Viral marketing. We’ve all heard of it, but what exactly is it?

Well, in essence, it’s the process of brands creating content that is shared on social platforms, with the specific intent for it to be shared on a huge scale, thus improving its reach organically.

 

We see this almost every day, and the most beneficial examples of this style of marketing often come when companies capitalize on trends on social and digital media. For example, companies have been known to create and adapt their own ‘memes’ which is an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations. (Oxford)

 

This is an example of how humour can be leveraged when marketing and creating content. Psychologically, people are attracted to humour and the positive emotions it brings. For example, ‘Old Spice’, a men’s soap and fragrance brand have been noted multiple times for their use of viral marketing. The ‘Old Spice Man’ series of social media posts that preceded a further series of television adverts, generated millions of shares and responses. The highlight, of course, was the short advert that the company launched ‘The man your man could smell like’, which evoked aspirations in both men and women, for men to smell like the ‘Old Spice Man’.

 

Because the Ad was so popular, it achieved two quite remarkable things. Firstly, it overcame the challenge that all companies of fragrances and soaps face. The key challenge with promoting them is that, well, we can’t smell them through a screen. That’s why fragrances are often sold on emotion, by creating a persona behind the product that people can aspire to. It’s usually highly sexualised, playing on emotions of both men and women. Here, the viewer is challenged, “your man could smell like me”, well, we don’t know what he smells like, but we assume it is desirable.

 

Secondly, the viral nature of the content allowed Old Spice sales to skyrocket, without an offer even being presented. There were no huge price cuts or offers. The campaign spoke for itself. This proves just how powerful viral messages can be. Also, think of the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge” that went viral too.

 

The biggest challenge, however, of viral content marketing, is that there is no guarantee that it will work. Sounds odd, but it’s true. When a piece of content is shared, even by a huge organisation, there is still little chance that others will be compelled to share it. That’s why the content has to resonate with as many people as possible, ideally within the target audience of the brand.

 

Although, the results of such campaigns are often far greater than more traditional promotional activities, as the promotion is not done by the company. Users of platforms like Facebook and Instagram share the content themselves, thus spreading the message of the brand for them. This takes away the ‘sales’ aspect that consumers are aware comes with most, if not all promotional messages that come directly from organisations themselves. It is this psychological shift that allows such campaigns to be so successful.

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