Can The 'KONY 2012' Viral Campaign Swing the 2012 Presidential Election?

Kony 2012

A new YouTube video has obliterated all previous viral content records on the web and has become the fastest spreading viral video of all time, with over 73 million views and over 600,000 comments to date.  Produced by relatively unknown filmmaker, Jason Russell and his Invisible Children organization, KONY 2012 is a film and campaign designed to make Joseph Kony, which the film identifies as the worlds most feared human rights violator famous in effort to raise support for his arrest. But for a video that is not yet a week old, why has it gained such attention and been shared and played so quickly in such a short amount of time.

One of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell. He is responsible for New York Times bestsellers Blink, Outliers and The Tipping Point. The later dealing with the science behind trends or better yet epidemics. The KONY 2012 campaign is an example of an effort that has reached its Tipping Point at an extraordinary pace and is now in full fledged epidemic, not in the sense of a disease but rather in a manner similar to how one is spread.

Early in the new client discovery process here at Highbrid Media, many of our prospective clients clients express a desire to "Go Viral." In the age of social media and share tools it has become the holy grail of marketing. The ability to attain this mystical utopia of awareness, branding and ultimately sales that is always desired but rarely attained. Gladwell examines the phenomenon and notes several such examples of this viral behavior, some man-made and others organic.

Four years ago the Obama campaign embraced social media and new school marketing techniques that "tipped" a relatively unknown junior senator from Chicago into the improbable and historic President of the United States. There was no secret weapon but rather the accumulation of a series of tactics that each pushed the campaign past a "Tipping Point." This moment in politics, not only historic for its social significance but also for brought into the mainstream how Gladwell's "Law of few," "The Stickiness Factor" and "The Power of Context" were all at play as vital ingredients to creating a viral epidemic.

Today, KONY 2012 follows in its wake. Designed to parallel the look and feel of a presidential campaign, Kony 2012, like the Obama campaign, is attempting to transform a relative unknown into People Magazine's "Person of the Year." Early last week, an online confidant and blogger friend shared a YouTube link we me. The practice was not unlike one she and I exchanged almost on a daily basis. Bits and pieces of tech news, interesting tweets, informative articles all of which in someway have shaped our body of knowledge as online tastemakers. But this link was different. It was packaged differently as if it intentionally had been designed to be enacted upon by people like her and me. It is working. But perhaps too well.

Like with anything in life, timing is everything. As you'll watch (or have watched) in the video, the Invisible Children intend to launch a massive worldwide guerrilla marketing effort to plaster the planet with KONY 2012 collateral on April 20th. But will it make it that long? Has it tipped too early and be old hat or "played out" by that time? The rapid acceleration of this effort suggest there is no way to maintain this excitement through April. Bloggers, and early adopters or supporters of this campaign will likely have moved on to a newer cause in their perpetual quest for all that is cool and unknown. They have already passed the baton to the mainstream who has given it national spotlight in the media emblazoned above the fold and at the top of the hour soon to give way to other headlines.

The hope of the producers of KONY 2012 is simple, to make it a central theme of debate for the upcoming election. It is the only way to ensure its vitality. The base that has supported the campaign is much the same that elevated Obama to the oval office in 2008, one $5 text to donate, one tweet and one Facebook post at time. Will it even land on his radar or will the eventual Republican nominee seize the momentum of this youth movement and cherry pick votes from the incumbent's base by caring more. Can this campaign, clearly of no financial significance to the American government, become the decisive issue for the 2012 Presidential Campaign?