Viral marketing

From Academic Kids

Viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that seek to exploit pre-existing social networks to produce exponential increases in brand awareness, through viral processes similar to the spread of an epidemic. It is word-of-mouth delivered and enhanced online; it harnesses the network effect of the Internet and can be very useful in reaching a large number of people rapidly.

Viral marketing is sometimes used to describe some sorts of Internet-based stealth marketing campaigns, including the use of web logs, seemingly amateur web sites, and other forms of astroturfing to create word of mouth for a new product or service.

The term "viral advertising" refers to the idea that people will pass on and share cool and entertaining content; this is often sponsored by a brand, which is looking to build awareness of a product or service. These viral commercials often take the form of funny video clips, or interactive Flash games, images, and even text.

Viral marketing is popular because of the ease of executing the marketing campaign, relative low-cost (compared to direct mail), good targeting, and the high and rapid response rate. The main strength of viral marketing is its ability to obtain a large number of interested people at a low cost. The main weakness is that sometimes messages can look like e-mail spam and this creates the risk of damaging the brand. The 'from' and 'subject' lines then become very important in order to remedy this problem (Tell-A-Friend principle); for example, when sending a link or webpage, sometimes the subject line is "(Name of person here) thought you would like this page". The receiver will then recognize the name and know that it is not unsolicited.

The most difficult task for any company is to acquire and retain a large customer base, through the use of the internet and the effects of e-mail advertising the B2C efforts have a greater impact then many other tools of marketing. E-mail generates 15% of online sales in North America and is on the increase. Viral marketing is a technique that avoids the annoyance of spam mail; it encourages users of a specific product or service to tell a friend. This would be a positive word-of-mouth recommendation. One of the most successful perspectives found to achieve this customer base is the integrated marketing communication IMC perspective.



The term viral marketing was originally coined to describe various free email services' practice of appending advertising for themselves to outgoing mail from their users. The assumption is that if such an advertisement reaches a "susceptible" user, that user will become "infected" (i.e., sign up for an account) and can then go on to infect other susceptible users. As long as each infected user sends mail to more than one susceptible user on average (i.e., the basic reproductive rate is greater than one), standard results in epidemiology imply that the number of infected users will grow according to a logistic curve, whose initial segment appears exponential.

Types, Methods, and Barriers

Types of Viral Messages:

  • Pass-Along: A message at the bottom of the e-mail that prompts the reader to pass along, such as chain letters.
  • Incentivised Viral: Offering rewards for providing someone's address. This can dramatically increase referrals. However, this is most effective when the offer requires another person to take action. Most online contests offer more chances of winning for each referral given; but when the referral must also participate in order for the first person to obtain that extra chance of winning, the chance that the referral participates is much greater.

Transmissions of viral marketing can occur in one of three ways:

  • Word of Web: Typing into a web-based form that converts that information into an e-mail, sends to recipients. An example of this is any article at ( In the article, there are links that encourage you to send to a friend; this brings you to a web-based form that you fill out, and this form converts all of the information to the recipient in an e-mail.
  • Word of E-Mail: The most common type: forwarding e-mails, such as jokes, quizzes and 'compromising' pictures.
  • Word of mouth

Barriers to Viral Marketing:

  • Size: If viral content is a video clip or streaming video, it may be too large for the recipient to receive. However, newer technologies are eliminating this problem, as internet connections grow faster and e-mail inboxes become more capable of receiving large files.
  • Media Format: A viral marketing campaign will be unsuccessful if the message is in a format that most people can't use; for example if particular software is needed that is not widely used, then people will not be able to open or view the message.
  • Email Attachment: Many people receive viral marketing messages while at the office, and company anti-virus software or firewalls can prevent people from receiving or viewing such attachments.
  • Cumbersome Referral Mechanism: For a viral marketing campaign to be successful, it must be easy to use. For example, if the promotion is some sort of game or contest, then asking for referrals should be an option immediately after the game, not as a condition to play.

Examples of viral marketing

See also

External links


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