The term ‘viral marketing’ describes any strategy that passes a marketing message from one person to another – and goes on to spread ‘like a virus’.
In other words, the message must spread automatically as one person contacts another (like a virus). To be able to do this, the marketing message must be built into the communication itself.
‘Word of mouth’ marketing and ‘buzz marketing‘ are similar, but these depend on the person remembering and/or choosing to spread the word as they contact friends and associates. Viruses don’t spread like this – we don’t choose or have to remember who to ‘infect’.
So the power of viral marketing, as opposed to word of mouth or buzz marketing is that it is somehow built into the mode of communication itself.
The classic example is Hotmail. At the bottom of every message sent through Hotmail was the message “Get your private, free email at http://www.hotmail.com”. Users automatically spread the message to other email users, many of whom signed up to Hotmail, then spread the virus further.
Another example is Online Originals, the internet’s original e-book publisher. which promotes its business as friends share works of literature online. Yet another is GetJealous.com, used as a blog by my cousin Sara as she travels around the world.
In both cases, the medium IS the message.
Creative businesses can use viral marketing by building the message into the heart of their products and services.
For example, see MUTO animated grafitti video.
*Please contact me with examples of how you’ve used viral marketing in your creative business or cultural enterprise. I want to share your great ideas – and give you publicity at the same time.