Viral marketing comes to Pakistan via Facebook

August 13, 2009

Coke Studio fever has overtaken the country and has become impossible to escape. Instep Today takes a look at other brands using the Web to establish a presence..

Saba Imtiaz

Here’s a social experiment for you: try and escape Coke Studio. I’ve tried – and it hasn’t worked. There are two Coke Studio billboards on my route home. When I flip through television channels there are advertisements running on at least two of them for the show. If I log on to Facebook, my home page is full of updates from either Coke Studio or links to videos that friends have re-posted on Facebook from Coke Studio’s official page or their YouTube channel. There are hundreds of comments and ‘likes’. My phone will ring with alerts from Coke Studio, they registered my number the first time I used it to download a ringtone. If I turn the radio on, there’s a fair chance a song from one of the Coke Studio episodes will be playing on some channel. Go to a caf√© and in all likelihood you’ll overhear someone talking about the show.

It’s amazing and this, ladies and gentlemen, is viral marketing at its best. Using social networking tools like Facebook that already exist and combining them with standard media planning practices has created a buzz about Coke Studio that you can’t miss, despite the rampant load shedding in our cities! But while there is the inherent risk of over-exposure and ‘done-to-death’, Coke Studio has managed to retain that cool factor without becoming too in-your-face. And it has worked: to date, 74,542 Facebook users have subscribed to the Coke Studio fan page.

Look at Susan Boyle, an unlikely contestant on Britain’s Got Talent who was catapulted in a matter of mere hours from an unknown to one of the biggest sensations on YouTube. The human factor (a woman-next-door turns worldwide star) combined with her incredible voice is what made Susan Boyle such a name.

What makes these success stories interesting is that they have used platforms that do not require heavy monetary investment or other human resources.

While this approach has been used to great effect in the West to build brands or create hype around an event in television or film or even fashion, it is coming to Pakistan too

There are notable examples: Strings – who maintain one of the best-updated websites, Facebook pages and YouTube channels as well as have a Twitter account. Several other Pakistani musicians have done a remarkable job of keeping their Facebook pages alive. Filmmaker and director Mehreen Jabbar uses her Facebook account as a way to update her fans about her television projects as well as posts images of drama serial shoots and promos for older television shows she’s directed.

The same goes for Pakistani fashion on Facebook. A large number of designers maintain well-updated Facebook groups and pages. Retailer Ego only uses Facebook as a medium to showcase new designs – posted on their page almost every week – as well as directly interacts with customers and get feedback.
The website The Business of Fashion ( has advocated the same approach for the fashion industry and asked an interesting question: “Kudos to brands like Halston and Diesel and designers including Viktor & Rolf and Gareth Pugh who have experimented with viral videos and achieved thousands of video views. But the viewership of Boyle’s video demonstrates just how much more potential there is to use these tools to connect consumers with a brand’s message. Imagine. Over the last year, we have watched as the Internet played a pivotal role in electing an American President. What could it do for a brand with a powerful story to tell?”

This is the question Pakistani brands need to be thinking of answering now. In a time when Pakistanis have turned to the Internet as a lifeline for breaking news updates, political commentary as well as a roundup of the social circuit, the entertainment and fashion industries needs to look at using these mediums to market themselves to their target audience.