What happened to good old ‘viral marketing’?

By Paul Grant

The short answer is: “Nothing happened to good old viral marketing”. It is still alive and well, albeit a little tattered from some failed attempts by major brands. It may not be in the spotlight quite so much, and is perhaps overshadowed by more ‘trendy’ techniques and buzz words, but there is always more to the story.

A recent redemption of the viral campaign

The Dexter hit list campaign

Television program Dexter has returned to the viral movie concept in 2008 with another personalised movie, this time portraying the friend as a potential target for murder. See an example here.

Inevitably controversial to some, it plays on the human fascination with news and the ‘gossipy’ stories that often fuel them. Perhaps also, it exploits the modern need for many to be famous or recognised, one way or another. This type of marketing is not necessarily going to work for all brands.

The notable pioneers of digital viral marketing

Some years ago a few clever digital agencies made quite an impact on the advertising world with campaigns that relied on the ‘send to a friend’ concept. One of the techniques was to provide a website which allowed a person to create a customised movie containing selected personal pieces of information about their friend, which could be collated into a seamless movie clip. That a link to that clip would be sent to the friend, with often humourous results.

London interactive agency Glue created such a campaign for Mini. The site uses asks for personal bits of information about the friend (first name, occupation, hometown, wife/girlfriend’s first name, etc.) and weaves them into a video that questions the friend’s manhood and general worthiness for owning a Mini. See an example here.

It was always a risky business

Chevy apprentice campaign

As is the natural way, there were always going to be imitators that just didn’t quite get the viral formula right. Or innovators that took a chance on a viral campaign which backfired. Brands like Chevrolet, Starbucks, and Malibu have all made viral marketing blunders which didn’t have quite the impact desired.

Certainly in recent history a most notable failure was a Christmas campaign from electronics giant Sony to promote their PSP console. Find out about some of these campaigns here.

Making the right viral marketing decisions

It can be challenging for marketing departments or executive leadership to make the appropriate decisions about whether to use viral marketing, and especially how to go about it.

Several years ago we produced a document titled “Viral marketing – impacting established brands” which contains recommendations and considerations for such decision makers.

Adobe PDF iconDownload: “Viral marketing – impacting established brands”
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If you would like to find out how viral marketing could be used to promote your organisation, go ahead and contact us right now on +44 (0) 207 812 6474 or by sending an email to [email protected]

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Meet the Author

Paul Grant