5 Marketing Lessons Derived from KONY 2012 [Video]

5 Marketing Lessons Derived from KONY 2012

When you see this KONY 2012 video over the next few months, be sure to appreciate the way the marketing message is packaged.

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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 its money, it’s a fascinating, ongoing, lesson in the way that social media allows average individuals to flex their political muscles. How social media allows each of us to influence the opinions of our peers — 750,000,000 strong on 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 lightning in a bottle — yet apparently, 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 into 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 aim and successful outcome of the KONY 2012 video.
There are a lot of gruesome things in this world, and more often than not, we simply don’t know. We should be aware. And we should make them famous. Now imagine what we could do if focused this level of emotion and nationwide attention against say… cancer…

Tisha Oehmen

Tisha Oehmen is a professional brand strategist and a leader in the branding field. She was recently named a member of the Global Guru’s Top 30 Brand Gurus. She is also the co-founder of Oregon-based Paradux Media Group and the best-selling author of the book, Finding Brand: The Brand Book Tutorial.

Possessing expertise in both front- and back-office operations, Tisha conceptualizes, develops, and implements initiatives to foster brand effectiveness like no other. With over 15 years of experience in branding and marketing, Tisha has successfully led large financial institutions and health care companies down the path of renaming their business.

Where Tisha really shines is in the work that isn’t done. Sometimes a name change for a business isn’t in their best interest and after meeting with Tisha, they are able to find the true value and equity that has always been in their brand. Tisha has a special knack of being able to communicate the value so that the CEO/Business owner can see its luster and then with a little polishing, make it shine company wide.

Tisha is best known for developing long lasting branding campaigns that speak to the heart of the business, the brand, and the community. True brand, no matter how big or small, has longevity. Creating branding campaigns that have longevity, that have a laser-like focus, is where Tisha thrives.

Tisha received her M.B.A. from the University of Oregon, from where she also earned a B.A. in Political Science. She enjoyed a distinguished academic career punctuated by enthusiastic and successful participation in competitive speaking events, and holds numerous awards for her skill in public speaking. Tisha is widely recognized for her ability to capture an audience’s attention with her straightforward and engaging speaking style.

When not working, she enjoys golfing, baking, reading, and hiking with her partner, Mike, and their two dogs, Chloe and Jackson. She’s also an active member of Rotary International, the Chamber of Commerce, and is a very proud supporter of the Oregon Ducks. Tisha lives in Eagle Point, Oregon.

Reader Interactions


  1. Nancy Kenney 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.

  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) 😀

    • Tisha Oehmen 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. Bilal Kamoon says

    This Kony thing is a worldwide marketing campaign, and sadly it is working, people should be more aware of this

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Angel 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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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