In an age when attention spans end at 140 characters, virality is extremely ephemeral. As seen in this report, a company that creates a viral product can at best usher in a huge spike in sales and accompanying revenue that levels off, but doesn’t fully die. Conversely, a company with the right resources and the supply chain may specialize in creating viral products, which sets it on a timeline made up of sprints, creating one product as efficiently as possible only to immediately move on to the next. This, of course, requires an incredibly well-oiled machine—and endurance.

Regardless, virality cannot be controlled. Even if the product is the brainchild of a corporate entity, its virality is always based on consumer perception. The length of time a product retains its viral status is also dictated by the crowd.

For some businesses, eschewing the somewhat unforgiving nature of viral products for other tactics such as viral marketing prove to be a better long-term investment. For others, virality provides illuminating lessons that can help a company better respond to consumer trends in real-time, create physical products that are highly photogenic and shareable online, and streamline its supply chain.

With this in mind, what follows are some actionable questions to maximize the chances of launching a viral product or campaign, given the traits examined in the report.

This Playbook accompanies Going Viral: A cautionary tale for consumer brands.

Stay abreast of trends and pop culture

  • Who is your target customer and where does she spend her time, both offline and online? What resources can you look to in order to learn about your audience and locate new trends?
  • What is your consumer audience a fan of right now? How can you match your research on what is trending with your target consumer’s interests? How could you manifest these connections with a product?
  • Could consumers who lie outside your target audience inspire your product design and development? How could you look beyond your target customer for inspiration on product?
  • How might you disseminate your physical product with viral digital content? What kind of digital content—in terms of media, tone and production—is most likely to pique the interest of your target audience? How can you use your research on what is trending to infuse your marketing?

Maximize efficiency

  • What timeline are you willing to work with to conceptualize, manufacture and launch your product?
  • How fast can you produce your intended product? How can you speed up your timeline, whether in terms of research and product development, production, selling or shipping?
  • How much of your supply chain do you control? What level of control would give you the ability to produce your product as efficiently as possible?
  • What aspects of this process can you streamline so as not to waste time perfecting a potentially viral product that will have a short lifespan?
  • What investment is necessary to realize your product? How much cash flow do you need to start it? How much of the design, production, distribution can you accomplish in-house?
  • How can you test the concept first, before launch?
  • How will you promote the product? Distribute it?
  • Do you have the infrastructure at hand to manage virality—in terms of production, distribution and site maintenance?
  • You can’t plan on a product going viral, so how much inventory are you planning on having? How fast can you produce more inventory if need be?

Maximize shareability

  • How shareable is your product? How can you ensure that consumers will be inclined to post about it online?
  • How can you incorporate viral marketing techniques into your product advertising?
  • Who is doing the sharing—consumers? Celebrities and/or influencers? How can you scale word-of-mouth so more consumers disseminate information about your product and brand as opposed to relying on paid partnerships and influencer marketing?
  • Conversely, how can you use influencer marketing or celebrity endorsements to your advantage in order to sustain popularity after achieving virality?
  • How social is your product? How participatory? Is there/could there be a community that forms around it?

Balance virality with longevity

  • Knowing the pitfalls that come with virality, what are your long-term goals as a brand and as a business and how do viral products fit into this blueprint?
    • Why do you want to achieve product virality?
    • How could virality help drive your business forward?
    • How can you use a viral product to catalyze business growth in the long run? How can you ensure that your business and brand are not defined by one viral product in the long term?
    • What are the cons of pursuing viral products for your business?
  • Say your product goes viral. Is there a way to create other SKUs that supplement the original product, so that you can retain customers? How can you sustain popularity for your product in the long term? How can you ensure the product remains relevant even if virality dwindles?
  • How can you build a supply chain for which longevity isn’t relevant or necessary?
  • How can you work at a fast pace, staying abreast of consumer trends without sacrificing your brand?