Viral Marketing - The Word-of-the-Mouse for Free Idea Distribution

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on June 09, 2014

Old marketing tactics-Imposing TV programmes with advertisements and pushing them in at the slightest pretext (sort of like playing with people’s minds) and other ‘creative’ roadside advertising techniques. Also pulling out millions from your wallets to hire a PR to throw false light on the products-a self congratulatory deal replete with company high-muck-a-muck claiming to bring about ‘world peace’(it being the keyword here).And they aim to do this by getting families closer together(the underlying sarcasm can clearly be understood).People today find themselves overwhelmed by the uncertain world of too many advertising messages and nearly 60% of the population believe that advertising is not relevant to them.Also various empirical studies have shown than people prefer relying on advice from others in personal and professional network when making purchase decisions.


Image Courtesy:, Master isolated images


Then came the famous viral marketing technique-the advent of a phenomenon by which people mutually share and spread marketing relevant information …what is called by the way of word-of-mouth.First brought to the limelight by Cindy Gordon (vice president of new media and marketing partnerships at Universal Orlando resorts) at the launch of the ‘wizarding world of Harry Potter’. She used the concept ‘when 7=350,000,000’using a micro site and a webcast.The power and love for internet makes this sort of marketing popular. But it’s a double edged sword since it could also lead to the masses falling out of love for that product faster. Social media techniques more often than not can’t successfully make a brand viral; it just passes on the information about a good brand from one to the other. Internet is literally capable of making a brand viral overnight, backed by the differential approach and relevance of it.


The three specific criteria to be met as put forth by marketing professors Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein as aptly put in this rule is ‘giving the right message to the right messenger at the right environment’.


It revolves around industry specific contributions from various organizations and their active participation,multiple forms of direct marketing,search engine optimization,social media optimization,internet search engines and blogs and above all simulation of TV and radio to go with these.Follow these and you have what it takes to flourish and rocket to success.


Ponzi scheme and Pyramid schemes were the early ways of viral marketing which was later replaced by the recent word-of-mouth marketing which was successfully used by Burger King in its campaigning. The amazing thing about this is that as soon as an idea takes off it propels the brand to a great new height backed by fame and lots of fortune.


So what is the principle behind this is important for the successful use in our various spheres of life.An interesting content replete with examples,the structure of the social network,the behavioral features of the customers backed by their incentives to carry forward the message and the seeding strategy which chooses the ‘target customers’(not the scapegoats though).

Counterparts of viral marketing 


A classic example in the Indian context is the epic success of ‘kolaveri di’ which has gone on to become an anthem for the future managers of the country.

Vodafone ZooZoo ads-another recent example of viral marketing.One cannot stifle a laugh at the clever use of this tactic to win over customers successfully.

It basically consists of videos,blog entries,interactive tools,e-books and many such ancilleries plus a group of people who light the baton and carry it ahead(easy accessibility and sharing).

An effective viral marketing strategy and the stepping stones towards success comprises of giving away products and services and effortless at that,exploitation of incentives and motives for better targetting purposes.

Viral marketing bell curve


Resume or e-book?

A virtual job seeker would prepare a resume obsessing over every minute detail to be instilled in it..and would go on to market himself over network campaigning,emailing, continuous phoning and use of the recent special tools like LinkedIn hoping for a slight nod of head or a passing glance by the onlookers.


Alas! Chances of that happening are slim.


Wait for the world to know you..How? You could go about by starting your own blog or better still publishing an e-book.The cost of doing this..NIL..and attention received is unlimited. And who knows your marketing tactic could be compared to those used by Apple Inc (lo and behold!!!).The main idea behind all this is making the message memorable.It should be tight and crisp.An answer to ‘what is an I pod’ is ‘a 1000 songs in your pocket”..It is basically the force of thousands of consumers and customers selling your product for you.


According to Apple Inc. e-book is the stylish younger sis to the nerdy white paper.They are easy to download and are for free(contrary to normal belief) compared to the boring white paper which people feel they should read but never get around to reading them eventually.Interesting graphics and images give e-books that extra oomph factor and the needed push.But this advantage is overlooked when bringing in registration to avail of it.Also a great tagline or title will definitely grab a reader’s attention.And it is never complete without examples and stories galore.


But all said and done these efforts always might not be rewarded in the first instance. Today’s pain is tomorrow’s gain and this has been proved time and again.But this importance of timing and luck shouldn’t discourage somebody from using viral marketing-the success will be when one learns to turn the odds into one’s favour.


This article has been authored by Sulagna Dasgupta from Indian Institue of Social welfare and Business management (IISWBM)


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