POPULARITY EXPLOSION OF THE HOVERBOARD [PART 1: HOW IT WENT VIRAL] - Published by Silicon.NYC

Viral marketing is a daring strategy that can yield extremely potent results for a company that produces something revolutionary. As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve had success with viral marketing, and have faced the challenges that it can bring.

HOW WE WENT VIRAL

Back in Fall 2014 our team had discovered an interesting new product in China and at this point in time no one was really even sure what to call the device. When we initially brought some units back from China into the United States it was apparent early on that this device was going to be a hit as people’s jaws dropped when they would see us riding one.

Initially we planned on selling the units wholesale to various larger retail stores throughout 2015 and especially for the holiday season. We were under the expectations that we would be one of a handful of other companies re-selling this device since we were lucky enough to discover it very early on. But our strategy changed rather quickly once we started to see the mass appeal of the product for celebrities.

During the course of 2015, there was one product, the Hoverboard, that captivated the entire world on a daily basis. This once innocent (eventually notorious) two wheeled device was appearing in every media publication, news outlet, and government press release for all sorts of positive and negative reasons. One of the initial massive forums where the viral success of the Hoverboard can be attributed to was The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.

The Tonight Show has always been famous for its curtain call introductions, which introduces the special guests featured on each episode while they are standing behind the massive blue curtain while the live band plays the different jingles and tunes as the crowd gets hyped for the celebrity to appear. In May 2015, one of these curtain call introductions was just a little more special than the standard “wave hello to the audience and sit in your seat next to Jimmy Fallon.”

Many of you probably know who Jamie Foxx is and, let’s be honest, that guy has always known how to make a grand entrance. In his most recent appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, his curtain call introduction was epic. In front of a crowd full of America’s finest Marines, Jamie rode onto the stage on a Hoverboard. At the time of the show in early spring 2015, no one in the audience (including Jimmy) even knew what the hell a Hoverboard even was or even seen one before.

First it was Jimmy asking Jamie,  "Hey Jamie what are you doing, and what the hell is that?"

That was then was followed by Jamie name dropping our company on national television. Finally, Jimmy went ahead and got on the Hoverboard and tried it out for himself!

Millions of people around the world saw the skit that night and plenty of other celebrities did as well. The following morning our email inboxes were stuffed and phone lines were ringing off the hook. Hundreds of customers and more big name celebrities were reaching out to our company asking to promote our product similarly to what Jamie Foxx did.

Seeing this kind of demand, direct outreach, and real desperation for our product proved to our team two things.

  1. Our viral marketing strategy was working.

  2. Continuing to work with Hollywood celebrities was the right path to continue down.

When people like Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Wiz Khalifa started asking for our product, we decided to give them one for free. We did this in exchange for their support and promotion across all their major social media channels so that our brand name could continue to lead the Hoverboard market forward. We knew that competitors wanted our market share, so keeping our brand name relevant was a must.

This worked out brilliantly for us. Soon, these new celebrities along with at least 30 others were regularly promoting or product and, specifically, our brand. All of a sudden we were just two months in from our launch and we had already eclipsed 7 figures in sales, had all the major mass media publications reaching out to us for a story, and had powerhouse programs like Shark Tank asking us to apply for their show with our product. Even Kendall Jenner, who has been widely successful by promoting brands, used our Hoverboard on her Instagram video.

With all this promotion we felt like we were on top of the startup world. We had viral marketing buzz, tens of thousands in daily sales, and A-list celebrity endorsements. What could wrong?

Well, shortly after our viral launch we started to notice some other competitor Hoverboard companies sporadically popping up on the web. Recognizing this, but understanding that we had to stay focused on our own viral company, we decided to continue moving as quickly as we could in order to stay ahead of the competition. As a result we continued to work with A-list celebrities who could generate maximum exposure for us.

GOING VIRAL HAS ITS DRAWBACKS…

Going full steam ahead with this strategy turned out to be one of the first major mistakes we could’ve made. We started noticing very quickly that this maximum exposure was creating massive catch 22s for our business. It also resulted in serious and complex problems arising for the industry as a whole to have to solve, but yet had no real control in actually solving.

Viral marketing made us, and our great success can be attributed to it. But, we learned that it wasn’t necessarily the correct strategy for sustained growth. If you believe that viral marketing may be the correct strategy for your business, knowing the positives and negatives of the strategy are critical. Use it for as long as it is reasonable to do so, then shift your marketing priorities towards long-term and sustained growth.

Stay tuned for Part 2, on Why Going Viral Sucks…

Big thanks to the team over a Silicon.NYC for allowing me to begin contributing to their publication. This was my first article published on their site and you can definitely check out this story and plenty more other exciting technology oriented stories over at Silicon.NYC.

 

Top 3 Viral Predictions For Each Candidate Before Tonight's Debate

With tonight's debate set to take place less than 12 hours from now, one of the million dollar questions many pundits are pondering is, “What are the news headlines going to read tomorrow?” There is no doubt, going to be at least one if not multiple moments that characterize tonight's debate and either candidate could be liable for sparking that moment. 

In today’s post we’re going to try predicting three viral moments that we’ll end up hearing about non-stop tomorrow in the media. Two of these viral predictions will be a negative outcome for the candidate (sucks moment) and one will be a positive outcome for the candidate (works moment).

Let’s start with Hillary Clinton:

1. Email Interrogation — there is no way that the email scandal that has haunted Hillary over the last year of campaigning isn’t brought up. If Hillary finds herself getting caught up in a 3–5 question interrogation tonight it could mean big trouble. For instance we could have not only the moderator Lester Holt questioning her on this subject, but Donald Trump getting in his own personal email jabs. If this ends up happening, I get the sense Hillary will have a difficult time escaping the debate with a real victory neither in the eyes of voters or the press. (When Going Viral Sucks Moment)

2. Extra Aggressive “Comebacks” —To date I have yet to see Hillary look slick or sharp in her verbal attacks of Donald Trump. I just don’t think this is a strength of hers and nor does it need to be. This weakness (in my opinion) however can turn into a viral nightmare for her if she decides to try and excel in this department and continuously try attacking Trump. Taking this approach I believe would irritate Trump enough to whip out some of his own aggressive “comebacks” which we’ve heard to date and some new attacks in his “bag of tricks” such as going down the Monica Lewinsky path. If this takes place it just gives Clinton one more miserable topic/scandal she needs to focus on, and one that surely the press will be covering in full swarm tomorrow. (When Going Viral Sucks Moment)

3. Depth Versus Width On Policy — Hillary has a “Deeper” understanding of governmental functions, checks and balances, U.S. history, and many other subjects that future Presidents need to have real foundational knowledgeable on. If she sticks to this strength of hers and is able to clearly communicate the depth of this knowledge over Trump she can set herself up to look amazing tomorrow in the news headlines. If she can take it one step further and while communicating her knowledge, simultaneously demonstrate the lack of depth/knowledge Trump has on some of these mandatory presidential subjects it could turn into an embarrassing moment for Trump. This embarrassing moment for Trump could then be one that scares voters away from him and into Hillary’s corner and she’ll be labeled as the clear winner of the debate. (When Going Viral Works Moment)

And of course we can’t forget about Donald Trump:

1. Crosses The Line — if Donald decides to push the envelope a bit further than it should be with hundreds of millions of people watching him it could turn out disastrous. The Republican nominee has become super popular with his base and notorious amongst the general public for his various sound-bites which many times have been ethnically, or racially driven and have negative contexts associated with them. These sound bites are a large reason for why Trump has gotten as far as he has. However if he crosses the line in one of his statements there will be no way in which the media can ignore it and all the post debate press coverage will be zooming in on this one potentially derogatory statement. (When Going Viral Sucks Moment)

2. Tries To Play Moderator — This is the first time Trump will be partaking in a debate with only one other prospective candidate. As a result that might get very uncomfortable for him. We all know that Trump likes to have control over everything he does and therefore as a way to divert attention away from him, we could easily see Trump try and grill Hillary with his own questions and ignore those which Lester Holt asks of him. He might also try and flip questions back on Lester that he is uncomfortable answering. This flip flopping might be the worse way for things to come full circle for Donald and bite him in the butt. This because over the last year he has consistently been labeled as a flip flopper candidate on important issues. Showcasing his unease with answering questions directed at him and probing Hillary or Lester with his own questions will turn into all the wrong reasons for him to be receiving attention in tomorrow’s headlines. (When Going Viral Sucks Moment)

3. Specifics Over Soundbites — One of the main criticisms of Trump over the last year of his campaign has been his lack of specific details on different issues. If he embraces tonight's opportunity to reveal legitimate details on his plans in front of millions of Americans, he could give himself the most realistic chance yet to take down this election. With under six weeks left until the election, people could embrace him for his planned tactic of “Saving the best for last.” If he can communicate real details, and real specifics, to the real problems facing America, it will give the American public a new reason to respect him and it would allow Donald Trump to flourish all the way up until election day. (When Going Viral Works Moment)

 

Keeping Up With Kendall Jenner: AKA Tips For Working With Influencers

Kendall Jenner's First Video Riding A Hoverboard

Kendall Jenner's First Video Riding A Hoverboard

Launching products is fun but creating a movement, as I learned, is an exhilarating and invaluable experience. In 2015 I played a prominent role in introducing the world to the hoverboard giving me the opportunity to work alongside a range of celebrities, athletes, and musicians. I also had the chance to work with an emerging breed of social media influencers who are easily just as effective at producing results for companies. In fact it was predominantly a result of these different influencer promotional campaigns why our company and our Hoverboard became the number one selling holiday gift of 2015.

Influencer marketing has become a hot button topic in the world of how to conduct viral marketing campaigns. Not only does everyone want to work with influencers but the market has become flooded with people trying to become their own influencer in the space or craft they specialize in. Considering how crowded the the influencer landscape has gotten can make things quite confusing to navigate.

In my experience working with celebrities & influencers there were plenty of lessons to be learned. Below I’ll share a few tips on how your company can work with influencers effectively and gain some traction with their help.

  1. Plan ahead: You and your team should have a allocation of how much product you are willing to gift to influencers. This number varies depending on a variety of factors but ultimately it comes down to how much you’re able to produce and invest in this type of marketing. It is imperative that you create an allocation plan and stick to it. Otherwise you could run the risk of running out of inventory quicker than you expected. All of a sudden Bieber’s asking you for not one hoverboard but five. And you’re retrofitting the entire Kardashian family with hoverboards.

  2. Expect the unexpected: Going somewhat in tandem with number one would be making sure your company has enough inventory on hand prior to working with celebrities. Since many of the celebrities live, party, and co-exist within the same circles it's very easy to have one celebrity endorsement of your product lead to multiple others. As a result if your company isn't prepared to handle that rush of influencers asking for your product, while simultaneously fulfilling all the orders that are coming from average customers who are purchasing your device, you are doomed!

  3. Negotiate your engagement: We found that one post from a celebrity with a large following is not likely going to generate a huge sales spike for your business. Of course there are exceptions to this statement such as your product being perfectly in line with this celebrities audience. Therefore establishing a partnership with depth that requires multiple posts from this celebrity will help you obtain awareness, as opposed to just one. Consistency can lead to authenticity which makes an audience more likely to become interested in the product.

  4. Free product goes a long way: When you have a hot “NEED TO HAVE” product simply gifting to celebrities can oftentimes get you whatever kind of promotion you desire. With the Hoverboard it was a must have item for every celebrity. Therefore we were able to go a long way simply gifting away product in exchange for promotion as opposed to having to pay them thousands of dollars while also gifting them product.

  5. Treat them like people: Although Kendall Jenner and Justin Bieber are superstars believe it or not they are more down to earth than you could imagine. They are normal humans just like you and I. They like the same activities and things that ordinary people enjoy, they just have millions more people watching them do these activities. The quicker you realize this when trying to work with influencers and as a result communicate with them in the same manner you would communicate with your own business partners and friends the more authentic you will look in their eyes and the more willing they will be to work with you.


Ultimately I'm a big proponent of working with influencers and, if it makes sense for your company, you’ll want to make it a part of your marketing plan. Hopefully some of these tips can allow your company to conduct influencer marketing in the most mutually beneficial manner for you and the influencer. 

Touch People's Hearts - One Way To Go Viral For All The Right Reasons

Travis Rudolph eating lunch with autistic middle schooler Bo Paske

Travis Rudolph eating lunch with autistic middle schooler Bo Paske

Too often the corporate mass media promotes senseless stories that not only go viral but literally take up the airwaves for weeks. You know, those absurd stories that make your head want to explode like the infamous Balloon Boy and Octomom from a few years ago that you might remember? These absurd stories clog the airwaves so frequently that it’s such a relief when you finally get to see the mainstream media report on a positive, and heartwarming story that deservedly so, causes viral disruption around the world. 

This past Thursday I became inspired by one of these stories and in my opinion this story was a “When Going Viral Works” moment. This was a story that was being communicated to millions of people overnight for all the right reasons. It wasn’t just the end result of this heartfelt story that inspired me, but as some readers might be able to guess it was the different reasons why the story went viral that motivated me to write today’s post. As this story showed sometimes the reasons for virality are so subtle, simple, and literally elementary that you would never think these kind of simplistic moves could make so much positive noise in the world. However sometimes it is these characteristics of ones actions that are the most effective and influential means for creating viral disruption. 

The story I’m referring to happened last Tuesday with a collegiate athlete from Florida State University. Star football player and Wide Receiver Travis Rudolph made an autistic child’s dream come true in the most spontaneous unplanned manner possible. Travis decided to join local middle schooler named “Bo Paske” for lunch in the cafeteria after seeing first hand and learning that the autistic youngster was frequently left sitting alone with no friends by his side to talk to. 

Even Travis didn’t realize how this simple and kind gesture of his (for one of his youngest fans) would have virally materialized. Travis was quoted by the Washington Post saying, “I didn’t even recognize that it would be this big, It just became really viral, and I just wanted it to become aware that everyone is the same, and one man can make a difference.”

Pretty understandable to see where Travis is coming from. I mean why would anyone think that such a small simple action could produce such pronounced results? Let’s take a closer look and try understanding the reasons for why this story went as viral as it did!:

  1. Simplicity: how often do you hear the phrase “the more simple the better?” I imagine plenty of times and when it comes to making something go viral this statement surely applies. When you want to see something resonate and grow with the public from a viral marketing standpoint you can’t have this “something” be confusing for people to understand. The public has to “get it” instantly and in this case the action of having lunch with a lonely autistic child was something that people instantly understood and appreciated. 
  2. Everyone Can Relate To It: a majority of people on the planet grew up and went to some sort of elementary school. This same majority of people also had lunch time in the cafeteria while attending elementary school. This 60 minute period which was usually combined with recess, holds a special place in people’s hearts even as you enter adulthood. When you have a story that everyone can relate to personally, the odds of the story going viral increases dramatically. As a result exponentially more people are able to relate to the story and think back to their own childhood days of eating lunch in the cafeteria, and this gives you a much larger population of people to have the story resonate with.
  3. Feel Good: this kind of story makes people feel very good inside and it also makes the public as a whole feel hopeful. See when people’s emotions get involved for the better, the chances of there being a viral effect increases. If you feel good about a story the odds of you wanting to share this story with your friends and family increases so that they can experience this same heartfelt feeling as you did. Positive stories usually have a much greater chance of gaining traction and going viral, over negative stories and this example clearly displays that.
  4. Local Star Player: this entire unplanned event took place at a local middle school near Florida State University. Travis Rudolph is a superstar in that geographic area of Florida near the state capital Tallahassee. Although Travis wasn’t a nationally recognized figure last week, the fact that this event took place near Florida State University, gave the story a larger foundation for viral traction to be catapulted off of. 
  5. Authenticity: this action by Travis was unscripted and as he even said himself he had no idea people were taking pictures of him eating lunch with Bo. When it’s easy recognizable how organic ones actions are as opposed to looking completely scripted the chances of this action going viral increases because people can see that authenticity. Usually scripted actions can easily be depicted and as a result people will usually be less willing to want to share a story or piece of content that seems fake.

Many of the reasons this story went viral as explained above I experienced first hand with my former Hoverboard company. For example when it came to authenticity, it was very apparent how organic the love for the Hoverboard product was when people rode one. There was no scripting the smiles, joy, and fun millions of people were having when they rode a Hoverboard and as a result millions of other people wanted to experience that same feeling. 

I think this story in particular can demonstrate to entrepreneurs that oftentimes creating more simple marketing campaigns for your company can end up producing the largest results. If young entrepreneurs can keep in mind some of the concepts and strategies above they should be able to see some of their own companies go viral, but for all the right reasons!