Viral marketing is a very effective strategy in which advertisers spread their message digitally from one person to another. This strategy counts on individuals to get excited about something and share it with their friends and family through various social media outlets. There are many reasons why things like wristbands, nonfat Greek yogurt, low-fat diets, Atkins, South Beach, iPhones, and the Macarena caught on. Berger (2013) explains that these are all samples of social epidemics, instances where ideas, products, and behaviors became a part of public consciousness that was helped spread by word of mouth. There are three main reasons why products go viral: (a) innovative quality products or ideas that offer value, (b) discounted products or services that offer equal value as their pricey competitors, and (c) unique advertising efforts (Berger, 2013). Although it is fairly easy to identify samples of social contagion, it is actually much more difficult to get something new to actually go viral. One reason some products and ideas become sensations is because they are just better products. In other words, when items come along that function more efficiently, people tend to want to own them. For example, earlier models of television and computer monitors were large and weighed considerably. Flat screen sales skyrocketed because they offered larger screens and weighed less. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why they became a sensation.
The Web has transformed the way people interact with each other. A variety of services have been developed to help keep people in touch with whoever they want, whenever they want, from where ever they want with speed and ease. In other words, society is interconnected in a way that has improved their lives considerably just with a few keystrokes and clicks of their electronic devices. Adams (2013) asserts that although we can connect instantly, this same element has created a high level of deafening noise and clutter to penetrate. As a result of the bombardment of advertisers trying to reach consumers, people are only focused on what is relevant to them at that moment. Marketers are now beginning to comprehend that providing value alone is not enough to grab a viewer’s attention. If it does not include an innovative idea or unique presentation, it will have a harder time getting through to the masses (Adams, 2013). To make an impact in the online marketing community, it helps to have an idea that is fresh, new, different, and remarkable. Most people would like to believe success will occur overnight. However, in most situations, that is not the case. There is a tipping point that must occur. In other words, once the idea reaches a certain tipping point, the idea then causes a crescendo like a virus that goes on to produce an epidemic. This can occur faster now because of the inter-connectedness within the global network.
There are many examples of things that have gone viral like Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Harry Potter. They all went viral because they provided unique value and were innovative brands. The length of time varied from weeks, to months, to years but what set them apart from all the others was that they offered value in a unique fashion. Baack and Clow (2013) contend that the primary reason people are on social networks is to showcase their self. Successful corporations are now using this strategy to connect closer with consumers. Social media acts as a platform for advertisers reach prospects so that they will then share that information with those they care about (Baack & Clow, 2012). Marketers want their campaigns to go viral online and social networks allow them to create campaigns that will spread by word-of-mouth. This kind of strategy is more effective because word-of-mouth is more targeted and therefore, more persuasive.
Companies are more successful when consumers spread the word about their brand because it is a genuine response from the users. To make an online marketing strategy effective, marketers develop their campaigns knowing that word-of-mouth strategies will help them connect to a relevant audience.
One of my favorite examples of an advertising campaign that went viral was a promotional ad for the theatrical release of a very popular remake of the 1970s movie Carrie. The advertising company hired a professional film crew and worked in partnership with a small Manhattan café where the event took place (Telekinetic Woman Pranks Coffee Shop Customers!, 2013). The environment was secretly set up by the professional crew prior to the shop opening adding special effects components to make the reaction from the patrons more believable. Actors were hired to play out a short scene and cameras were strategically hidden to capture the event while innocent patrons witnessed the action that transpired. Once the event was set in motion, the male performer began to agitate a young female patron at the cafe that was engaged in her studies. The young man deliberately spills her coffee on her computer workstation. This caused the young woman to react and lose her composure. Losing her temper created a chain reaction to where she became so angry she began to use what seemed like telekinetic powers to throw the man against the wall and with the wave of her hand, he starts elevating up while pressed against the wall to the full height of the ceiling. In the meantime, her anger has not subsided and she begins moving the café furniture, tables and chairs out of her way as well with the wave of her hand as if by magic. The expressions and genuine screams from the unsuspecting patrons was priceless. Afterwards they were advised it was all part of a hired crew to create a promotion for the upcoming movie Carrie. Needless to say, the video has gone viral. That was one very effective and cleverly unique way that brand communicated a their message.
Well, that’s a wrap for this week! Until next time … stay organized!
“The light within us can always identify our mind’s darkness.” ― Munia Khan
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Baack, D., & Clow, K. (2012). Integrated advertising, promotion, and marketing communications (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.
Gehrt, J., & Moffitt, C. (2009). Strategic public relations. Salem, OR: Bookbyte Digital.
Scott, D. M. (2013). The new rules of marketing and PR. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.