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The Social Currency Mint

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Viral marketing and buzz can do a lot of the legwork to get people around the world interested in a brand or company, but there has to be more. There has to be a transformational idea that changes a brand's business strategy. At Euro RSCG, we do that with Creative Business Ideas (visualize a Venn diagram with creativity and effectiveness as the two overlapping circles; in the middle lies the Creative Business Idea). But great CBIs need a home, a place that's the hub of all the action. Today, that place is a website. Viral marketing will send consumers there for a first visit, but what will motivate them to come back?

These four important elements:

1. Feed Them With Conversational Currency

"He's always got something interesting to say" meets "She's never at a loss for words." When people meet, they talk, and when they talk, it helps when they have things to talk about. People have always loved to have things to discuss, and that has only intensified in the digital age. A well-planned, well-stocked website serves an important need by giving consumers plenty of content to work with and talk about. From the moment we introduced The Most Interesting Man in the World (MIM) for Dos Equis, audiences loved him. He definitely always had something interesting to say ("Find out what it is in life that you don't do well, and don't do that thing"), and people used the campaign's lines everywhere -- and began creating their own. The MIM legend quickly jumped from TV ads to the Internet, on both the official brand website, where visitors were invited to post videos and comments, and YouTube, where fans posted their own parody videos. And Dos Equis became the first beer brand to surpass 1 million likes on Facebook.

2. Put Them At The Center Of The Action

The key to the success of the Internet and social media is interaction. Consumers buzzing with interest in a viral campaign are ready to do more than just come to the site and look. They're ready to vote, comment and even use interactive tools to design a new product or mix a new color, write a new slogan or even create new TV ads. We knew what a viral campaign could do for a brand because of the Guinness-World-Record-breaking popularity of our Roller Babies ad for Evian. Our next step in keeping people's interest in the brand was to take the roller buzz and let consumers be part of Evian's next record breaker. We invited the public to be part of the longest music video ever by taking a photo of themselves in a dancing baby T-shirt and uploading it to Evian's website (www.letsbabydance.evian.com). Thousands of people have done it so far, and the video (currently at about five and a half hours) just keeps getting longer with every upload.

3. Soften The Hard Sell

Actually, forget the hard sell. It doesn't sell, and it can turn consumers against the initiative. Online or offline, how do people feel when they're enticed to go somewhere for fun only to find that they're faced with an insistent salesperson who won't let them go? (Hint: They feel suckered.) Of course, for people who want to buy a product or at least find out more, there needs to be a clear click-through. Apart from that, we see the role of the brand on the site as host and enabler.

4. Teach Them

Brands and marketers need to aim to provide interesting information that makes it worth consumers' while to spend time on the site. That might be blogs, step-by-step how-to guides, or a forum for sharing opinions and ideas. If they find a site that has useful information that addresses their interests in a way they enjoy, they'll come back. Interesting information has always been at the heart of The Atlantic, the venerated American magazine founded by Emerson and Longfellow, among others, 150 years ago. But what was perceived as intellectual heavy lifting didn't appeal as much to a society addicted to short-burst texting and reality TV. Our "Think. Again" campaign for the magazine sought out the New Intelligentsia, posing provocative questions in public places and filming bystanders' answers. That moved the campaign to the Web, where the videos were posted on a microsite and viewed in 139 countries. Site traffic increased 51 percent, and the first print issue of the magazine outpaced its predecessor by 35 percent. The Creative Business Idea did its job by pointing people to interesting information, reminding consumers of how wonderful an experience it is to think.