How does MSCHF go viral over and over again? – MSCHF mind-blowing viral marketing strategy (9 min read)
MSCHF – a hard-to-categorize company from Brooklyn, NY that is often referred to as an art collective or „structured chaos”. It makes anything viral - fashion, art, or tech and sells its works released in limited drops that sell in minutes. Recently known for making „Satan Shoes”.
Strategy & Tools
MSCHF History Timeline
- Aug 2016 – Gabriel Whaley formed MSCHF as a product studio. Late Snap Hacks was the first creative made for Casper (the mattress company) – it was an app that faked going out on Snapchat while you could stay in your bed.
- Sep 2016 – another creation for Casper is released - the Insomnobot-3000 which works only after 11 pm to chat when you can’t fall asleep.
- 2018 – the first work is released, „The Persistence of Chaos” – a 2008 netbook with Windows loaded with 6 malware viruses that made over $95 billion losses worldwide. The final bid was $1,345,000.
- Sep 2019 - MSCHF stops doing the agency work to focus on their own products
- Oct 8, 2019 – a specially designed Nike Airmax ’97 with holy water from Jordan – Jesus Shoes – are sold within a minute for $2,499 USD
- Feb 28, 2020 – MSCHF box is released. It sold for $100 and could contain a product of up to $7,000. The trick - if you hold it for 100 days and send it back, you get $1,000.
- Jun 22, 2020 – in collaboration with Mr. Beast, an app is released in which the last person to hold a finger on the phone wins up to $25,000. The trick - all the participants competed simultaneously.
- Oct 12, 2020 – Anti Advertising Advertising Club – MSCHF paid TikTokers to hate on popular brands
- Nov 9, 2020 – Push Party–an “invite-only social media app” that got funded for an undisclosed amount at $200 million valuation. All it did was to send a push notification to all of its users after someone pushed a big red button.
- Mar 29, 2021 – Satan Shoes are released in collab with Lil Nas X. They have human blood in the sole. They got sued by Nike for that.
Who is the MSCHF founder?
The MSCHF group was founded by Gabriel Whaley in 2016. Previously, Gabriel worked for BuzzFeed, and did a few other things, too, like selling a piece of bad advice for $1 on Twitter.
Since its beginnings, the MSCHF group has produced a wide variety of artworks, from physical products (like sneakers) to browser plugins or social media channels. The company was founded in 2016, and one of its known creations was a Snapchat bot that operated only after 11 p.m. It was intended for those struggling with sleep.
Overall, the MSCHF viral marketing has always been built on controversy, which boosted their virality in the internet.
The MSCHF team holds two types of brainstorms on a weekly basis – for Fame Producing Products (FPP) and Revenue Producing Product. (RPP). FPPs are to generate attention, press, social shares, and excitement in general and in those sessions they never ask how to monetize those ideas or how to boost certain business drivers. That’s the place for RPPs but they also need to ensure that’s a MSCHF idea.
Experience ideation process
In a prehype podcast, Gabriel has laid out the secret sauce to their ideation efforts.
- Pick a theme. Example - Times Square is full of people taking selfies with superheroes and Sesame Street characters.
- Look around and pick behaviors, things you find amusing or disturbing, and focus on problems that you see. Example: Too many tourists, too little superheroes to take a selfie with.
- Ideate solutions to the observed problems. This should provide you with an idea that will be an experience, it will require inputs and outputs, an interaction.
A Whaley commentary on another article suggests that they have a repeatable formula for making products and experiences that self-distribute on the internet.
13 people in a completely judgement- and competition-free structure. There’s also a spontaneity whiteboard at the office that everyone can put an idea on. Gabriel then follows his process of choosing the best and putting them into a pipeline. It is then erased every Friday.
The employees at MSCHF don’t have and aren’t hired for certain roles. In one interview, Gabriel told that the idea of hiring for roles „failed epically”. Instead, he hires hacker-type personalities that fit MSCHF style and builds the structure around them.
MSCHF viral marketing – media relationships
All products and stunts make it to the headlines in such titles as The Verge, Refinery 29, Hypebeast, Mashable, and many more. And they make it fast. It might be due to having some sort of personal relationships with some of these media, or MSCHF’s products have already proven to attract so many views that media follow them and cover all the news in order to participate in the viral (and reach viewership goals and sell display ads).
MSCHF marketing strategy: branding
MSCHF clearly thinks about its brand first, and monetization isn’t the top priority in the MSCHF viral marketing strategy. They are here for the long run and as Daniel Greenberg, the head of commerce, said, „If we can make people a fan of the brand and not the product, we can do whatever the fuck we want.”.
That being said, even though so many of MSCHF’s products and stunts aren’t great for generating revenue, this will likely pay off in the future. Most likely, this is the value that investors had seen to invest $11.5 million in total in the collective–along with the viral generating know-how.
Spicing things up
In the MSCHF viral marketing technique, some buzz around the products is created through controversy. That’s especially the most recent case of Satan Shoe, but also of the previous Jesus Shoe, paying TikTok influencers to hate on certain brands, or creating a Slack contest that gave away $1000 for guessing the word of the day (which has been banned by Slack).
MSCHF marketing strategy: drop system
Every two weeks, a new product is dropped – you get notifications about it in the app, but the website counts down to the next drop as well.
The products come in a limited number of 1,000, sometimes fewer. This builds room for speculation and makes the items collectibles which indeed might be treated as an art. Usually, the drops are all sold in minutes.
How does MSCHF make money?
According to Coffeezilla, the business model could be extremely clever. MSCHF has the same address as Circo Global – a company selling products once created by MSCHF (and sold in limited number originally).
MSCHF could be monitoring certain metrics about the products that they come up with and if they are good enough, they are sold without any restrictions to generate revenue. That’s the case for a rubber-chicken bong or a dog collar that plays swears every time the dog barks.
MSCHF viral marketing strategy – narrative-driven products
A part of the MSCHF viral marketing strategy is their narrative around their products. Whatever MSCHF creates is not a pure stunt, nor is it a commentary on the youth culture. These are commentaries on eternal human insights – even if packed into a quite fancy product like sneakers. Every creation tells its own story.
MSCHF believes that everything is a storytelling device and this is what attracts and keeps the attention around them. As humans - we are drawn by stories and want to follow them, and the MSCHF viral marketing strategy is based on that fact.
Humans have a tendency to remember things that stand out. If the whole brand’s purpose is to stand out, it becomes quite a powerful one.
Tasks that were interrupted are better remembered. That also refers to surprises such as MSCHF often introduces.
MSCHF is doing marketing organically and putting profits aside. That creates an authentic, artsy image that is preferred by consumers.
Scarce products are perceived as more valuable while the Fear of Missing Out is pushing the buyers to hunt for the products as soon as they are dropped in. MSCHF creates scarcity effect on intent to boost interest.
Humans’ have a built-in curiosity to seek missing links for the information they have and the one they yet have to obtain. With such a mysterious website and the drops, With the MISCHF viral marketing, the group builds the community that keeps going back.
Window of Opportunity
MSCHF confirms that there is a formula for going viral, but in many interviews, they admit that there is some risk to this approach. The most valuable lesson here is to get really creative with the marketing efforts and building a brand for the long term. With almost every company doing the same kinds of advertising in the digital space, launching something odd to promote your service or product is likely to get some eyeballs.
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