Thursday, October 23, 2008

Going Viral

As marketers, we usually have pay to say or show something. So we have budgets for advertising, promotion, PR, events, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice, if we could get others to do this for us. Not only would this amplify the reach or our message, it would increase its credibility. Those who spread our message are to some extent recommending us. Here’s where viral marketing comes it.

Viral marketing is not new (what in marketing is?), but new technologies make easier and can increase its impact. In addition to email, we have blogs, social networks, Tweets, and content sharing sites. They have the potential to launch an epidemic, which distributes our content farther and wider than we could, even if we had the budgets we wanted. It may be the latest embodiment of our eternal quest for the free lunch.

In its simplest form this means creating some communication so interesting, irritating, or attention grabbing that people will send it unsolicited and unpaid to friends and colleagues. If each recipient sends to multiple associates, you can get a hypergrowth, which resembles an epidemic hence the term viral.

Perhaps the best single example of a viral medium is YouTube. It is built to make sharing quick, easy, and free. Of course, this guarantees nothing. YouTube has not stated how many videos it hosts. Estimates are on the order of 100 million. If all you do is upload, an audience will probably not come.

Going viral is a long shot. As always, start with content. When creating something, whether for a local 30 second spot, a trade show, or a sales conference think about how it could be used or adapted as a viral communication. Reuse and mashups should be encouraged.

Marketing consultant and author David Meerman Scott cited the case of the Cadbury Gorilla http:// at the recent New Marketing Summit. David relates that Cadbury was able to reuse an existing commercial to the tune of over 3 million views on YouTube. The epidemic didn’t stop there. This video has spawned more than a dozen derivative videos, many of which have been viewed a substantial number of times. So there is a significant echo of the original message.

The video has no call to action – Cadbury can’t tell how many more chocolate bars it sold. The ROI is thus unknown. This could be a problem, but the cost of the program is negligible. In this case it amounts to the effort of monitoring viewership, links and references to the videos and to Cadbury itself.

To see what types of content are watching and more importantly sharing, consult

Not sure how viral fits your message and strategy or are generally uneasy about video production, you might wish to get started promoting something else. A number of firms are hosting contests. Draft a 30 to 60 second script or an idea on which to improvise and grab your home video camera. We hope to feature your video in an upcoming post.

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