Academic journal article Entrepreneurial Executive

Viral Marketing: Techniques and Implementation

Academic journal article Entrepreneurial Executive

Viral Marketing: Techniques and Implementation

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Marketing messages have become a pivotal and inseparable part of society. Decades of listening to similar business-to-consumer messages have made consumers inattentive and skeptical about advertisements. The advent of new media via the Internet has allowed businesses to change their advertising methods to be more suitable for emerging trends in consumer behavior such as sharing through social media. Instant communication has provided consumers with a way to communicate directly with businesses, therefore allowing for two-way communication. Many corporations, including large ones such as Old Spice, Levi Strauss, Nike, Chevrolet, and Burger King have taken advantage of viral marketing by providing unusual, mold-breaking advertisements that have generated buzz by interacting with or entertaining consumers.

An effective way to raise interest in a company's products and services is to stimulate word-of-mouth communication among the company's prospective target market (Palka 2009). As friends and acquaintances exchange product recommendations, word-of-mouth becomes a powerful vehicle for generating buzz, boosting sales revenues, increasing market share, and building a commendable reputation (Emakina 2007). Word-of-mouth can also stifle the progress of a company, if the goods or services provided consistently disappoint consumers (Dufour 2011). This places additional importance on the customer's perception of quality and value in a company's products and services in terms of customer satisfaction since both bad and good reviews spread quickly through recommendation networks (Leskovec 2007).

The popularity of the Internet, social media, and mobile computing has provided a new conduit for word-of-mouth. The Internet removes many of the communication barriers that lie between people such as distance, time of day, and culture. As a consequence, sharing information is more open than ever before (Leskovec 2007). This unhindered form of online word-of-mouth that has arisen with the advent of the Internet, is often termed viral marketing (Palka 2009). Viral marketing can promote the exponential spread of marketing messages to niche segments on a scale unparalleled by even multimillion dollar traditional marketing campaigns (Leskovec 2007).

Viral marketing campaigns can be unpredictable because it relies on the reception and interpretation of marketing messages by consumers (Dufour 2011). Viral marketing, unlike television marketing, radio marketing, billboards, or fliers, requires on direct consumer input (Phelps 2004). Traditional marketing allows consumers to passively consume messages, whereas viral marketing relies on consumers who are willing to take an active part in spreading a message (Stonedahl 2010). When videos, images, and phrases become popular on the Internet, they are said to go "viral" (Sexton 2011). The same semantic principle applies to viral marketing campaigns. The word "viral" in viral marketing refers to popularity and exponential spread of ideas. When a marketing campaign becomes popular online at a very rapid pace, then it is considered viral marketing (Sexton 2011).

There are two broad ways to classify how corporate messages go viral: consumer-initiated viral marketing and business-initiated viral marketing. First, some companies receive viral promotion without investing any time at all. Through recommendation networks such as the iTunes Store and Amazon.com, well-received products begin to stand out, perhaps even ranking higher in popularity (Leskovec 2007). Second, some corporate messages become popular because consumers mention them through social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pintrest, or YouTube (Chen 2010). We will refer to this kind of hands-off viral marketing as consumer-initiated viral marketing.

Companies do not have to be completely passive, and can indeed attempt to make their own messages go "viral." Hotmail. …

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