campaign for an NGO. We can’t ignore its success regardless of the content.

What Kony2012 should teach marketers is the importance of story (in the marketing vernacular we’ll call it ‘brand’.)

When the critiques hit, most of it warranted, it brought to light a few interesting points to consider if you’re in marketing.

1) As easy as it was to spread Kony2012, the critiques were equally popular (individually though they didn’t come close to the reach of that single Youtube vid that currently sits at EIGHTY million views).

2) The video was an exceptional example of quality messaging addressing a pent up demand of activism. Whether or not people actually act beyond a Facebook ‘Like’ or buying a kit is irrelevant, they got (are getting) the eyes because people, at least for a moment, cared. In one week they’ve raised in excess of 15 million dollars for their future ‘campaigns’.

3) Kony2012’s success clearly demonstrates how leveraging social media that reaches a ‘tipping’ point thanks to message evangelists will explode your reach. You don’t have to get our your messages through an obscure documentary or clamour for attention through the droning and ineffective World Vision TV half-hour specials.

4) Kony2012 demonstrates how poorly existing NGOs and aid organizations tell their story. They did it well and they reaped the benefit of being among the ‘first’ to the social media scene.

Point four is one that marketers should pay attention to. Arguably World Vision or Plan have better brands than Invisible Children (I can’t even recall what their brand image is). However, the former have problems with communicating their vision/brand in a format that is translatable to a mass of future ‘donors’ who are evidently eager to engage in social justice.

If Kony2012 is so poor, according to aid organizations that have been in Uganda for decades, then the ‘good’ ones should do a better job telling their story.

We would find that North Americans would be much more interested in leveraging the heroes in *insert foreign country here* if we could just tell better stories about those people. Unfortunately the best we have are lame short films about white college age heroes with a guilty conscience. But those lame films are well done and consumable thereby making them palatable and eventually viral.

Chase your story, find them, and then tell them effectively leveraging through your social media spheres. It could lead to a payoff worth tens of millions of dollars, and who knows, maybe it will help a few people along the way too.