1) Make sure the “brand” you’re building in people’s heads matches what you actually want people to think about.
2) To have something go viral, you actually need to do something that will make people talk. Games that are fun are generally good, but won’t work for all products. With Honda their “cog ad” for the Accord went viral and that was only a video.
3) Be sensitive to the leading “connectors” — they’ll be the ones who’ll really kick off your viral campaign. Convince them to link and you’re really on your way. Know who the connectors are in the communities you want to reach. Want a political community to talk to you? Glenn Reynolds. Gadget freaks? Engadget or Gizmodo. Tech Geeks? Dave Winer, Boing Boing, MetaFilter, or Slashdot. Etc.
4) Test the campaign with 40 leading connectors before embarrassing yourselves. Listen to the feedback you get.
5) Make sure that the viral thing matches the image you’re trying to build. A VW ad (not commissioned by VW) went viral, but because it used a terrorist blowing himself up it didn’t match the image that VW was trying to build for itself.
6) A good test is whether employees like it or not. These things can be used to increase morale. “Look at my cool company, they even have cool viral campaigns.” But, they can decimate morale too. “What a lame campaign.” Be careful here. Ask coworkers if they would be proud of sending this to mom.
7) A good viral campaign lets those who talk about it manipulate the campaign. If it is designed to manipulate those who are talking about it, be wary. We hate being manipulated, but we love to manipulate. Translation: can I add something to the campaign? Even a comment of my own? If it’s a game, does it listen to me, like the Subservient Chicken does?
8) Be wary of doing fake blogs. That gets bloggers fur to curl up. You might get away with it (ILoveBees, for instance, did) but if done poorly you’ll just get derided for your fake campaign. Be especially wary when what you’re advertising is actually real-life stuff. Search engines and blogs, for instance, need campaigns that accentuate the image of “reliable, trustworthy, always up, relevant to real life, etc.”