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Viral Marketing

Viral marketing and viral advertising refers to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce exponential increases in brand awareness, through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of a computer virus. It can often be word-of-mouth delivered and enhanced online; it can harness the network effect of the Internet and can be very useful in reaching a large number of people rapidly.

Viral marketing sometimes refers to Internet-based stealth marketing campaigns, including the use of blogs, seemingly amateur web sites, and other forms of astroturfing, designed to create word of mouth for a new product or service. Often the goal of viral marketing campaigns is to generate media coverage via "offbeat" stories worth many times more than the campaigning company's advertising budget.

The term "viral advertising" refers to the idea that people will pass on and share interesting and entertaining content; this is often sponsored by a brand, which is looking to build awareness of a product or service. These viral commercials often take the form of funny video clips, or interactive Flash games, an advergame, images, and even text.

Viral marketing is popular because of the ease of executing the marketing campaign, relative low-cost (compared to direct mail), good targeting, and the high and rapid response rate. The main strength of viral marketing is its ability to obtain a large number of interested people at a low cost.

The hardest task for any company is to acquire and retain a large customer base. Through the use of the internet and the effects of e-mail advertising, the business-to-consumer (B2C) efforts have a greater impact than many other tools of marketing. Viral marketing is a technique that avoids the annoyance of spam mail; it encourages users of a specific product or service to tell a friend. This would be a positive word-of-mouth recommendation. One of the most successful perspectives found to achieve this customer base is the integrated marketing communication IMC perspective.

Types of Viral Marketing Campaigns:

These are few types of Viral Marketing–

  • Pass-along: A message which encourages the user to send the message to others. The crudest form of this is chain letters where a message at the bottom of the e-mail prompts the reader to forward the message
  • Incentivised viral: A reward is offered for either passing a message along or providing someone else's address. This can dramatically increase referrals. However, this is most effective when the offer requires another person to take action.
  • Undercover: A viral message presented as a cool or unusual page, activity, or piece of news, without obvious incitements to link or pass along. In Undercover Marketing, it is not immediately apparent that anything is being marketed
  • "Edgy Gossip/Buzz marketing" ads or messages that create controversy by challenging the borders of taste or appropriateness. Discussion of the resulting controversy can be considered to generate buzz and word of mouth advertising. Prior to releasing a movie, some Hollywood movie stars get married, get divorced, or get arrested, or become involved in some controversy that directs conversational attention to them.
  • User-managed database: Users create and manage their own lists of contacts using a database provided by an online service provider. By inviting other members to participate in their community, users create a viral, self-propagating chain of contacts that naturally grows and encourages others to sign up as well.