Interview: How I got into Viral Content Marketing


Digital Vidya, Asia’s leading digital marketing training company recently interviewed me after the success of the webinar I did last weekend on Viral Video Marketing. Includes the story of how I got into digital marketing, my insights about the mistakes organisations commit today and key takeaways from the webinar.

Digital Vidya: How did you get into Digital Marketing?

Aashish: I was in grade 9, when a friend from IIT was helping me with physics, and more than the time we spent understanding physics, we shared tools to build websites. It became a competition of sorts after our physics sessions to share what we had done the previous day in building new features for websites. He went on to finish his degree and become a developer and I started designing websites and solving web presence challenges for small businesses. That’s when I got on the web development bandwagon. After years of helping SMEs with websites, even starting a business in Canada, I realized that building websites was half the game, the real action for any business or ROI came in with what the website did for them. It was an exciting time to be alive back in the day, rapidly changing internet scene, social media in its infancy and SEO being the king.

Then the game changed, and social became the big thing, that’s when I dove into Digital Marketing. From social media marketing, to the evolution to content marketing and now focused on content which can go contagious and viral. I realized that the success of any social marketing plan is dependent on remarkable content. So Content Marketing became my obsession and after success with visual content, mainly Infographics, I started making videos. Within one year, got five viral hits, two awards and millions of views. With India rapidly growing in internet penetration, millions of new users are discovering internet through their mobile devices, it is no longer about tools and technology but how to leverage these in impacting their lives. Also I feel social media has an element of activism, and with the democratic nature of sharing, all that is needed is a good idea acted upon, which can change the world.

Digital Vidya: Why do you think it’s important for entrepreneurs, marketing professionals and students to learn Digital Marketing today?

Aashish: If you look around, where are people spending their time. It is no longer TV, Radio or Newspapers. With millions of Indians getting on the mobile bandwagon, internet grabs the most eyeballs and is rapidly growing. And for any entrepreneur, marketing professional or student, this is where you would be competing. You can start a food business, lead marketing for a big brand or be studying law for that matter, if you need your ideas, products or services to get to the users, it is all about marketing in a digital world.

Digital Vidya: According to you, what are the top mistakes committed by organizations today in leveraging Digital Marketing?

Aashish: I believe mistakes are good, marketing is all about experiments. You do ten experiments, two work, which give you indicators and best practices for future, on which you can build upon. The mistake is not learning from those mistakes, and be shooting in the dark. Organisations must get obsessed about users and about being authentic and transparent. It is about users not fancy tools. The big problem I see in the industry is the focus and obsession with ‘virality’, I feel the obsession must be on impacting lives of their customers, virality will take care of itself.

Digital Vidya: Please share top 5-7 takeaways from the Webinar you would like to share with our community.

Aashish: The takeaways are focused on content marketing and videos:

  • Don’t start with the intent to go viral; Viral is the result, focus on value for the user.
  • Start obsessing about your users’ pain points and how content can impact their lives.
  • Whatever you produce: landing pages, articles, infographics, slides or videos. Make for mobile screens.
  • Start the culture of experimentation, do ten experiments, two may work. Learn and improve.
  • It is better to execute a good idea, than to wait for that awesome one. Action is everything!

You can read the full interview text on their blog here.

Gurgaon Toll Surprise: Story of a Viral Video

Aashish Chopra - Viral Video, Gurgaon Toll Surprise

Every morning on my way to work, I used to dread passing through the bottleneck at the Toll plaza at the Delhi Gurgaon Expressway. Long lineups, chaos and frustration was everyday routine, and coming back in the evening was worse.

An idea had been brewing in my head for many months, about turning this everyday ordeal into a joyous experience.

So I did an experiment. For many days, when my car reached the toll plaza, I paid the toll and also paid for the car behind me. A random act of kindness, buying happiness for a stranger for Rs. 21. One day I learnt the toll plaza was shutting down, on its last day, I thought it would be cool to remember this experience with a happy memory. Took two days off to shoot and edit the video. Credit to my boss at the time for encouraging experimentation and driving action, for which I’m grateful.

Suddenly everything came together, the film workshop I had attended couple of months back, cool little camera gear I had been collecting over months, and my dream of becoming a filmmaker. A low resource filmmaker, making impactful videos for the smartphone generation. I attached three cameras to my angry little Tata Nano, hoping to document my little experiment from all angles. From going back and forth six times, to running out of money and getting permission from Toll plaza authorities to take panoramic shots of the plaza from their offices, it was a full day of a one man film shoot. Took the next day to edit, and shot little sequences, improvisations on my work table. And the end result was a nifty video under three minutes.

From Release to the Radio in 18 hours

I posted the video on YouTube and shared the video on Facebook. The next day around noon, I got a call from a Radio Jockey. My little experiment had gone viral! Phone began to buzz with messages about friends seeing the video on NDTV, IBNlive and Buzzfeed. A simple idea, had hit the stratosphere.

Here’s how far it reached

Slowly many blogs pickup up the video, and today ever after an year, if you Google “Gurgaon Toll Surprise”, first couple search results pages are about this :) For two days since the release, me and my Nano had become a minor celebrity on the roads. People waving, conversations in cafes and signs of thumbs-up from random strangers. What a memory.

The Video

The Learnings

The purpose of the video was to inspire action, and to get maximum traction I released it the day the Toll Plaza officially shut down and it was all over news. Being topical was my first lesson for success in making a video to go viral. But above all the marketing mumbo-jumbo, it firmed my belief in the democratic power of social media. If you have an idea, the world is ready for it. Woody Allen once said

“80% of success is just showing up”; Execution is everything.

Memories in Photos