Viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that use preexisting social networks to produce increases in brand awareness, through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. It can be word of mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet. Viral marketing is a marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message voluntarily. Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive flash games,advergames, ebooks, brandable software, images, or eventext messages.
It is claimed that a satisfied customer tells an average of three people about a product or service he/she likes, and eleven people about a product or service which he/she did not like. Viral marketing is based on this natural human behavior.
The goal of marketers interested in creating successful viral marketing programs is to identify individuals with high Social Network Potential(SNP) and create viral messages that appeal to this segment of the population and have a high probability of being passed along.
The term "viral marketing" is also sometimes used pejoratively to refer to stealth marketing campaigns the use of varied kinds of astroturfingboth online and offline to create the impression of spontaneous word of mouth enthusiasm.
The term Viral Marketing was coined by a Harvard Business School professor, Jeffrey F. Rayport, in a December 1996 article for Fast Company The Virus of Marketing. The term was further popularized by Tim Draperand Steve Jurvetson of the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson in 1997 to describeHotmail's e-mails practice of appending advertising for itself in outgoing mail from their users.
Among the first to write about viral marketing on the Internet was media critic Douglas rushkuff in his 1994 book Media Virus. The assumption is that if such an advertisement reaches a "susceptible" user, that user will become "infected" (i.e., sign up for an account) and can then go on to infect other susceptible users. As long as each infected user sends mail to more than one susceptible user on average, standard in epidemiology imply that the number of infected users will grow according to a logistic curve, whose initial segment appears exponential.
Among the first to write about algorithms designed to identify people with high Social Networking Potential is Bob Gerstley in Advertising Research is Changing. Gerstley uses SNP algorithms in quantitative marketing research to help marketers maximize the effectiveness of viral marketing campaigns.
Business Week(2001) described web-based campaigns for Hotmail(1996) and The Bliar Wirch Project (1999) as striking examples of viral marketing, but warned of some dangers for imitation marketers.
Burger King's The Subservient Chicken campaign was cited in Wired as a striking example of viral or word-of-mouth marketing.
In 2000, Slate described TiVo's unpublicized gambit of giving free TiVo's to web-savvy enthusiasts to create "viral" word of mouth, pointing out that a viral campaign differs from a publicity stunt.
Cadbury's Dairy Milk 2007 Gorilla advert was heavily popularised on YouTube and Facebook.
With the emergence of Web 2.0, mostly all web startups like facebook.com, youtube.com, collabotrade.com, myspace.com, and digg.com have made good use of Viral Marketing by merging it with the social networking.
The release of the 2007 concept album Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails involved a viral marketing campaign, including the band leaving USB drives at concerts during NIN's 2007 European Tour. This was followed up with a series of interlinked websites revealing clues and information about the dystopian future in which the album is set.
The film Cloverfield initially released one teaser trailer that did not reveal the title—only the release date. The subsequent online viral marketing campaign for the film is remarkably complex, making use of everything from fictitious company websites to MySpace profiles for the film's main characters.
In 2007, World Wrestling Entertainment promoted the return of Chris Jericho with a viral marketing campaign using 15-second cryptic binary code videos. The videos contained hidden messages and biblical links related to Jericho, although speculation existed throughout WWE fans over who the campaign targeted. The text "Save Us" and "2nd Coming" were most prominent in the videos. The campaign spread throughout the internet with numerous websites, though no longer operational, featuring hidden messages and biblical links to further hint at Jericho's return.
In 2007, Portuguese football club Sporting integrated a viral feature in their campaign for season seats. In their website, a video required the user to input his name and phone number before playback started, which then featured the coach Paulo Bento and the players waiting at the locker room while he makes a phone call to the user telling him that they just can't start the season until the user buys his season ticket. Flawless video and phone call synchronization and the fact that it was a totally new experience for the user led to nearly 200,000 pageviews phone calls in less than 24 hours.