Karen X. Cheng: She’s Gone Viral

August 22 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Post, Like, Share

It’s amazing the way things change over time. For instance, the only time any of us ever said the word “viral” 20 years ago was when we called in sick to work. “Uh-choo. Sorry, boss, I can’t come in today. Cough. I think it’s a viral thing.” These days, “viral” refers to an image, video or bit of info that’s circulated quickly from one online user to the next, and it’s definitely something sought after by marketers, brands and even some self-aggrandizing celebs. Some examples of famous viral moments include the picture of that weird dress nobody can say for sure is blue and black or white and gold, and that adorable Charlie bit my finger video, which became famous in 2007 as the most viewed YouTube video.


My friends in the digital industry disclosed to me that old-school advertising methods are pretty much dunzo, and marketers are constantly in search of new ways to reach consumers. In our modern age of high-tech this, gadget that and viral everything, I’m not surprised. According to a recent annual report from video-creation service Animoto, 64 percent of consumers say they buy a product after watching branded social videos for that product. And if you follow big-time Instagram peeps, you’ve definitely seen sponsored posts hawking products or even more subtle yet brazen endorsements, like the option to purchase the same clothes a celeb is wearing.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Karen X. Cheng, Founder and Creative Director of Karen X LLC

It’s a whole new world in advertising, one in which sharable videos run the show. We can’t get enough of picture-perfect video content, and marketers are happy to oblige consumers with more than enough branded videos to shake a selfie stick at. But it’s dang near impossible to create a successful video campaign without experience and/or an exceptional marketing team.

Chances are you’ve at least viewed—if not gone absolutely gaga for—viral videos created by the queen of ads that don’t look like ads, Karen X. Cheng. She’s the innovative mastermind behind her own creative agency and marketing firm, Karen X. A pioneer in the viral-video realm, Karen has created super-cool marketing videos for some major brands, garnering more than 100 million views for her clients.

Karen harnesses the unique ability to fearlessly generate spot-on content. You can’t create the next viral video without going out on a limb, and Karen daringly does just that, even in her own career. This marketing wiz has made some seriously courageous occupational moves, including quitting her job at Microsoft via YouTube video, a pretty darn creative way to go out, I must say.

Inspired to further tap into her creativity, Karen spent a year learning and practicing dance, filming her journey every day. Her amazing time-lapse video of her dance year went, you guessed it, viral, prompting Karen to create a website called GiveIt100, motivating other goal-seekers to upload daily videos of their pursuits to master a new skill.

Then Beats by Dre came calling, hiring Karen to create the biggest marketing campaign the electronics company ever made. The 60-second ad, which featured loads of celebs and a new technique Karen developed called the “donut selfie,” aired during a must-see football game on Thanksgiving Day, to stellar response.

Karen says the key to reaching a bigger audience is to create advertisements that feel less like commercials and instead, connect with viewers on a more personal level through storytelling. Now that’s the kind of word-of-mouth advertising we’re in the market for!


Karen X. Cheng is proof that having your content go viral sure isn’t easy. It takes hard work and some serious know-how. As professor Jonah Berger, an expert on viral marketing and trends, said:

“Going viral isn’t random, magic or luck. It’s a science.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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