Going Viral on Social Media: Not Always a Good Thing

Going Viral on Social Media: Not Always a Good Thing

This case presents the conundrum of an entrepreneur, Tahir Basra, who faced a major hurdle due to social media virality. Tahir set out to establish a brand for bespoke (tailored) casual wear, called DYOT – Do Your Own Thing. The brand would target young middle class urban female consumers, allowing them to either buy clothes immediately or to customise colours, prints, and cuts within a week’s time. Using social media as the primary marketing tool, Tahir’s team decided to launch the brand with a video of an impromptu flash mob of female models in one of the oldest markets of Lahore. While initial reactions were supportive, DYOT soon faced enormous backlash, and a critical article by the BBC sealed the ad's fate.

Tahir’s marketing team had decided to take on the persona of a modern Pakistani female; creative, empowered, vocal, and assertive. When the team’s first social media campaign failed to gain sufficient traction on Facebook, Tahir decided to focus on his target audience. The idea behind the concept was to show young Pakistani women defying social norms, shrugging off the male gaze, and asserting their freedom. The team believed that these women would become flag-bearers for the larger female community, who would in turn idolise their choice of apparel. Statistics showed that most social media users from Pakistan were women, and the team expected significant support for their efforts.

The DYOT ad was initially welcomed with positive reactions; within half an hour, however, scathingly negative comments started pouring in. By the third day the video, which had been estimated to reach a few thousand, had been viewed over 100,000 times, with negative reactions turning to anger at DYOT. Women chided DYOT for taking commercial advantage of women’s rights; tabloid media picked up the criticism, and discussions on the ad soon started on major TV channels.

Tahir now had to choose the next steps very carefully: he could either distance himself from the strategy by deleting the video from his page and apologising, or he could integrate the brand with the women’s rights cause by announcing charity proceeds to relevant NGOs or other Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) tactics. A third option was to simply wait for the next big social media phenomenon to take over.

Zain-ul-Abdin, K. (2018). DYOT: Do Your Own Thing – Risks of Engineering Virality. HBS No. LCA030-PDF-ENG. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Publishing.

About the Author:
Khawaja Zain-ul-Abdin is Assistant Professor at the SDSB, LUMS. He teaches courses in marketing, media, and communication technology. He is the Programme Director for the executive programme on Marketing Innovations at the Rausing Executive Development Centre, LUMS. His research interests include social media marketing, modern communication technologies in marketing, visual cognition in digital advertising, strategic media management, and health marketing. His work has been published in the Journal of Science Communication.

Email: zain.khawaja@lums.edu.pk