Viability of Viral marketing

By: Raul Gutierrez

When I first saw the Old Spice “Man your man could smell like” ad on Youtube, it gave me a quick laugh before I continued browsing other clips. Since I didn’t give it much thought, I was surprised when we talked in class about how the ad had played a huge role in helping Old Spice take over the body wash market. The ad quickly went viral and it currently has over 45 million view, but as an avid internet user, I couldn’t help but wonder “given the amount of content being made and discovered, does it provide the firm with some automatic benefits?”

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My understanding of viral media was that it is online material with an interesting quality that compels the viewer to share it. Viral marketing would just be tying in a product or a brand message.

Although it has only been studied formally since the late 1990’s, the marketing expert who coined the phrase as well as other researchers agree on several fundamental qualities of viral marketing such as:

* Provocative, entertaining, or novel subject matter

* User generated content

* Viewer input or collaboration

* Easy to send among users

All of these qualities also define viral marketing’s most defining quality, which is exponential growth. Whether the content is posted in an obscure web forum or if it is featured on a corporation’s Twitter page, it’s being passed around quickly is what makes it viral. Blogs, forums, and internet portals such as Reddit and Buzzfeed serve as hubs to further spread the material. Offline, word of mouth has been the fastest way to galvanize people toward checking out viral media.

Given that viral media becomes so popular and well known, many firms are clamoring to come out with a concept that can get them big numbers on social media sites, but companies are realizing that trying to create this material sometimes doesn’t add up to sales and can produce unexpected results :

Good

Doritos Crash The Superbowl: Doritos asked their Facebook followers to shoot their ads that would compete against each other on YouTube for a spot during the Superbowl. They have done this competition since 2006 and it has produced some of the most popular half time ads.

TNT network in Belgium: This video has become the second most shared video advertisement on YouTube. Turner broadcasting reported that cable subscriptions had risen in the EU where they offered TNT.

Bad

Chevy DIY ad campaign: This campaign gave users interactive clips and editing tools to make their own ads. Unfortunately for GMC, they were flooded with ads that made fun of the company, featured offensive material, and openly put down the quality of the car. There were several hundred ads available for months before Chevy took the site down.

Toyota “Your other you“: Toyota set up a website where a user can prank their friends by sending them personalized texts and phone calls through 7 online personalities. The campaign actually terrified several users who ended up suing the marketing firm and Toyota for 10 million dollars.

After looking at various examples of viral marketing and reading annual reviews, I found that viral marketing is a huge risk for all companies because there is no way to accurately measure how receptive people will be to receiving materials in new ways, but viral media typically leads to higher brand awareness. Viral ads skew more towards younger audiences and have the potential to build a large following. As Courtney Weaver from Businessweek wrote, “”Bashing people over the head: big mistake, But through viral marketing, brands can still capitalize on consumers’ interest in watching good entertainment”.

To answer my original question, unless a company believes there is no such thing as bad publicity, viral marketing may just be the solution to expand their name brand.

Twitter: @Raulxroberto

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