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Viral Marketing – The Common Denominator

Keller Hawthorne | May 11, 2010 | 5 Comments
Growing Your Business
Viral Marketing – The Common Denominator

“Viral Marketing” is the new catch phrase for online marketers. The phenomenon is quite simple – create a campaign that spreads like wildfire across the Internet. It’s word-of-mouth marketing for a hyper-connected society, and it’s something that every Internet aficionado dreams of. But, just like the flu, you can’t predict when a viral campaign will take off – or can you? Are there key factors that can help your next marketing idea go viral? I’ve analyzed three popular online campaigns in order to uncover the secret behind the viral marketing phenomenon.

The Test Subjects:

A) Justin Bieber – The entire planet seems to be suffering from “Bieber Fever” these days. This singing sensation from Stratford, Ontario became an overnight success when videos of him performing on YouTube went viral.

B) The First Google Commercial – The world’s biggest search engine took a stab at traditional marketing airing their commercial during the 2010 Super Bowl. Of course, the video had already racked up millions of views online.

C) The Dark Knight’s Guerrilla Tactics – The latest Batman movie ruled the box office, as well as the web. Warner Bros. successfully combined online marketing with traditional promotional tactics to create a viral phenomenon unlike anything the movie industry had ever seen.

Common Denominators

1. Videos are Viral

First things first, all three of these viral marketing campaigns involve videos. Whether you’re looking to make it big in the music industry, promote a service, or unveil a new product, videos are the best way to get your word out. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Ever since the invention of television, consumers have loved watching video – whether it’s a commercial on TV, a promo at the theatre, or a clip on YouTube.

Humans are visual creatures – we like to be shown things, not just told about them. Videos are also extremely easy to distribute. YouTube is now the second largest search engine on the planet, with hundreds of thousands of new videos being uploaded and watched each day. What’s more, users have the ability to distribute these videos via various social media networks, making it the perfect medium for viral messaging.

2. The Brand Has No Boundaries

It’s hard to believe that a 16 year old kid from Canada could be one of the most influential figures in the world, but that’s exactly what Justin Bieber has become. Teenage girls want to date him; teenage boys can’t stand him, but secretly want to be him. Moms and Grandmothers want to adopt him, and Dads can’t escape him. People of all ages are susceptible to Bieber Fever, making his brand a prime candidate for viral marketing. The same goes for Google and the Batman franchise. These brands have gone viral because they have universal appeal; does yours?

3. There’s No Sales Pitch

Seriously – click on the links above and watch the various videos associated with each brand. Justin Bieber isn’t trying to convince agents to sign him to a record label, Google isn’t boasting about earnings or promoting AdSense, and the Dark Knight marketing campaign included unbranded, guerrilla tactics built around the fake election of Harvey Dent. Instead of focusing on a sales tactic, these brands have left the message up to the user.

Bieber attracted fans because he’s a cute kid and a talented singer. People appreciated the Google commercial because it was clean, simple, and easy to relate to. The Dark Knight’s marketing campaign was interactive, mysterious, and just plain fun. People aren’t expected to react to these campaigns in a certain way. There’s no call to action or promised incentive. The message is the brand.

The Recipe for Success

Based on the above research, it would appear that online marketing campaigns have the best chance of going viral if they:

a) Include video messaging.
b) Have universal appeal.
c) Avoid direct sales tactics.

Sounds easy right? Well, not exactly. A few days ago I saw a tweet from @leeclowsbeard that summed up viral marketing quite nicely. It said…

The next time someone says, We want to do something viral, sneeze on him. Viral is a phenomenon, not a strategy.

You can’t predict when a campaign will go viral – it’s up to the consumer. The above tips are just that – ideas that can help you create a campaign that could (fingers crossed) become an Internet sensation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chantielle MacFarlane is the founder of CIK Marketing, an online marketing consultancy that specializes in content creation, search engine optimization and social media management. Connect with Chantielle on Twitter @CIKMarketing or on LinkedIn
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