When asked about marketing communication, what normally comes to mind are the more obvious above the line stuff. This means commercials in the electronic media and ad messages we come across in billboards, buses and the like, as well as print ads in newspapers, magazines and so on.
And, of course, this could also be messages found on web pages. This can be banner ads, pay-per-click ads through different search engines, ads in web portals and so on.
And, of course, there are other means like brochures, catalogs and below the line stuff like PR articles. What about marketing communication received through viral means? What’s that you ask.
Let’s look at defining this: Viral marketing refers to a marketing strategy that motivates individuals to pass on a marketing communication to others, with the potential for exponential growth in the exposure and influence of the message. As this usually is internet-based, it is similar to the spread of computer viruses, or viral illness in real life. These tend to multiply rapidly and reach thousands, if not millions of people.
The classic example of how viral marketing works is how Hotmail spread and got a hold in the marketplace, being widely spread over the internet.
How did the strategy proceed. Yahoo, who owned Hotmail, gave away free e-mail addresses and services, by attaching a simple tag at the bottom of every free message sent out: offering those receiving the message a change to get their private, free email at hotmail.com.
Hence, each person in receipt of an email, passed the message on and this asked him/her to sign up for their own free e-mail service, and then with each passing of the message the communication spreads out further and further, being received by more people, with each turn.
In Australia, an example of the spread of a message virally, I remember the “Big Ad” commercial for Carlton Draught. It was a very unusual commercial, which was first viewed over the internet by many individuals. Originally passed on via email, this commercial landed in many a computer -long before it was aired on TV.
Hotmail was a free email account, which was “cool” and became a must have. Hence, this proved a good enough motivation for this service to be passed around. And, of course, with the offer embedded with emails that used the service, it was a tagged-on message that could easily be passed on.
With the second example, the unusual nature of the ad and it’s big-ness made for enough motivation for those receiving the clip to pass on to friends. And, with each pass, the circle became wider and got more people involved.
So, we see that the basic strategy is to use other people to pass on your marketing message. And, to do that they need a motivation. The first example used the motivation of a free service. It also helped the unstated must-have nature of the service also came into force.
And, with the Carlton Draught example, it was the unusualness, the being the first to see the ad before this was aired proved a good enough motivation to pass this on.
How can you get viral marketing working for you? There are several things you have to consider. First of all, what is the message you want to pass virally? You will need to figure this out first. Then work out the means to pass this on.
A means I think is a good means for viral marketing, is a blog. How do you push this virally?
First of all you will need good content, that is worth reading and passing on to others. Offering freebies on your blog is another possible means. The latter is especially good for viral means of spreading because who can pass up a good thing—especially if this is free.
There are many more considerations and other points that you must take into account, when planning a viral marketing exercise. I’ll cover these in my future postings.