5 Marketing Lessons Derived from KONY 2012

I’m sure you’re going to get sick of seeing this  KONY 2012 video everywhere in the next few months, I hope. And regardless of the way the KONY 2012 Invisible Children’s organization behind it distributes it’s money, its a fascinating, ongoing, lesson in way that social media allows average individuals to flex their political muscles…to influence the opinions of their peers — 750,000,000 strong of Facebook…sooner or later, that influence of peers starts to be a mighty force to execute their will. We’ve seen it recently with SOPA and the Arab spring, and now with KONA 2012. Social networking is providing an unprecedented way for average individuals to affect change.

This post is not about supporting — or NOT supporting the KONY 2012 effort

KONY 2012 marketing lessons KONY 2012 KONY 2012This post is about understanding the profound marketing tool that is video, in the age of social networking. We’ve always known that getting something to go viral is like trying to catch lightening in a bottle — yet clearly, the KONY 2012 video has done just that. The key ingredients here for going viral are the juxtaposition of an American child’s view of the world against a Ugandan boy’s view. It briefly shows disturbing images of mutilation and hardship — but it doesn’t focus on the graphic nature of the reality to make you turn away, it invites you in. And it incites a sense of outrage and ‘wrongness’ in the viewer, and it provides EASY ways to assuage our guilt for not knowing about KONY 2012, by spreading the word, pleading our support, and … (lest we forget this IS marketing) buying a “kit.”

What’s particularly fascinating about the KONY 2012 video is that it enlists the view in to proactively share the message and thus become part of the “army” that is trying to affect the capture. From the relatively safety and security of our homes, our communities, and our civilization. It clearly identifies the enemy and then point us clearly in the direction of a solution, and it is time bound — it stops on 1/1/13.

The 5 Marketing Lessons Derived from KONY 2012 Video

  1. Find a way to move your audience to outrage, passion, or an equally strong emotion.
  2. Be sure to juxtapose our relatively easy lives against lives that are much harder, but don’t make it too graphic so that we turn away.
  3. Provide the viewer an easy way to assuage that emotion: sharing the message, low cost purchase, etc.
  4. Enlist the viewer in a secret, or not so secret, “army” to take on whatever emotion you were successful in inciting.
  5. Create a moderately controversial business, which incites as many nay-sayers as supporters. Remember, all publicity is in fact good publicity. (Especially when you’re trying to make a really bad guy famous).
So, appreciate KONY 2012 or hate it — the result is the same, and arguably the goal of the video. The more people that know about KONY 2012…the better. And that is the goal, and successful outcome of the KONY 2012 video.
There are a lot of really ugly things in this world, and more often then not, we simply don’t know. We should know. And we should make them famous. Now imagine what we could do if focused this level of emotion and nationwide attention against say… cancer…
KONY 2012


  1. says

    Great information and summation. Social media is so powerful – positive or negative. As a social media management company we are seeing more companies invoke feedback and comments on topics that can improve their businesses.

    • says

      Thanks for stopping by Nancy. Social media is certainly a major force to be reckoned with these days — it’s so powerful for spreading a message.

  2. ryan says

    i’am tray used social media to up my blog traffic used facebook, but i’am think facebook is bad, because to many protection user, and facebook fanpage change they rules its makes to hard to grow up my audience. but i tray used twitter, its more better then facebook i think 😀 i found lots audience and response from this. likes kony video first blow up on twitter, its means twitter much better than facebook. maybe facebook now concern to their ads for up our product marketing, its means much money output(its suck!), but twitter always free for build our audience. thats way i choose twitter better then facebook. (sorry if my english gramar is bad, cause i’am not from english) 😀

    • says

      Ryan, you’re right, for driving traffic to a website, Twitter is better than Facebook. It’s important to remember though that Facebook is very useful for enhancing relationships with existing clients and customers. Each social media platform has a different purpose for business use.

  3. Jason says

    The Invisible Children charity has focused on obtaining the support of a select group of individuals in order to help bring awareness to the horrific abuse and killing of children in the East and Central African countries at the hands of Kony and his leadership.

  4. Kate Brown Wilson says

    This is really a great video about Kony, to be honest this is new to me, I never knew about this before. I think that using this it is an new way to market or to sell business.

  5. says

    Videos have been considered as a great part of social networking. Videos are visual representations of things so it makes sense that they are more entertaining and easy to understand as compare to other social networking sites. Summing it up, videos can be a great source of information and can perform wide scope of marketing.

  6. Matt Clarke says

    This is really powerful stuff, and really highlights the potential of social media to do good, or bad. I agree with your list of lessons to learn from this, and most of all I think the impact comes from the emotional content. If you can include triggers in your content that inspire genuine emotion in people, you have a strong viral potential. It could be any emotion, sadness, humor, anger etc….but if you have something that hits the human emotions it will be shared. Thanks for posting.

    • says

      Thanks so much for stopping by Matt. I love your take that anything that inspires strong human emotion can and will be shared — regularly.

  7. BJ says

    A really well articulated post. Kony 2012 was an enormous example of what can be achieved via social media. It may sound ignorant but I deliberatly didn’t watch this clip – and still haven’t – but I was amazed at how many of my ill-informed friends and co-workers turned into experts overnight and how my Twitter and Facebook feeds were bombarded with these links! Outrage is certainly a great way to appeal to people to spread a message and boy did it work on this occasion. Stripping it down to it’s bare bones, regardless of its messages, Kony 2012 can act as a ‘how to’ manual for viral marketing videos for years to come!

  8. Trent says

    Kony 2012 was an unbelieveable phenom to behold! While things like Angry Birds sweep the nation and become water cooler talk, this thing just DOMINATE news on a world-scale. You’re absolutely right in saying that there are at LEAST 5 things that marketing students and professionals alike can take from this viral video.

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