Viral Promotion as a part of Viral Marketing


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What is a virus? And what is virality all about? Why do some pieces of information (ads in this case) get shared like crazy and others die soon after the beginning of their lifecycle? How do some companies spend several hundred dollars on the ad spot and grow from startups to the leaders of the market? Do people still think that the amount of money spent on the advertisement are strictly proportional to the outcome from the ad campaign?
These and many other answers to the questions can be found in my Master Thesis "Viral Promotion as a part of Viral Marketing." The answers are based on books, articles from the internet, and, more importantly, from the independent research, based on the questionnaire, taken by over 100 people from 27 different countries!
Enjoy reading and broadening your knowledge about non-medical viruses!

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Viral Promotion as a part of Viral Marketing

  1. 1. Annex No. 3 to Rector’s order No. 7 of January 30, 2013 Master’s Studies Field of studies: International Business Aleksey Narko Student No. 057830 Viral promotion as a part of viral marketing Master’s thesis Under scientific supervision of prof. zw. dr hab. Andrzej Sznajder Warsaw 2014 Page1
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  3. 3. Viral promotion as a part of viral marketing Table of Contents Introduction ............................................................................................................................... 5 Problem.................................................................................................................................. 6 Hypothesis ............................................................................................................................. 6 Objectives .............................................................................................................................. 7 Structure of Thesis................................................................................................................. 8 Chapter 1: E-Marketing............................................................................................................. 9 1.1 Definition......................................................................................................................... 9 1.2 E-marketing methods..................................................................................................... 12 1.2.1 Email Marketing......................................................................................................... 12 1.2.2 Search Marketing ..................................................................................................... 13 Chapter 2: Viral Marketing ..................................................................................................... 17 2.1 Definition....................................................................................................................... 17 2.2 Development of Viral Marketing................................................................................... 18 2.3 Types of Viral Marketing Campaigns ........................................................................... 20 2.4 Viral Marketing Strategies............................................................................................. 22 2.5 Viral Marketing and emotions....................................................................................... 25 2.6 Variables concerning viral marketing............................................................................ 27 2.7 Organic and Amplified Viral Marketing ....................................................................... 34 2.8 Viral Marketing Campaigns .......................................................................................... 34 2.9 Successful Viral Marketing Campaign Examples ......................................................... 36 Page3
  4. 4. 2.9.1 Will it Blend?............................................................................................................. 36 2.9.2 Thresher sales up 60% with 40% off!........................................................................ 38 2.9.3 One Million Dollar Webpage .................................................................................... 40 2.9.4 The Best Job in the World ......................................................................................... 41 2.9.5 Dollar Shave Club...................................................................................................... 43 2.9.6 Volvo Jean Claude Van Damme Epic Split............................................................... 45 2.10 Viral Marketing evaluation..................................................................................... 47 2.10.1 Advantages of Viral Marketing Campaigns ............................................................. 47 2.10.2 Disadvantages of Viral Marketing Campaigns......................................................... 49 Chapter 3: Research. Recognition of viral marketing techniques among the consumers....... 51 3.1 The goal and methods of the research ........................................................................... 51 3.2 Scale............................................................................................................................... 51 3.3 Data Analysis................................................................................................................. 54 Work Conclusions ............................................................................................................... 72 Bibliography ........................................................................................................................ 74 List of tables and figures...................................................................................................... 80 Annex 1: Questionnaire designed for the study................................................................... 82 Page4
  5. 5. Introduction Our world is full of viruses. They are everywhere around: on your table, keyboard, lamp, underwear, toy puppy, etc. It has been estimated that there are more than 1031 of them on our planet, which is 10 million times more than the number of stars in the universe.1 Some of them cause flu, some-influenza, other measles and totally different ones lead to fever. Researchers say that “Many viruses cause no harm or disease whatsoever. However, some viruses may attack certain cells and multiply within them.”2 It can happen in your office, school or university, that, at the beginning of the week you see one person out of the big group coming with a flu…At the end of the week it may look tragic: most of your colleagues are ill. The effect of the information being spread all over the globe is similar. Nowadays we have mobile phones, computers, laptops, TV sets, tablets and other means of receiving information. As of the of the very end of 20th and beginning of 21st century the most popular means of spreading information was emails. At the very beginning emails were only used by the external software, however in 1996 Hotmail appeared to be the first web-based email provider.3 It was also the time when the term “Viral Marketing” was first mentioned in the public. The term originated from the technique, Hotmail used to reach new customers, which was spreading the word around, including your friends, family and colleagues. The “spiderweb technique” worked so well, that the company reached a record of almost 9 million users in less than 2 years after being shown to the public.4 So what was the secret of Hotmail? It was all about the viral message: “Want a free email account? Sign-up for Hotmail today!” The topic of viral marketing is very interesting, however, from my point of view? It is not so well researched as the conventional marketing methods. 1 Zimmer,C., An Infinity of Viruses.Available from:­ infinity-of-viruses/. [Accessed 14 May 2014] 2 Mandal,A., Human Diseases Caused by Viruse. Available from:­ Diseases-Caused-by-Viruses.aspx [Accessed 14 May 2014] 3 wiseGeek, What Were the First Email Providers? Available from:­ first-email-providers.htm [Accessed 14 May 2014] 4 Pelline,J., Hotmail, Microsoft talk deals. Available from:­ 851.1-851.30 [Accessed 14 May 2014] Page5
  6. 6. In my work I want to concentrate on the viral marketing techniques, the importance of the virus in the advertising industry, the process of making the ads that cause “illness”, as well as a combination of advantages and disadvantages of viral methods in marketing. Problem How to define the virus? It is not something we can easily see from far away or inspect with special machine like doctors do. It is not something obvious which has a simple explanation behind. Is it just the feeling when we want to share what we have seen, heard or created ourselves with as many people as possible, or it is just a special technique to make information (viral ads in our example) unforgettable and easy to spread? There are many things that are massively spread around and can overcome great distances, connecting absolutely different people and be quicker than the speed of the sound, but is it really the same when we are dealing with marketing? How can we differentiate a virus from a normal illness? There are many ways how people can spread viral information, but is it the same when we are dealing with advertising? Can we learn how to start a virus or this experience comes naturally with time? Can we control a virus or it always acts like an independent creature? How to define viral marketing? Is it always the information about the product or service that occupies customer’s minds and makes them share their discovery with others or it is just simple ads at the newspaper, radio, TV or Facebook? Is it possible to create a virus that will make everyone ill? How to define the role of virus in advertising? Can we see it, being present more or less in all advertisements or only in the ones that are known and were shared by millions of people? Does the virus exist only in some parts of marketing campaign or it can be present through all parts of advertising scheme? Hypothesis The most important objective of any advertisement is to make the product or service known among as many potential customers as possible. However its aim is also to increase sales, improve company’s position at the market, gain extra share of the product or service category. Taking into consideration the fact that the viral spread of the advertisement among the Page6
  7. 7. potential clients is one of the most effective, valuable and efficient points that makes the ad really bring the money back as well as a substantial amount of profit from investing in it, it becomes really worth taking it into consideration while trying to make another “Wow-effect” on the targeted audience. Therefore those “ad alchemists” that are able to create great ad out of nothing and sell a product which looks the same as competition, but sells two, three or even ten times better are priceless. The specialists that know how to set a viral bomb in the brains of the consumers are the most priceless assets of any advertisement agency. In my thesis work I am taking into consideration viral promotion as an integral part of marketing mix, therefore I am using the notions of viral marketing together with viral advertising and promotion simultaneously and interchangeably. My other assumptions are as follows: H1:Non-viral ads can’t compete in the race for success with their viral opponents. It is easier for viral ads to find a way to the potential customer, victim which is going to spread the idea around and, therefore, increase the possibility of the ad substantially improve the proportion of profit to money invested in promotion. H2: Possibility of becoming a virus is the most important part in planning the ad. The procedure of advertisement creation is “homogenous”. Either advertising specialist implement the viral techniques from the beginning of ad creation and make the content easy to be shared or they are going to partly or fully fail to succeed with their efforts. H3: Virus is a living creature. Marketers should cherish it and take care at all the stages of the viral process in order to see the results expected. Objectives The main goal of this thesis is to find the dependence between virality and success of the ad. I will show the ingredients of the viral content and the main figures controlling the success of the campaign. I will try to prove that the effect of the virus power is usually neglected, however it can bring great, sometimes unexpected results even to experienced marketers. I will show that the viral content has its own shorter path into human’s brain and stays in the cognitive system longer than the interruptive forms of marketing. I will also investigate the human’s perception of the viral marketing among my friends and show the results of my Page7
  8. 8. survey, interpreting the success of the viral content we encounter more and more often nowadays. Structure of Thesis This thesis is divided into 4 main parts. First part is introductory section which introduces the topic, research problem, hypothesis and objectives. The next two chapters review existing literature. Chapter 1 offers a broader look on e-marketing and it’s main techniques and methods used by specialists nowadays. The main idea of this chapter is to give basic information about online marketing subject, allowing the reader better understand the viral marketing idea presented in the following chapter. Chapter 2 makes the reader acquainted with the notion of virality which is the main topic of the thesis. It also provides information, based on the real cases from the well- known companies that used the viral techniques for their target audience in real life. Chapter 3 is describing advantages and disadvantages of viral marketing campaign, the benefits it can bring to the company and risks, connected with it. Chapter 4 is based on the research conducted on a focus group of the people from different gender, ages, nationalities and countries. The sample size of the group is 106 people. This chapter presents the research findings, which help me find to the conclusion on the topic of my thesis. Page8
  9. 9. Chapter 1: E-Marketing 1.1 Definition What is marketing? According to P. Kotler and G. Armstrong marketing is the process by which companies create value for customers and build strong customer relationships in order to capture value from customers in return.5 So what is e-marketing? E-marketing, which is very often interchanged with online, Internet or Digital marketing “refers to the application of marketing principles and techniques via electronic media and more specifically the Internet.” D. Chaffey, one of the authors of the book “Internet Marketing Strategy, Implementation and Practice” describes e-marketing as the technique, which refers to digital media such as web, e­ mail and wireless media, but also includes management of digital customer data and electronic customer relationship management systems (E-CRM systems)6 .According to Norton Company, 28% of adults globally “can’t live without the Internet” and 41% of them said that they “need the Internet in their everyday life” Internet and everything connected with it is everywhere, it surrounds us, influences our behaviors and live. There are around 2,5 billion users of the internet in the world which make 35% of the world’s population, with the biggest penetration of 81% in North America.7 Moreover, it has been estimated that internet will make up nearly 25% of the entire ad market by 2015.8 These statistics show that there is a great field for e-marketing activities globally. According to the president of Convince & Convert company Jay Baer: “Marketing is the messages and/or actions that cause messages and/or actions.” With e-marketing it is all the same, the only difference is that these actions happen through the internet. Marketing is about conversations, and the Internet has become a hub of conversations. The connected nature of the Internet allows us to follow and track these conversations, and provides entry points for all parties.9 With the discovery of the internet businesses got the opportunity to reach a wider, richer audience in the shorter period. More than 1/3 of the global population nowadays has 5 Kotler,P.,Armstrong, G., Principles of Marketing, 14th edition, Pearson Prentice Hall, p.5 6 Chaffey,D., Definitions of Emarketing vs Internet vs Digital marketing.Smart Insights. Available from:­ emarketing-vs-internet-vs-digital-marketing/ [Accessed 15 May 2014] 7 We Are Social Singapore. Social, Digital & Mobile Around The World (January 2014). Available from: [Accessed 15 May 2014] 8 WebDAM. 2014 Marketing Statistics Infographic. [Infographic] 20 Captivating Marketing Statistics Available from: [Accessed 15 May 2014] 9 Stokes,R., eMarketing: The Essential Guide to Online Marketing, Quirk eMarketing (Pty) Ltd. 2008.p5 Page9
  10. 10. everyday access to the internet10 , almost eight new people are coming onto the internet every second ( 2012), which means that the importance and the possible effect of proper online marketing on business is growing by leaps and bounds. In December 2012 there were around 634 million websites and the new ones were entering the web with the speed of 51 million per year11 . As a result the Internet is growing leaps and bounds, so does the sphere of e-marketing. As of the mid 90s online marketing started with efficient banner adverts and pop-ups and continued with e-mail campaigns and newsletters being sent to the customers with the hope of increase in sales, nowadays these techniques are used less and less often as people are getting used to them and simply ignore. Moreover, from the very beginning, these methods were not offering client targeting function, which is very important for visible effects in successful sales. Nowadays, marketing looks utterly different than it was in 1990s: more and more sophisticated methods are entering the world of advertising, which can offer more possibilities and visibility of results to the specialists, who use them. Companies put lots of efforts to be present in the e-marketing sphere due to different reasons. Companies facilitate e-marketing for different purposes. According to P.R. Smith and D. Chaffey there are 5Ss of e-marketing, each of them offering benefits to the companies and basis for adaptation of e-marketing. 10 ITU World Telecommunication. ICT Facts and Figures. Available from:­ D/ict/facts/2011/material/ICTFactsFigures2011.pdf 11 Pingdom, Internet 2012 in numbers. Available from:­ numbers/ [Accesed 18 May 2014] Page10
  11. 11. Table 1 - The 5Ss of Internet Marketing Source: P.R .Smith and D. Chaffey .eMarketing eXcellence. Planning and optimizing your digital marketing. Third edition(2008) Page11
  12. 12. 1.2 E-marketing methods Despite the fact that there are lots of e-marketing methods nowadays, and their number grows steadily, I have taken the main techniques concluded by R. Stokes12 and D. Chaffey & P.R. Smith13 . 1.2.1 Email Marketing Email Marketing is one of the oldest, yet still quite important and powerful methods of e- marketing. Although the first thing that comes to the mind of many people when they hear the combination of email and marketing is the idea of SPAM. It is not surprising as according to the research it is the most prevalent type of spam which accounts for approximately 36% of all spam messages14 . It is also one of the reasons why email marketing is slowly losing its power and mostly used nowadays for business to customer conversations, however they are not as well targeted as the other e-marketing tools and often associated with final user interruption and, as a matter of fact, irritation. So why it is still used? Because even if the company goes on a risk to spam the potential customers, which is an unlawful act in many countries and can cause problems to business in the longer run, the message can still achieve the main goal of viewer’s attention and at least the topic of the message will be seen. Compared with the web, where users will only check the company’s webpage only if there is a reason for this, it grabs more target attention and even has the power to get noticed before being “thrown” to spam bin. Moreover, there are other email marketing tactics that don’t interrupt the user so much as spam messages. The main email marketing method that works better than spam is opt-in email advertising. Opt-in emails or permission marketing is an advertising practice where the recipient agrees to receive emails from the company. This technique helps marketing specialist decrease the drawbacks of using email advertising. In most of the cases this method includes more personalized information, relevant to the receiver of the message. 12 Stokes,R., eMarketing: The Essential Guide to Online Marketing, Quirk eMarketing (Pty) Ltd. 2008. 13 P.R .Smith and D. Chaffey .eMarketing eXcellence. Planning and optimizing your digital marketing. Third edition(2008), Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group 14 Spamlaws, Spam Statistics and Facts. Available from: [Accessed 18 May 2014] Page12
  13. 13. According to Chaffey (2008) there are three main techniques within opt-in email advertising:  Cold E-mail Campaign. It is an email technique when a company rents or buys lists of customers from the specific providers of email forms and sends “cold e-mails” to start the dialogue with a potential client.  Co-Branded E-mail. This is the method which emphasizes the cooperation between two or more companies when one of them or both in some cases send mutual co-branded messages to each other’s customers.  Third Party E-Newsletters. This technique is similar to the previous one, however in this case one company ads a banner or an ad of their product or service to the newsletters of another firm. Adding to these companies can also send newsletters to their own, existing customers to keep the contact and supply them with the information about new products or services, as well as updates to the existing ones. The main advantages of this method include: 1) Mass customization 2) Cost-effectiveness 3) High percentage of target reach 4) Measurability The main problem of this method is that marketing emails have still very high level of rejection. Moreover, many of them are being filtered by the email service providers. Another issue is the antispam laws which should be taken care of while deciding to use this method and trying to optimize the results. 1.2.2 Search Marketing We live in the era of searching and finding information in the internet. Together with checking emails, searching for the information in the internet is one of the most popular activities online, with 93% and 92% of the web users doing it.15 15 Purcell,K., Search and email still top the list of most popular online activities. Available from: [Accessed 18 May 2014] Page13
  14. 14. According to P.R. Smith and D. Chaffey, search marketing can generate over half of the new business, depending on how well the company and product or service is known. Search marketing is a very powerful tool and can be even everything that companies do to raise their visibility in search engines in order to attract more visitors16 .This is a major reason why it is crucial for the companies to keep their online and search engine visibility as high as possible to reach a broader range of potential customers. If not customers will hardly ever see them due to the vast amount of information and other webpages in the world wide web. Talking about Search Marketing, there are two major kinds of results: organic search results and paid search results. Picture 1. Percentage of the users doing each of online activities 16 Moran, M. & Hunt, B. (2006). Search engine marketing, Inc: driving search traffic to your company’s web site. Pearson Education Page14
  15. 15. Organic Search Results Organic results are the main product of any search engine: from Google and Bing, to Yahoo and the most popular search engine in Russia – Yandex. Usually these results are shown at the left side of search engine results pages. They cannot be bought-therefore they are also called as natural results. The central feature of these results is that they need to be reliable for the search engine to function, attract and keep users. One of the reasons why Google keeps its market share at the level of up to 70% (Look Picture 2 for global Search Engine share results) is the fact that it has one of the most precise search engine mechanisms, which shows highly relevant organic results. Picture 2. Desktop Search Engine Market Share. Source: [Access Date: 14.05.2014] Paid Search Results Paid search, or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, is the one accompanying the natural results, however these search outcomes are being sponsored by companies. Marketing specialists try to get the placement and pay the search as soon as their advertisement is clicked. This method involves displaying of sponsored results alongside the organic results. Advertisers bid for placement and pay the search engine when their advertisement is clicked on.17 Paid research 17 Stokes,R., eMarketing: The Essential Guide to Online Marketing, Quirk eMarketing (Pty) Ltd. 2008. Page15
  16. 16. or sponsored listings are provided by the majority search engines in a special ad area or alongside with main results. Search engine companies keep their customers through organic search results, however they earn profit from the paid placements. Search Engine Optimization Search Engine Optimization or simply SEO is the technique that helps to achieve the highest positions in the natural part of the search engine, after specific combination or key phrase is typed in the code of the webpage.18 It is an art, craft and science of driving web traffic to web sites19 . Originally Organic Search Marketing is free of charge, however in order to keep high position in the listings it is necessary to keep pace with SEO, as, otherwise the company’s webpage can appear at the end of the list and be invisible for the target. Search Engine Marketing is very important, it is crucial to be at the first page of Google or Yahoo or any other search engine due to the fact that you are getting the majority of the views if you are present there. It has been estimated that the first page in Google gets 94% of the views, while second – only 6%, which means that if you are second-you simply lost the game. At the same time, researchers say that if you are number one and stay at the top of the search page you can get up to 34% of the clicks.20 18 Chaffey,D., Smith, PR, eMarketing eXcellence. Planning and optimizing your digital marketing . p.283 Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group 19 Davis, H., Search Engine Optimizatio Building Traffic and Making Money with SEO. p.2, O'Reilly Media 20 Jensen,T.,2nd page rankings: You are the #1 loser. Available from:­ search/2nd-place-1st-place-loser-seriously [Accessed 19 May 2014] Page16
  17. 17. Chapter 2: Viral Marketing 2.1 Definition In my thesis, I am taking into account viral promotion as an integral part of the marketing mix, therefore I am using the notions of viral marketing together with viral advertising and promotion simultaneously and interchangeably. Moreover, Viral Marketing is the definition mostly used for description of viral promotion techniques in the literature by famous marketing specialists. Viral marketing is one of those techniques that appeared at the end of the 20th century and changed the world of advertising we are living in today. According to Michel Forting «Viral marketing is the process of implementing means or tools through which the knowledge of your existence self-propagates." According to R.E. Moore (2003) viral marketing is defined as “the name applied to a group of family resemblant marketing strategies using network- enhanced word-of-mouth21 .” It is one of the methods, which is opposite to the interruptive marketing, commonly used even nowadays, which is represented by the irritating ads we are surrounded by: in the streets, TV, radio, internet, public transportation and other places. It is totally different from them. Marketing agencies, which create interruptive marketing campaigns are slowly disappearing from the marketplace and instead “the future belongs to marketers who establish a foundation and process where interested people can market to each other” and can “ignite consumer networks and then get out of the way and let them talk”22 . Viral marketing can be defined as a chain effect of the information, being spread from user to user. The message is getting more and more power as the time passes by, staying in the minds of more and more people. The message is being spread from one person to another, and, if successful, reaching millions, taking advantage of instant multiplication, growing in exposure and impact. Viral marketing is not about interruption, it is about interaction between people. It is more effective than traditional forms of marketing due to the fact that users tend to share information and make recommendations to the ones, who surround them and another way round. According to Nielsen global information and measurement company 90% of the people tend to believe the recommendations from the people they know and 75% tend to believe the consumer opinions they find in the internet. 21 Moore, R.E. (2003) From genericide to viral marketing: on ‘brand’,Language & ommunication, 23, pp.331­ 357. Available from: 22 Godin, S.,. Unleashing the Ideavirus. P.143, 2000, Do You Zoom, Inc. Page17
  18. 18. Picture 2: Relevance of Advertising . Source: Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey, Q3 2011 This is the reason, why products, that are advertised, using viral marketing are better known by the consumers, than their competitors. Moreover this is the explanation, why more and more agencies are trying to use the power of “viral force” in their advertising campaigns nowadays. Viral Marketing differs a bit from Word of Mouth Marketing. According to J. Kirby word of mouth is “The promotion of a company or its products and services through an initiative conceived and designed to get people talking positively about that company, product or service.23 ” Therefore in my thesis I will take into consideration Viral Marketing as a Word of Mouth technique used over the internet. The primary difference between the two methods of advertising is that the main idea of word of mouth is to make people talk about the product or service, while viral marketing is mostly about spreading the ad virus. 2.2 Development of Viral Marketing History of Viral Marketing began in 1994 when it was first introduced by media critic Douglas Rushkoff in his book Media Virus24 . In 1996, the trend started to spread with hot, open and innovative (at this time) technology of free web-based email called “Hotmail.” A startup company founded by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith did not have any budget for 23 Kirby, J., Mardsen, P., Connected Marketing, the viral, buzz and Word of mouth revolution. Butterworth- Heinemann. 2005 24 Rushkoff. D., Media Virus! Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture.1994. Ballantine Books Page18
  19. 19. marketing at this time for their revolutionary service25 therefore they decided to use a simple trick to make people use and at the same time spread their product among their friends. At the bottom of each and every mail sent with Hotmail there was a phrase “Get your own free Hotmail at”. The virus spread very quickly. In the year after the start of the first viral campaign in the world, the service had 8,5 million users26 .Model of Hotmail led the basis for a viral marketing we are familiar with today: from Facebook, to Twitter and from YouTube to LinkedIn, etc. Picture 2. Hotmail user base growth graph. Source: Another early example of viral campaigns included the movie “The Blair Witch Project” made in 1999 as an independent film project. The original budget for the movie was aroun25000$27 , however the revenue from the film is sky high at the point of 248$ million28 . The secret for success was the virus spread with the help of the webpage created for the 25 Designcontest, Viral Marketing History. Available from:­ history/ [Accessed 19 May 2014] 26 Pelline,J., Hotmail, Microsoft talk deals. Available from:­ 851.1-851.30 [Accessed 14 May 2014] 27 Davidson, N., The Blair Witch Project: The best viral marketing campaign of all time. Available from: [Accessed 19 May 2014] 28 Rowles, D., Percentage-Wise, The 20 Most Profitable Movies of All Time Available from:­ time.php#qYQbbIs8Jrx2WJr9.99 [Accessed 22 May 2014] Page19
  20. 20. movie. This was the only interaction with the target audience at that time as there were no social networks or video hosting platforms, such as YouTube at this time. Till now the technique of telling a story through the webpage and maintaining close interaction with the viewer is used very seldom, therefore, the success story of the film was mainly based on the uniqueness of viral techniques used at that time. The viewer was entertained with a secret, not with a 30 second – 1minute trailer, commonly used nowadays to tell a short story and encourage the audience come to the cinema. 2.3 Types of Viral Marketing Campaigns Incentivized viral: This type of viral message spread is based on the idea of reward. An incentive can be offered for the person providing somebody else’s email address or passing the message along either by inviting friends or sharing the content with them. This can maximize the effect of the content spread several times. The main idea is to make the next action take a step forward and participate. These examples of such tactics can be found on Facebook while the company is asking participants to share the event with 10 or more of their friends and if they are engaged the first person (the virus starter) is getting a bonus (free ticket to the event, gadget or any other price). The other example is Dropbox file hosting service where the user is offered 500 megabytes of free cloud space for every friend invited, which will take action and signs up for the service. The company is also offering free space for sharing news about signing up with the customer’s friends on Facebook and Twitter. Undercover marketing: This kind of virus is the presentation of the message in an unusual way, such as strange news or articles, billboards or YouTube videos which are not directly asking the user to pass them along, hoping that the message will spread in a word-of-mouth mode. This technique is a kind of hidden marketing where the targeted audience usually can’t understand from the first sight that it is an advertisement they are being exposed. A perfect example can be the undercover marketing done for Deutsche Bank Poland. The campaign was called “for those who know” (originally: “dla tych którzy wiedzą…”) which was represented by the billboards in subways and outside and even mural nearby the center of the city showing the pop-art image of Albert Page20
  21. 21. Einstein with the tagline: “for those who know…” The message was made to generate interest and traffic to the webpage and make people participate in an online competition and win money to go to the shopping tour in Paris. After that the user still didn’t know what it was all about. At the end of the company revealed the marketing secret by changing the webpage into the promotion of new debit and credit card offers: “for those, who know how … how to buy with IQ” (originally “dla tych którzy wiedzą... jak kupować z IQ”29 ). The campaign generated lots of feedback due to the fact that it was undercover and kept secret till the end. Picture 3. “dla tych którzy wiedzą...” Undercover Marketing Campaign for Deutsche Bank Poland. Source: Edgy, Gossip or Buzz Marketing A bee is never as busy as it seems; it's just that it can't buzz any slower. Kin Hubbard Buzz is all about talking. The most successful ads are usually those that increase people’s communication, generate controversy and debates by challenging the reader’s thoughts. Discussion of the controversial issues can create a huge wave of buzz and publicity. For example, in order to keep the attention of the fans at a high level, some singers declare that they are of a different orientation, marry, get divorced or involved in some dispute. This helps 29 Adbirds, Dla tych którzy wiedzą... Available from: [Accessed 22 May 2014] Page21
  22. 22. them to get extra attention to their personality as well as their album or a new clip. Therefore, buzz brings interest and knowledge. Moreover, according to Seth Godin:”when everyone is buzzing about a new technique, tactic, service, musical style, club, food— whatever—it’s far easier to put fear aside and try it.”30 User-Managed Database Here users create and manage their own lists of contacts and use database, provided by an online service provider by sending requests to add new people as friends. By inviting new users to the online community, they create a virus themselves, organizing and managing a chain of contacts which later grows like a spider web, as other members are inviting more and more people with time. Examples of these techniques include mainly the social networks and dating websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Badoo. 2.4 Viral Marketing Strategies According to R.F. Wilson, there are six elements of a viral marketing strategy including “gives away products or services, provides effortless transfer to others, scales easily from small to very large, exploits common motivations and behaviors, utilizes existing communication networks, and takes advantage of others resources” It is not a “must” to have all of them working and being included in your viral strategy, however “the more elements it embraces; the more powerful the results are likely to be”31 a) Gives away products or services According to R.F. Wilson, free is the most powerful word in a marketer's vocabulary. Word “free” generates interests. People love the things they don’t need to pay for. Free stuff brings consumers attention, makes them wonder about a product or service, and makes people wonder why it is so, that it is given without any payment. It makes people read the information given about the product and have a closer look about its specifications. Free applications, free information, reports, services and other stuff that can be small for you, however matters to your perspective clients. This free stuff can make them happy and will make you known, make your product play a role of an incentive for your target audience to 30 Godin, S.,. Unleashing the Ideavirus. P.143, 2000, Do You Zoom, Inc. 31 Wilson,R.F., The Six Simple Principles of Viral Marketing. Available from: [Accessed 25 May 2014] Page22
  23. 23. participate in your campaign, however won’t make it provide as much possibilities to your clients as the paid version, you can earn money with. Seth Godin, in his book “Ideavirus” advises marketers to give big promises: instead of providing products or services which can bring you some, however not substantial profit, better give a try and give them free, upgrade your stud and later sell a pro-version to a bigger audience. Certain rewards, though small, are not as enticing as slightly lesscertain rewards that are much larger. To sell something, give away something.32 b) Effortless transfer to others At the very beginning of the “spread of sound” music was recorded on vinyl, later on it was transferred into cassette tapes, CDs and finally started to be spread through the Internet. My parents were struggling to get the original vinyl recording of Beatles at the end of 80s, beginning of 90s; it was a rare product, almost impossible to find. Now, it is different, music is spread through the Internet. You can find almost every recording there. What has changed?­ the easiness of transfer of information. As we see Internet has dramatically changed the way how we get and the speed of achieving information. This is one of the major points of Viral marketing-in order to be spread, the message should be easy to share. Right now there are more than 7 functions of sharing the content from one of my favorite online magazine “”. I can share it with my professional contacts on LinkedIn, tweet it, share with my friends on google+, send an email to them with a link, pin it, post it to my Tumblr blog, share it on Reddit or with my subscribers or friends on Facebook, isn’t it amazing? c) Scales easily from small to very large The scalability of the message in perfect conditions should be close to limitless. In order to be successful, your virus should either be strong enough to go through any barriers to growth or should be lucky enough not to encounter them. In the case of Hotmail, the mail technology had the main barrier to growth set from the very beginning of its existence in the face of the mail servers. If the servers are not added quickly, the rapid growth will decline and die.33 d) Exploits common motivation and behaviors The main power of a successful viral marketing campaign is the usage of the main human 32,32 Wilson,R.F., The Six Simple Principles of Viral Marketing. Available from: [Accessed 25 May 2014] Page23
  24. 24. motivations. We, people, want to be cool, famous and want to feel loved and understood, to be thought as funny and be admired. We are searching for extra attention, applause and smile. We are greedy and often selfish. As a result more than 51 million webpages is created every year34 , more than 294 million emails and 2 million blog posts are written35 . By using common people’s behaviors and stimulus one can easily create an outstanding viral campaign. e) Utilizes existing communication networks The great majority of the people are not made to be hermits by nature. Personal connections and networking are becoming more and more important nowadays. Even if we do not want to, we are anyway being connected to our friends, family and other people that surround us from the day of our birth. A waiter, cashier, bartender or call service specialist are able to communicate with hundreds of different people on a daily basis. LinkedIn, the most famous social network for professionals was, from the very beginning, based on the concept of Six degrees of separation, according to which everyone is 6 or fewer steps away from any other person in the world via introduction36 . By that meaning, “a friend of a friend” statements can be made, for example, to connect a factory worker from China to a president of the United States Barack Obama. Today the results taken from the research of the most popular social network platform -Facebook37 are really impressive. Only 10% of Facebook members have less than 10 friends, 20% have less than 25 friends, while 50% (the median) have over 100 friends. Meanwhile, because the distribution is highly skewed, the average friend count is 19038 . Since the creation of social networks marketers started to understand the importance of the connection force. There are lots of techniques today that are using it for advertising benefits: affiliate programs and email lists are only some of them. All that is necessary is to learn how to put your message inside the network, and it will spread naturally. f) Takes advantage of others' resources Viral marketing is all about sharing. What smart viral marketers are doing? They share their 34 Pingdom, Internet 2012 in numbers. Available from:­ in-numbers/ [Accesed 18 May 2014] 35 Digitalbuzz, Infographic: 24 Hours on the Internet. Available from: [Accessed 22 May 2014] 36 Haden, J., Six Degrees of Separation: The Connection from You to Oprah Available from:­ connection-from-you-to-oprah [Accessed 22 May 2014] 37 Smith, A., 6 new facts about Facebook. Available from:­ tank/2014/02/03/6-new-facts-about-facebook/ [Accessed 22 May 2014] 38 Ugander, J., Karrer,B., Backstrom,L.,Marlow,C., The Anatomy of the Facebook Social Graph. Available from: [Accessed 22 May 2014] Page24
  25. 25. content not only with the target clients, but also with their partners. Affiliate marketing helps millions of companies place links, articles and other content on other’s websites. The authors of the websites can, later on, spread it even more by putting it on their Facebook pages, twitter and other networks and the virus spreads. If the message is good enough, it can be picked by hundreds of different online periodicals, blogs and influential and spread in the blink of an eye. Now someone else's newsprint or webpage is relaying your marketing message. Someone else's resources are depleted rather than your own39 . Now you, as a viral marketer, start saving your time and money, while only observing the effect. 2.5 Viral Marketing and emotions Viral Marketing is all about emotions. You are not going to spread the message which doesn’t involve any feelings from your side. The stronger the emotions involve in the message, the quicker is the response and the more people are going to spread the viral content. There are six main emotions, which influence viral behavior of the targeted ad group: surprise, joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust40 . a) Surprise The emotion of surprise is generated when something is unexpected or misexpected, with surprise resulting in responses of amazement and astonishment41 .Surprise is a short-lived emotion characterized by a specific pattern of reactions42 . Surprise is the first and probably one of the most important emotions viral campaign should cause. When people encounter hundreds of different ads every day from different sources, how they are going to differentiate yours from others? In order to grab the attention of the target the viral ads need to violate people's expectations and be counterintuitive. Here is the moment when the surprise comes to our mind. In the famous psychological book, called Unmasking the Face, Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen coined a term, the surprise brow, the people’s facial expression when the feel a surprise. When our brows go up, it widens our eyes and gives us a broader field of 39 Wilson,R.F., The Six Simple Principles of Viral Marketing. Available from: [Accessed 25 May 2014] 40 Dobele, !., Lindgreen, !., Beverland, M.B., Vanhamme, J., and van Wijk, R. (2007), “Why pass on viral messages? Because they connect emotionally”, Business Horizons, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 291-304. 41 Ekman, P. and Friesen, W.V. Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotions from Facial Clues., Prentice-Hall. 1975 42 Reisenzein, R., Meyer, W., Schützwohl, A., Reactions to Surprising Events: A Paradigm for Emotion Research Available from: Page25
  26. 26. vision—the surprise brow is our body's way of forcing us to see more. Therefore surprise is often used to increase the alertness and cause focus.43 However surprise cannot stand alone without the support from other feelings and customer responses, either positive (like joy), or negative (sadness or anger). Only a combinations of bad or good feelings together with a surprise can bring visible results to viral marketers. b) Joy Joy has been linked to helpfulness and cooperation, desire, and liking44 . This emotion is perfect for products or services with a positive image, that involve fun or those companies or brands that want to renew their image. It can be used for the products that are existing at the market for a long period of time and need to refresh the attitude of the target customers about them. Moreover, people tend to always need things that can make them happy and it has been estimated that positive content is more likely to be shared than negative one.45 c) Sadness. The emotion of sadness results in feelings of distress or being downhearted46 . Sadness can be a good choice when creating a marketing campaign in response for bad events, such as wars, earthquakes or any other information that can make people unhappy. The main minus of this emotion is that it can have, in most of the cases, only a short-term effect, instead of the long­ term, generating more people involved. Therefore, it is a good idea to combine this emotion with a neutral one (such as hope or change). d) Anger The anger emotion can be used in campaigns were rapid reaction to the message is of a great importance. It can be used well to capture attention of the masses by disagreeing with the common beliefs or thoughts. The reason for success of the campaigns that involve anger is that “when we're angry our eyes narrow so that we can focus on a known problem.”47 As a result, people pay more attention to the message. Moreover content that involves anger and 43,38 Heath, C., Heath, D., Made to Stick. Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Random House,2007.p68 44 Oatley, K., Keltner, D., Jenkins,J., Understanding Emotions,3rd edition,Wiley 45 Libert, K., Tynski, K., Research: The Emotions that Make Marketing Campaigns Go Viral. Available from: [Accessed 23 May 2014] 46 Ekman, P. and Friesen, W.V. Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotions from Facial Clues., Prentice-Hall. 1975 Page26
  27. 27. disagreement with common beliefs usually goes along with controversy, which means people’s involvement in comments and discussions and, therefore, viral spread. e) Fear Fear can be a good stimulus for the action, however in many cases, if not used carefully, it can cause a mixed response from the target audience. Moreover, it can cause even worth emotions such as fury and in combination with anger can cause more harm than benefit. This is the reason why the possible solutions to the problem caused by fear should be shown to the target. f) Disgust This emotion is used for a very narrow audience as it usually doesn’t appeal to the greater majority. Therefore, it should be kept away from as sometimes it can be too risky for the brand to use this kind of emotion in the viral campaign as it can, if not used properly, destroy the image of the company. The best way to use emotions in the viral campaign is to combine them in pairs as it can provide better results and better ad experience. Despite of the psychological studies undertaken, it is still hard for the marketers to predict the individual response to the viral ads using different emotions. Therefore, regardless the major response to a viral campaign it is still almost impossible to predict individual actions.48 2.6 Variables concerning viral marketing a) Sneezers There are people who have a bigger authority to spread the virus than others. One of them was the famous trumpeter of Cracow. The legend says that when tatar army came to Cracow walls at night he started to play “Hejnal” on his trumpet to warn the people about the danger. He was playing to the south, west, north and east, warning everyone. People were paused for some time and didn’t know what to do, however later they realized the message and started to fight. After the fight was over they found the trumpeter dead: one of the arrows got into his throat.49 What is the moral of this story?-the trumpeter has the power to convince people! He 48 PerfectBusiness, The Key to Effective Viral Marketing is Emotional Engagement, Available from: [Accessed 25 May 2014] 49, Polish Legend : The Trumpeter of Krakow ( Cracow ), Available from: [Accessed 25 May 2014] Page27
  28. 28. was a kind of a virus sneezer as he was able to spread the information quickly. Sneezers are the basics of the viral message. They have the power to persuade and make the message go from one person to the other. According to Seth Godin, the author of the book “Ideavirus” there are two types of sneezers: promiscuous and powerful. Promiscuous sneezers are usually salespeople, or those, motivated by money or other benefits. They usually have less authority, compared to the powerful sneezers, however, if they are promiscuous enough, they can make the mountains move.50 The world is changing nowadays and more and more promiscuous sneezers come to help the companies grow their businesses as there are companies, “paying folks enough to corrupt them into spreading ideas in exchange for cash.”51 Powerful sneezers are, in contrary to their promiscuous competitors, the “real players”, which are not working for money. In his book, Seth Godin gives the examples of the hat fashion reappearance after the Indiana Jones movie where Harrison Ford was captured with a hat and a bullwhip. This visual of a great and commonly admired character from the movie brought biggest sales to Stenton company, that is known for production of cowboy hats, since the times of Marlboro cowboy. The movie made millions of men who like Indiana Jones movies and want to look like the main hero from the novel buy hats and bring the Cowboy fashion back to life. However, the “The paradox of the powerful sneezer is that he can’t be bought. Every time a powerful sneezer accepts a bribe in exchange for spreading a virus, his power decreases.”52 Every time the powerful sneezer is “bought” and the target audience feels or knows this fact he is losing his power and trust. So let’s imagine, for example, the Huffington Post. It is number two online news portal in the world with over 110 million unique monthly visitors.53 It publishes different articles on a great variety of topics every day. The editors there decide which articles can be paid and interesting enough to be published and which of them can bring the audience and should be published anyway. Therefore, the line between these two is usually blurred and the readers tend to stay with their favorite portal. However what if the editors give the marketers the possibility to print what they want for the money. The immediate result will be the change of 50 Godin, S.,. Unleashing the Ideavirus. P.143, 2000, Do You Zoom, Inc. 51 Godin, S.,. Unleashing the Ideavirus. P.143, 2000, Do You Zoom, Inc. 52 Godin, S.,. Unleashing the Ideavirus. P.43, 2000, Do You Zoom, Inc. 53 EbixMBA, Top 15 Most Popular News Websites. Available from:­ websites [Accessed 25 May 2014] Page28
  29. 29. the portal from powerful sneezer into promiscuous one. People will understand that the medium of information they believed has changed, therefore, will go, in search of the credible information, to the other online publisher. The same is happening with the bloggers. Some of the very best ones have up to million unique readers per month while others, who start at the same period of time, have merely a hundred. The reason can be that the first group chose to be independent and pick the information which can be interesting for their target and can earn money on relevant advertising. Others have chosen the marketers’ support while lost people’s attention. b) Hive People are not the same. Even in the era of globalization we are made to be different. The research found, contrary to what was expected, the mass-media messages do not immediately reach the mass audience. Instead, they have an impact, first, at a small minority of people (the influencers or opinion leaders), who then effect their peers and help to spread the word of mouth54 . Picture 3 shows how it works. This is one of the reasons why the circulation of the mass media content by this small minority is so important and already strongly present in our society. We have different interests, rules for life, culture and traditions and other variables. Hive is the target group. In order to find it, the successful marketers should find the actual problem which is important to them, something which makes people unite, something in common. Picture 3. Media Influence Models Page29 54 Kirby,J., Mardsen,P., Connected Marketing, the viral, buzz and Word of mouth revolution. Butterworth- Heinemann. 2005
  30. 30. Source: Connected Marketing, the viral, buzz and Word. J. Kirby P. Marsden, 2005, p. 8 The more concentrated is the hive, the more powerful sneezers the marketers can find the more successful the viral marketing will be. Adweek is one of the perfect examples of collecting a hive. It is an online journal for people, who like ads or work in the area of marketing. Adweek has found the problem, before it was not enough information about the advertising business which you can find in one place. Therefore, they have found the hive and actively using it to keep going and develop as a marketing platform. The Adweek is a kind of a bible for the marketing enthusiasts and specialists right now. It filled the marketing vacuum and found its own hive. Right now most of the Adweek readers are powerful sneezers, they spread the articles they read and the content they have found in the webpage with their peers and do the most important work for the platform. c) Velocity This variable acts as a speed of your content spread. The way how quickly it reaches people and goes from one to another. The perfect example of velocity is the way how Facebook started. A 19 year old Mark Zuckerberg started it as a college webpage, social network for Harvard students and later on it started spreading as more and more students from other universities wanted to try it. In the era of emails, the message spread in the matter of hours. It started to spread in campuses and later on went to other places. The velocity is crucial as it usually means filling the niche quickly. If it slows down or stops, the product or service can lose the position of a leader and can become second, which is close to losing the battle. This is the variable that measures how quickly your content moves from one computer to another and this is what makes the main difference between viral marketing and word-of-mouth advertisements. Thanks to the internet there can be a bigger, faster spread of messages which can get to the targeted user more effectively. d) Vector This variable means the way, the virus travels. Does the flu start with your nose or goes directly to your throat? At school, university or at work there is always a person, who knows all the recent gossips or jokes. There are some people in my Facebook friend list who are always on a vector of where to go out, which club or pub is cool and which places I should avoid. The vector is the line, which is followed by the hive. This variable is quite hard to Page30
  31. 31. control, however Seth Godin, in his book “Ideavirus” mentions three vector elements:  Who the virus starts with?  Who does it resonate with?  How easy the virus is to spread? The first one describes the direction of the idea and who does it start with. Who will be the first victim of the virus? If the company is planning to advertise the new computer game for college youngsters, it will be quite stupid to put the ad spots on TV, due to the fact that this media does not occupy the minds of the youth nowadays and, basically, goes smoothly down in results achieved. Nowadays, with the appearance of Facebook and other social networks and portals, based on our interests and hobbies it became easier for the companies to keep an eye on the targeted communities and maintain a further control of the content spread. The second variable explains the perfect situation, when the idea stays connected to the targeted person and make him or her so fascinated with it that there will be an inevitable spread around. The idea should be fascinating enough to move. You will not spread the foolish joke around your peers that will destroy your image of a powerful, respected sneezer. Therefore, the advertisers should do their best to work on the content hard and make it as attractive for sharing within the desired group of potential customers as possible. Moreover most of sneezers unintentionally spread only those ideas that will later proliferate, as, otherwise, they will lose their listeners. The easiness of spread of the virus is also one of the factors of major importance. Just imagine, at the very beginning of the 20th century, when a man of the Scottish origin, Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the first phone, was calling his assistant from New York, saying Mr. Watson, come here, I want you it would take Watson week to hear the voice in San Francisco. This was long time ago. Nowadays it is a matter of seconds to share an event with a friend on Facebook and ask him if he goes, instead of sending him a postcard and waiting for an answer55 . Speed and easiness of sharing is what really influences the spread of the virus. With today’s time limits, when some people don’t have enough free time to spend with their friends and relatives the speed of content sharing is what distinguishes the leader from the follower. 55 !merica’s library. The First Telephone Call, Available from: [Accessed 29 May 2014] Page31
  32. 32. e) Medium According to Seth Godin medium is one of the keys to the “virus”56 . The medium can be represented by any kind of information that can be spread: from video to stickers and graphical images like memes. One of the examples can be the way how Dropbox company makes the users share the information about their freeware service. The new user starts with 2 gigabytes of the free cloud space, however later on he can find out that this amount is not enough for him. One of the “way outs” is to spread the message and suggest the friends to join the service by getting 500 megabytes extra for each extra friend which signs in. Another example can be the “Like” competitions on Facebook organized by a great variety of companies and groups. The virality of the message lies in the fact that a person, who gets more likes under his photo or video can get a valuable gadget a ticket or something else. In order to get it you ask your friends for help, share the group or competition on your wall, write messages to the people you know and later you can get the prize, while all the people that put like under your image or video get to know more about the competition, company or group. It can be seen from both of the examples that if the medium is well planned and executed, it’s spread can be beneficial for all the parties: company, targeted client and the surrounding users. Both of the mediums mentioned above have gained a great level of success recently. f) Smoothness Smoothness is the easiness of transfer of the ready-made content by the end user to it’s peers. Do you need to make nine steps or only two to share the stuff that you think is great with others? If it is made out of nine, you would rather give up at the beginning or middle of the process, however if it’s just one or two-why not? It is quite easy to share a secret with your friends of where you bought this nice beer. It is a matter of several seconds to reveal this type of “confidential information” and cause your friends move and get this tasty drink. Seth Godin compares perfect smoothness to medusa. When she looks at you – you immediately become a piece of stone57 . This is the ultimate goal of the marketers and producers to make the customers buy their products as quickly as possible. A great example Page32 56 Godin, S.,. Unleashing the Ideavirus. p.96, 2000, Do You Zoom, Inc. 57 Godin, S.,. Unleashing the Ideavirus. p.98, 2000, Do You Zoom, Inc.
  33. 33. can be iPhone and its product presentations. The new models of iPhone are coming to the market almost every year. One of the biggest Apple event gathering millions of viewers and Apple fans is “Macworld.” Every year company is presenting their new products, and, although the user, who is not familiar with Steve Jobs’ company and it’s products will hardly find any difference between iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s Apple fans will for sure be excited by the new model and will work as direct converts of the marketing message. For them it is the sexiness of the new part in the model, the new type of screen and speed of the monitor, which mostly means the smoothness of message convertibility into sales. g) Persistence Some ideas simply stick to us. The main factor is for how long? Do they stay with us and leave as soon as we try the product, or do they stay in our head and we keep telling others about them for month or even years? One of the ideas of how to attract customers to buy your product, which costs a considerable amount of money is to offer them a free dinner for example. If you are organizing this kind of a catering promotion meeting, it is a kind of risk for the company. The targeted client can simply come, eat and leave without further action, however it can also be a long-term effect and he or she will tell the friends about this meeting and maybe even buys a product under the impression of the event. Persistence is all about the time the virus stays alive. h) Amplifier According to Seth Godin, the viral message can’t spread all by itself. There should be the constant control and help from the side of the company. The company should make the sharing as simple as possible and keep the target users engaged. It is not enough to put one post on the company Facebook profile about the opening of the new café for example. They should keep the customers active and make them keep the recent news in their minds, by providing more and more information, about the new type of coffee in the menu or the new Christmas decorations in the venue. The main idea of the marketer is to keep this amplifier effect as positive and powerful, as possible, eliminating the negative comments and fighting with critics. Page33
  34. 34. 2.7 Organic and Amplified Viral Marketing There are two different types of viral marketing campaigns: amplified and organic ones. The first type is represented by organic viral campaigns, which are also sometimes called in­ the-wild, due to the fact that the marketer has no or very little influence from the marketer’s side. Into-the-wild means that the campaign can be started by the consumers without any impact from the company’s marketing specialists. It usually occurs in the cases when the negative comments are spread, considering the brand’s products or services, however it can also happen when a company is getting positive impact from such a campaign. The famous organic marketing miracle happened to the brand that was supposed to die before 1994. It was Hush Puppies, the case, explained in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The tipping point” is the perfect example of the viral spread. Since 1994, the sales of the brand increased from the lowest point of 30000 pairs to 430000 in 1995 four times this much in the following year. The shoes that were unfashionable and rare, to be seen in the streets were picked by several youngsters, followed by well-known designers and later became trendy and fashionable again. Hush Puppies representative, at this time, were not controlling the wave, they were simply observing it and calculating the benefit it brings them.58 Amplified marketing campaigns, on the contrary to organic ones, are controlled and can be even planned and measured sometimes. They usually have defined goals, prepared by the marketing specialists and a defined passing method for a specific content. The Blair Witch project launch of webpage and spread of the message through other viral channels is the example of amplified campaign: the main idea was to make as many people as possible believe that the movie was made based on real facts and spread the message. The main goal was to bring as many people to the cinema as possible, coming there mainly for the sake of interest by their excitement. 2.8 Viral Marketing Campaigns Viral Marketing is not always a panacea against all the problems, that a company has or a springboard for a startup to be known and bought shortly by a multinational corporation like PG or Microsoft. Virus should be used properly and with a thought about the customer, brand image and other variables. According to David Scott, the writer of the book “The new 58 Gladwell,M., The Tipping Point. How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.p.3-5, 2002, Back Bay Books Page34
  35. 35. rules of viral marketing”, the viral success lies in the formula, which is a combination of some great and free Web content (a video, a blog entry, or an e-book) that is groundbreaking, amazing, hilarious or involves a celebrity, plus a network of people to light the fire, and all with links that make it very easy to share59 . The magic thing about this formula is that the viral marketing is a friendly tool for small businesses, which don’t have enough money to check if the campaign is working or not and later try it again and again. The biggest plus of the viral campaigns is that they are either free or quite inexpensive, compared to the interruption marketing. According to Affinity Internet “31% of small businesses say their biggest barrier to marketing online is the cost of buying ads; 18% don't know enough about how to do it.”60 Viral marketing campaigns can begin with as little as making a video of yourself making some crazy thing with your new product and putting it on YouTube like Blendtek Company did. This can be enough to gain popularity and become a well-known brand in a blink of an eye. According to J. Kirby and P. Marsden there are three core components of any viral marketing campaign61 : Creative material: developing and producing the viral agent that carries the message you want to spread in a digital format. Seeding: distributing the buzz story and viral agent online in places and with people that provide the greatest potential influence and spread. Tracking: measuring the results of the campaign to provide accountability and prove success. These factors can also be accompanied with another three that can increase the likelihood of a successful online campaign:  Specialist strategic planning to ensure that viral marketing is used to deliver tangible, measurable, and ongoing brand benefits.  Appropriate „wow‟-factor material that users want to seek out, talk about and pass on to other people.  Appropriate specialist seeding of the buzz story and the viral agent to places where viral and brand influencers already gathered. 59 Scott, D.M.., 2008, The New Rules of Viral Marketing. How word-of-mouse spreads your ideas for free.p.8, Available from: 60 Dunleavy, B., Viral Marketing Techniques that Generate Free Targeted Traffic, Build Customer Trust, and Increase Google Keyword Ranking. Available from: Marketing-White-Paper.pdf 61 Kirby ,J., Marsden, P., Connected Marketing, the viral, buzz and Word of mouth revolution. Butterworth- Heinemann. 2005 Page35
  36. 36. All this factors, if used properly, can cause your advertising move to the top, because successful “viral marketing campaigns produce 750% more clicks than traditional banner ads.”62 2.9 Successful Viral Marketing Campaign Examples Nowadays marketing field becomes more and more condensed: there are more and more players to compete with, both marketing agencies and businesses that want to promote their products or services. At the same time the target audience is becoming more and more resistant to any kind of influence coming from the marketing specialists. It is harder to surprise the customer by the clever and creative ad and make him buy the product. And this situation is perfectly normal, taking in consideration that only in 2011, 500 billion dollars have been spent on advertising according to Quick Stat.63 As a result only the most unusual, sometimes strange, and, of course largely viral projects spread the most. Here I will list and describe some of the most unusual and brilliant viral campaigns that made a revolution in viral marketing field and changed people’s perception of what marketing can be. 2.9.1 Will it Blend? Around 40 years ago, in 1975, Tom Dickson, the founder of Blendtec company decided to combine a stator micronetic-milling chamber with a rotor and a vacuum cleaner in order to create a product that will remind today’s generations a machine which can be found in many kitchens all over the world – blender. In 2005 Blendtek products were great, however with weak marketing they ended up with weak sales to the company. In November 2006, George Wright has been hired as a fresh Marketing Director for the company and was given a task to increase brand awareness. However with his great viral campaign he was able to do not only these, but also increase sales by over 700%.64 The most important fact is that these increase came out of a several hundred dollars marketing investment, which made a marketing furor 62 Entrepreneur, Marketing and Advertising Statistics. Available from: [Accessed 15 June 2014] 63, 2008. Internet Advertising/Online Advertising Revenue 2000-2008. [Accessed: May 17, 2012.] 64 Ochman, B.L, Top 7 Reasons Why lendtec’s “Will It lend?” is one of the all-time great viral campaigns. And yes, iPhone 4 blends. Available from: ne_4_will_it_b/ [Accessed 17 June 2014] Page36
  37. 37. happen. So how did a company achieve such a success? It all started with 22 pieces of wood sticks being blended by the company products for quality assurance purposes which inspired George Wright to make experiments with other objects, which are not always intended for cooking, the most famous of them include Iphone, McDonald's Big Mac Extra Value Meal and “cochicken” (cooked chicken with coca cola drink). Since 2006 Tom Dickens was organizing regular performances, with his company’s blenders, which made him and his product well-known to the potential blender target audience. Tom and Blendtec machines appeared at more than 10 television public events, the company YouTube channel has more than 700 thousand subscribers and over a hundred million views in total. Will it blend campaign is basically everywhere, on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, the “scientific show” has its own webpage with regular updates and it’s not a miracle why it is one of the most famous viral campaigns of all times. Picture 4. Will it Blend? Viral Marketing Campaign. Source: Page37
  38. 38. Will It Blend - iPhone 4S (New iPhone App) video available, following the QR code below: 2.9.2 Thresher sales up 60% with 40% off! At the end of November 2006, just before Christmas-buying season the UK convenience- store Thresher with over 2500 stores in Great Britain started an unusual viral campaign. They started to offer a 40% discount for their customers for all the products, bought in a shop in the period between 30th of November and 10th of December. The discount coupons were supposedly for their corporate clients and their friends for a sum of less than 500 pounds. The interesting fact about this campaign is the fact that there were no signs of discounts in the shop or surrounded areas. On the contrary it was only widely spread via blogs, chatrooms and email. The viral wave started with two blog posts, one at the webpage of Stormhoek, a South African winery, which products were sold at, a blog of Thresher and Hugh MacLeod, a winery partner, who was also working with Stormhoek on their online strategy.65 The so called “secret sales technique” brought incredible results. During first 4 days before the campaign started the voucher was downloaded more than 700 000 times. On the 5th of December this number increased 5 times. During this time the network of shops saw a 60% increase in sales, the word “Threshers” appeared in the top 13% of search engine terms66 . 65 Stokes,R., eMarketing: The Essential Guide to Online Marketing, Quirk eMarketing (Pty) Ltd. 2008 66 Rosen, M., Threshers discount sees 60% increase in sales Available from:­ sales#ugRoyBFj0CDJwGT5.99 [Accessed 16 June 2014] Page38
  39. 39. Picture 5. Threshers 40% Off Thresher Voucher. Source: What are the secret ingredients of this viral marketing success? a) Creating a sensation. The officials were reporting that there was an information leak and the voucher program was only intended to be for corporate clients and their friends. However, in the end, everyone with the access to the internet can be the one to become a privilege member of the voucher group. b) Timing. Just before Christmas, just after the end of the month, where people can spend their money, without thinking about limitations. c) Magical giving and stealing. The company provided an opportunity for their existing and potential clients to buy their products at the lowest prices possible and made them feel as if they are stealing vine from the shop. d) Media coverage. The campaign was accompanied by strong attention from the media, including the British News giant BBC and many famous bloggers and smaller portals.67 These all factors led to the formation of the huge in-store queues and rush days for the company employees. 67 Mansoorsiddique. Viral Marketing, Available from:­ marketing/seo/viral-marketing/ [Accessed 17 June 2014] Page39
  40. 40. 2.9.3 One Million Dollar Webpage What are you going to do if you are 22 years old from South West of England seeking money to fund your university? Probably you are going to start working in a restaurant or some other part time job or simply ask your parents for help. However, if you are entrepreneurial enough, probably you will decide to open your own business. Alex Tew was one of those who chose the last variant. On 26th August 2005 he decided to turn his idea of making a million through the internet into real life and created the webpage called “The Million Dollar Homepage”. It has been estimated that Alex have earned more than 1 million dollars by implementing his creative idea. Alex webpage consists of 1 million pixels which were sold 1 million each with a minimum segments of 10 by 10, which were immediately bringing Alex 100 dollars in his pocket. The segments, which were bought not only by companies but also by individuals were used in the form of URL links or images, advertising the buying firm's website with a particular slogan attached to the appropriate image.68 Before the finish line, having sold 999 thousand pixels, 1 dollar per each pixel he achieved the last target of selling 1000 pixels on eBay for 38,100 dollars. Despite the fact that usually high-profit businesses are quite risky, Alex's experiment was quite a different example as he had nothing to lose aside from 50 pound investment- money spent on a domain name and renting a server. The webpage was gaining popularity with time, mainly because of word-of-mouse through articles and blogs. Soon, Alex's invention was discovered by the journalists and the webpage popularity increased even more. One month after launching One Million Dollar webpage had generated more than 150 000 dollars of profit, becoming an internet sensation quickly spreading around like a real virus. After only one month of the site ‘being alive’, it had earned $152,900 of profit for its creator. The webpage quickly became an internet phenomenon and word quickly spread through various forums and message boards. Alex soon reached his goal, but didn’t stop at that point and began to think about the next step in his entrepreneurial quest. In October 2005, Alex made a decision to hire Imal Wagner as a full-time PR advisor (she had also wanted him to write a book based on his experience, however Alex declined the idea 68 Venturenavigator, The Million Dollar Homepage – A Case Study, Available from: [Accessed 19 June 2014] Page40
  41. 41. due to his busy schedule), a decision that would prove to be very prudent and profitable for Alex’s future. The most interesting was the fact that the viral webpage was providing an incredible spread to the services it was advertising. Many companies were reporting great amount of new clients One Million Dollar Webpage was providing. In fact these numbers were amazing, for example 18000 pounds worth of new customers and a site traffic increase over a hundred­ fold! As it can be seen from this example one way of virality can cause another one and later on increase in numbers. One creative idea, if well escalated can become a sensation in the era of internet technologies, and as a result can bring big amount of money to it's owners and great amount of gratitude from business investors. Picture 6: The Million Dollar Homepage Source: 2.9.4 The Best Job in the World How to advertise the tourist spot situated at the end of the world in the times of crisis and making it an exciting process for several hundred thousand people? The Tourism Queensland organization had a great, exciting idea, they've tested in January 2009, which brought a great impact on tourism in the entire Australian region. They've launched a recruitment process for the dream job in a luxurious villa on one of the islands with only responsibilities including Page41
  42. 42. traveling around, scuba diving, swimming with turtles and enjoying the sun everyday blogging. The paradise work package was also including the payment of 150 000 dollars for a 6 months period. The recruitment campaign brought the attention of almost 35000 participants who were required to upload a 60 second video, explaining the reason why they should be chosen for the position and telling how they are going to share the beauty of the islands with the whole world. The Agency, responsible for the campaign, was not expecting such a viral spread and effect it has achieved. Sometimes there were so many uploads at the same time, that the webpage was crashing sometimes. The applications came from 200 countries all over the world excluding only Western Sahara and North Korea, the most coming from United States, Canada and Great Britain. It is estimated that around 80 million of publicity was generated by the outstanding campaign, there were even specific blogs, Facebook groups and even webpages created specifically to increase the coverage of the main webpage providing links to the original source of the campaign while receiving 2.3 million visits during the period of application.69 Picture 7: The Best Job In the World. Source: 69 Hunter, A., “The est Job in the World” – Viral Marketing Genius, Available from: [Accessed 21 June 2014] Page42
  43. 43. The campaign is one of the ideal examples of viral content spread. It has most of the inevitable parts of the successful project: an engaged audience, happy to take part in the interesting challenge, the openness of the application process and easy access to video upload in order to participate in the contest, usage of extra resources and help of media providers as well as the smoothness of spread. Therefore it was so easy for the Queensland Tourism Agency to engage several million people from all over the world and make several percent of the target audience to come to the Islands and see the incredible Barrier Reef Area beauty despite of the fact of their unsuccessful applications. 2.9.5 Dollar Shave Club “Our Blades are F..cking Great!”-this is the unofficial slogan of the advertisement campaign of the subscription-based business started by a 33-year old Mike Dubin in March 2012. The business is based on selling the products connected to shaving and sending them to the subscribers all over the United States every month. The campaign was based on a video worth 4,500 dollars, which resulted in 12000 subscribers of the service in just 48 hours and more than 4,75 viewers in the first three month after the upload date.70 The video is based on different factors of success. The main hero-the CEO of Dollar Shave Club- Mike Dubin is walking from the office to the company’s factory facilities, where the products are packed, meeting the workers, bears and ending up in a party with flying dollars, saved for his clients. The promo clip is based on facts and describes the problem of many men spending their time and money on buying expensive shaves which are costing less than they really are, due to the fact that they are crammed with unnecessary functions and advertised by famous celebrities. The business and the video itself are disrupting the market of razors and traditional advertisement. Another important point is that the video is filled with humor, which is the key to success of many viral video ads, due to the fact that humorous content is shared more often than any other online materials over the networks. Based on a study by Sharpe Partners humorous material is at the top when it comes to the popularity, with 88% forwarding jokes or cartoons71 and Dollar Shave Club is a perfect proof of it. Moreover, the 70 Pullen, J.P., How a Dollar Shave Club's Ad Went Viral Available from: [Access Date 21 June 2014] 71 Sohmer, A., Nearly 90% of Internet Users Share Content via Email According to Sharpe Partners' Study on Viral Marketing; Humorous Marketing Messages Are Shared the Most, Available from:­ Sharpe#.U3pwwyjG6jc [Accessed 21 June 2014] Page43
  44. 44. video proves to be promoting a relevant product. As Dubin says Thousands of funny videos launch all the time, but this one saves you money. The spot which looks to be easy to do was very carefully planned with a focus on the target audience of men, who value their time and money. The other factor was the fact that Mike Dubin was using his connections in media industry to make his company’s viral content appear at the major media his target is checking such as Forbes, Fastcompany, Mashable, Techcrunch and other similar ones reaching even more people. As a result in the first month alone, the video was able to garner nearly 20,000 links. All these made the video go viral and make the service highly profitable from the very beginning of the campaign. Picture 8: Dollar Shave Club advertisement Source: – “Our Blades Are F***ing Great “video available, following the QR code below: Page44
  45. 45. 2.9.6 Volvo Jean Claude Van Damme Epic Split I’ve had my ups and downs. My fair share of bumpy roads and heavy winds. That’s what made me what I am today. Now I stand here before you. What you see is a body crafted to perfection. A pair of legs engineered to defy the laws of physics. And a mind-set to master the most epic of splits72 -this is the text of the advertisement speech of “Muscles from Brussels” hero of Volvo ad spot, Jean Claude Van Damme. The Volvo advertisement made in cooperation with Jean Claude Van Damme is one of my favorite viral examples of all times. Moreover, I guess I am not the only one as the numbers talk for themselves. After the first day the video counted 7 million views on YouTube and since then, the viral wave started to grow exponentially. As of today, 8 month from the day the video was uploaded on YouTube (Upload date 13 November 2013, access date 13 July 2014) it has been viewed by almost 74 million people. The video, showing Van Damme, standing between two brand new Volvo trucks advertises not only the brand and a new product themselves, but also tends to change the audiences image of the company. Van Damme was a hero from the movies, adored by kids and youngsters, however later his image changed to a character from the jokes and funny stories and in the epic split we see him and “his body crafted to perfection.” Volvo company has a similar story, associated at the beginning as the producer of safe cars, which look clumsy, the brand is trying to change its image, to be associated with quality, beauty and perfection. The video uses a very personal appeal and “face-to-face” communication with the viewer, which, I am sure is entertained by it and, at the same time, connects the lines of the Van Damme, Volvo and his own life story in one piece. The statistics show that this personal, emotional appeal was one of the main factors that brought amazing results: the story reached over 10 million impressions, received powerful media coverage from all over the world and has been the subject of over 20,000 editorial pieces online as well as brought a media value to the brand of over 70 million euro73 . 72 Co.Design by Fast Company, Jean-laude Van Damme Does The Splits etween Two Volvo Trucks !nd It’s Spectacular, Available from:­ my-fair-share-of-bumpy [Accessed 21 June 2014] 73 News Volvogroup, Huge success with viral marketing, Available from: [Accessed 21 June 2014] Page45
  46. 46. Picture 9: Volvo Trucks - The Epic Split feat.Van Damme advertisement Source: Volvo Trucks – “The Epic Split feat. Van Damme” video available, following the QR code below: Page46
  47. 47. 2.10 Viral Marketing evaluation When it comes to viral marketing campaigns, they can be very beneficial to the companies, as it can be seen from the examples provided above, and can raise the customers’ attention to a new brand or product and put the firm in a distinctive position, compared to its competitors. Nevertheless virus, if not carefully used, can become a nightmare and destroy the long established firm’s image at the market. At this chapter I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of viral marketing, it’s benefits and drawbacks. 2.10.1 Advantages of Viral Marketing Campaigns When it comes to the advantages, viral campaign can bring to the brand, there are many of them, such as: 1) It is cost efficient. First Blendtec advertisement cost several hundred dollars, the one from Dollar Shave Club – 4500.Comparing it to the 30 second spot at 2 major Polish TV channels, only showing the ads on TV costs from 1000 zl, up to record 115 thousand during November final of “Mam talent” show. Graph 1. Medium price for 30 second advertising spot in TVP 1 and TVP 2 in Polish zloty. Source: Page47
  48. 48. 2) Viral message can easily reach a wider target audience with the help of emails, YouTube and shares in twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social networks. It can be accessed by the greater amount of people not only in the country of origin, but worldwide, which is a major advantage, compared to the traditional marketing methods such as advertisements in press, TV and radio. 3) It can reach the customer much faster. The example of this can be, as seen by some marketing specialists – the best b2b marketing video ever produced featuring Volvo Truck and Jean Claude Van Damme74 . The video was viewed by approximately 25 million people in the first week, which is comparable to the population of North Korea75 . With today’s advancements in technology, when people can easily skip TV advertising spots, hardly any television marketing campaign can gather such an attention in such a short period of time. 4) In most of the cases it reaches only the target audience. If we take into consideration the company that wants to sell fancy pink teddy bears to young girls in San Francisko, they can promote their group post or YouTube video via Facebook, picking the right gender, age of the audience they want to receive the message and even the city they come from. In case of Dollar Shave Club, the viral video was placed at the portals, which are mostly visited by young man, searching for the methods to improve their shaving experience by paying less. 5) The viral message is easier to spread. The viral content can be spread in the form of normal Facebook post or an email and therefore it is much effortless, compared to the creation of a time and money consuming TV spot or creating an advertising for a magazine. 6) Viral content is usually based on existing connections, between people, who know each other and other associations in order to have an extensive growth in power. The example can be the Facebook post, which is put on the company’s group page and later shared via 74 Aspinall,A., Volvo Trucks: The best B2B video ever(?), Available from: [Accessed 21 June 2014] 75 Digital Startegy Consulting, Video viral of the week: Van Damme gets 25m views in 1 week with Volvo trucks stunt, Available from: 25m_views_in_1_week_with_volvo_trucks_stunt.php [Accessed 21 June 2014] Page48
  49. 49. the target audience and I am, as an ad sharer, seamlessly spread the virus all the way to my friends and acquaintances. 7) It helps the company see the quick result in sales and profit increase. In case of One Dollar Shave Club it resulted in 12000 subscribers in 48 hours, which is an incredible amount over such a short period of time. 2.10.2 Disadvantages of Viral Marketing Campaigns 1) After some time viral message can become annoying and the target customer can become angry for the company, which spreads the content in order to promote, for receiving it again and again. 2) The effects of viral marketing are not always easy to observe. In the case of a new company, such as One Dollar Shave club, which has one viral video so far-it is quite easy, as the company is new to the market, however what if the company is having several campaigns running at the same time? Sales, which need to occur at the end, when the message is spread are not easily observable. 3) Viral Spread is not easy to control and after some time, instead of reaching specific clients, the message can go further and spread within the audiences, not associated with the product or service, which can even change the image of the brand in the longer run. 4) In order to become successful, the campaign should reach at least 10% of the target clients, which is not so easy do76 due to the fact that the message should be really different and engaging, to make the people get away from their daily routines and interests and share the company’s advertisement. 5) Publicity around the ad can be not only positive, but also negative and it can spread at the same speed or even faster than initially thought. 76 Go mad, go viral, Viral Marketing Campaigns pros and cons. Available from: [Accessed 23 June 2014] Page49
  50. 50. 6) The viral campaign can be easily emulated by the competitors, which can decrease its planned effects in the longer run. Page50
  51. 51. Chapter 3: Research. Recognition of viral marketing techniques among the consumers 3.1 The goal and methods of the research In the previous subsections of my work I have presented the topic and main ideas of e-marketing as a whole and it’s viral “son”- viral marketing as an integral part of it. I have also presented several examples of what, from my point of view, a marketing virus is and how it can spread among its potential “victims.” The main point of this research is to get the information of what people think about advertising in general and find out their opinion about viral methods of advertising the product or service. Which one is more effective traditional way, or viral one and for what reason? Apart from this, I decided to check the perceptions of people on three selected examples of what I consider viral advertising spots from three different countries: the United States of America, Poland and Sweden. The advertisements are absolutely different and were made for different purpose, however the fact that unites them is the virality factor, which was the reason why I decided to compare them and check, which one, from the point of view of my respondents, is the most effective. I used internet-based survey as my data collection method. All the information was collected with the help of the survey portal The questionnaire consists of 24 closed and open-ended questions. The techniques that I am mostly using are the scaled-response format from 1 to 5 and Likert scaling method (for example from strongly disagree to strongly agree). The questionnaire is planned to get step by step response, from introduction about general perceptions about advertising to the main part about viral techniques and finishes with the questions about demographics of the respondents. The presentation of the results is done with the help of the tables with the statistical answers in percentages. 3.2 Scale My survey can be considered to be an international, showing the perspective on advertising based on the views of 106 people, representatives of 27 different countries of the world. In my questionnaire, I have decided to use the question “In which country you have spent most of your life?” instead of the country, where the respondents were born due to the fact that in Page51
  52. 52. today’s world people travel a lot, work and study in different countries and their boundaries seem to disappear as well as the mindset, which is a very important factor to consider. This is the reason why, in most of the cases, people tend to be more influenced by the ads of the country they are spending most of the time in, rather than those from abroad. Forty six respondents, or a bit less than a half of my sample answered that they have spent most of their lives in Poland. Nine people or almost 9% of the respondents answered Ukraine. A bit less people are from Belarus (8 respondents) and Turkey (7 out of 104). Other people are the representatives of France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Serbia, Slovakia, United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Greece, India, Iran, Lebanon, Lithuania, Norway, Russia and Tunisia. Graph 2. Number of respondents out of the total per each country Source: questionnaire based on the online survey tool A bigger part of the people that have answered the questions of the survey are women (more than 52%). This maybe an influential factor ,when it comes to the results of my survey, at certain point, due to the fact that “women make or influence 85% of all purchasing decisions, Page52