Updated June 12, 2023
Introduction to Viral Marketing Techniques
Viral marketing is now defined as the rapid sharing of an idea; a portion of this idea contains a marketing message about buying a product or service. Viral marketing techniques wouldn’t make much of an impact unless it has got an emotional appeal. It could be humor, shock, sympathy, surprise, bewilderment, curiosity, or astonishment. Viral marketing experts opine that, unlike traditional mass-market campaign formulas that have been tried and tested over the years, there is no formula for success in a viral marketing campaign.
Let us study much more about Viral Marketing in detail:
The millennial guys are all looking for some surprise, shock, excitement, and thrill once in a while, and now with the explosion of mass media and social media, a picture, video clipping, infographic, or a shocking tweet can spread like a virus across networks to people living in geographically different places and become the center point of discussion. It’s somewhat analogous to the virus that spreads fast along with computers and networks by replicating itself when a user opens an application.
A wardrobe dysfunction of an actress, a newsreader tapping on the desk and happily humming a tune, not knowing the camera is still on, an old lady setting nursery rhymes to the tune of Carnatic music- Sa re- ga-ma-pa, a bridegroom’s embarrassment as a dhoti slips during his wedding are all videos that people instantly share and discuss, have a big laugh over it in private conversations and social media. Or it could be the slip of the tongue of a popular politician or an awkward speech from a public figure.
So therefore, it is not surprising for people to say, ‘it went viral’ or ‘it has gone viral’ in everyday discussions and chats between friends. It could put governments, decision-makers, celebrities, and even common people in a corner. According to Steve Olenski, a contributor to Forbes.com, most people don’t know what goes into a truly viral video until it starts to spread.
What is Viral Marketing Technique?
Marketing professionals commonly refer to the application of the “viral” technique to marketing as viral marketing. It is any technique that induces users to share a marketing message multiplying exponentially its visibility and effect. The most quoted example of viral marketing techniques is related to Hotmail, owned by Microsoft, which markets its service and advertiser’s messages in every email sent.
Viral Marketing Techniques
The top 6 Viral marketing techniques are as follows:
1. Go for the emotional connect
Imagine the bewilderment created by the video, which shows the Torro Rosso’s F1 car being dropped by helicopter into a ski slope and then raced. The team was sponsored by the energy drink Red Bull. According to Allen St John, a popular writer on sports and entertainment, does not win races or get noticed on performance. Still, it generates fun and excitement enough to get noticed otherwise. That’s what the marketers ultimately want.
Some of the other emotional stealers in viral space are ALS ice bucket challenge evoking sympathy, Panda cheese commercials that generated curiosity mixed with astonishment, or the Girl Leads Man Around World video creating utter envy. The emotional drive of any viral campaign should be strong enough to succeed in grabbing attention.
2. Give valuable products for free
The success of Hotmail was in giving the service free. Free email services, free software, and free mobile apps will pay off in the long run. Users tend to be more interested in and share free services extensively. Free services can use their reach to develop advertising opportunities and e-commerce opportunities. The trick is to generate interest in readers. Hotmail started it all with the classic ‘Get your private, free email at http://www.hotmail.com’.
3. Find a good or noble cause
Perceived as a responsible corporate citizen, a company can enhance the value of its brand. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral set a new trend in charities and used online celebrities to strike it rich. It was one of the biggest viral campaigns ever. The campaign urged people to dump a bucket full of ice water on themselves, take its video, and tag friends to join in.
The campaign succeeded in raising $100 mn for the ALS Association. It attracted the interest of globally-renowned people like Mark Zuckerberg, Martha Stewart, Justin Timberlake, Oprah, and Bill Gates, who all poured a bucket of ice water on themselves and posted videos. Challenged App is now available for companies to create similar challenges, create a video and post it.
Viral marketing experts predict that the availability of purpose-built apps will increase the number of challenge-based viral campaigns being launched.
4. There should be a brand message in the content
What if you create a video that is engaging, interesting or funny, and it gets shared? Where does your brand benefit? The classic example was the ‘ReTweet to Feed a Hungry Child’ campaign of Kellogg’s UK. The Twitter message hardly contained 140 characters, and despite being popular for its charitable activities, the tweet didn’t succeed in creating a wave. Those who didn’t know of its charity activities saw it as an attempt to set up a viral marketing campaign that held the hunger of children hostage. Kellog’s attempt miserably failed, and they had to apologize. The company tried to push a brand message without informing the audience what the message was all about.
The tweet read: “RT to help promote our#GiveaChildbreakfast campaign. Click the link to learn how we help those in need: URL of the website” Here, the failure was attributed to the lack of a message and focusing on the vital part of it. There should be a strong brand message, the viral part will take off on its own with a bit of push.
When we analyze the success stories in viral marketing, it is evident they have a message, as in Katy Perry videos. It was a simple one- buy my album. If there is no strong brand message, any attempt to promote the video through social media and other platforms would fail.
The Evian Roller Babies campaign, which was intended to promote Evian water, is an example of a viral marketing technique failure. The video was widely watched and has crossed 70 million views. The message was that those who consume Evian water could feel as young and energetic as those babies. Those who saw the videos couldn’t connect with the Evian brand.
5. Let there be real life in the videos
Using real-life situations to capture public responses to a question or scenario, or showcasing audience reactions, are excellent examples of leveraging reality to achieve success in viral marketing techniques. America’s Funniest Home Videos are perfect examples of using real-life settings to go viral. Successful campaigns also involve people reacting to imagined situations. TNT Drama Button campaign shocked people on the streets, and people loved to see the reactions taking it to a viral intensity.
6. Align with unexpected partners to get noticed
It is better to get some player outside of your industry to team up with, just as The Walking Dead teamed up with UC Irvine to create an open online course that showed what a zombie apocalypse would be like. Likewise, the HP-Kiva tie-up helped generate $25 from employees as a donation for a charitable project of their choice. Both companies benefited from exposure as responsible corporate citizens.
Some Major Viral Campaigns in History
From the foregoing discussion, it is evident that all viral marketing techniques did not succeed because they failed to adhere to some of the basic principles outlined above. But several campaigns worth recalling had varied successes in the marketplace. People use social media as a popular medium to spread, share, and discuss global viral campaigns. Hence, investing time, effort, and money into Facebook, Google +, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other popular social media sites makes sense.
- Old Spice campaign: In this 30-second campaign, a handsome man speaks directly to women, ‘your man could smell like me. The ad went viral with its cool and sexy appeal.
- Blair Witch Project: The film released in 1999 did not have YouTube or social media support, but it used the website to popularize the theme of the movie. Real documentary footage of an unsuccessful search for the truth behind an urban legend helped create an impression that it was based on an extant urban myth. The video went viral and helped the film’s success, which had no advertising budget, although it did not become a major hit.
- Burger King’s Sandwich: The company launched a viral campaign in 2004 for the Tender Crisp sandwich. The campaign involved a person dressed in a chicken suit following commands typed by users on a website, which was executed online. ‘Chicken the way you want it was the tagline and had entertainment value even to people who didn’t eat Burger King chicken.
- Ok Go’s video Song: The underdog band marketed their song “Here it Goes Again” online, featuring an innovative treadmill dance. It went viral and became a milestone in the music industry’s use of viral marketing techniques.
Conclusion – Viral Marketing Techniques
As a strategy, viral marketing techniques have been a success, and most of them appear to have used the online medium in conjunction with social media to great effect. For such a campaign, there are a lot of ingredients that need to go into it. Fun, humor, and excitement are all good if there is an underlying brand message to convey. Otherwise, people will see the humor, surprise element, or sensational stuff in it and share it. However, it will not add value to the brand.
The viral marketing campaign is mostly inexpensive and simple, most often taken on mobile phone cameras and uploaded or taken using amateur camcorders. Capturing intimate or surprising moments on camera requires the observer to be alert and decisive, as a single moment of hesitation could cause the loss of those shots and scenes forever.
It is not enough that a video, image, or text can go viral on its own. In the beginning, it needs a gentle push, support through social media, and word-of-mouth to go viral. Even if the content is amazing, people need to know about it before they can share and make it popular. According to Steve Olenski, contributing writer to Forbes, it is possible to use tools such as Revcontent to place viral campaigns on top websites on desktop and mobile.
When planning a viral marketing campaign, the message is as important as the identification of a target audience. The campaign should have a broad-based demographic profile that considers factors such as age group, income, social status, lifestyle, aspirations, and other relevant characteristics. Incorrectly targeting a campaign can backfire and fail to effectively promote the intended brand.
The team responsible for the viral marketing campaign should possess an innovative mindset rather than a traditional one. Samsung’s LED TV campaign putting LED lights into sheep creating works of art attracted 19 million views based on its novelty. Some campaigns have used their own platforms to propagate the message, but it makes sense to use the web resources of others to go viral. Affiliate programs place text or graphics on a variety of websites.
It operates on fundamental human drives and motivations, such as the need for connection with others, the desire for material gain, the longing for love and companionship, the pursuit of popularity, and the quest for enjoyment. Therefore, marketers need to work the viral strategy on the common motivations of people, and moreover, it should be in a format that is easily transferable to others.
It is impossible to anticipate whether a campaign in the film industry will become a hit. Moreover, there is no market research to evaluate what people want to see in a viral video. But people recognize its viral element when they watch it and are eager to share it in their viral marketing network. Even big trans-global firms could succeed in only one or two campaigns achieving a 20% success rate, while the majority of the videos went unnoticed. A complex mixture of factors and variables outlined above are at work, and one can always get some clues from the success stories in viral.