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									Some thoughts on viral marketing
5. September 2006
Posted by Tom De Bruyne in Customer Evangelism, Marketing, Web2.0 | Permalink

I'm preparing a presentation for a client who wants to see a business rational for viral marketing. It's
a very interesting exercise, because it forced me to look at viral marketing from a completely
different point of view. I had to find answers to three questions:

   1. Is the target group of this brand ready for viral marketing: this brand has a target group
      between 25 and 45. I had to find stats that prove that this target group is using e-mail and
      blogs to spread and to read branded viral content. Check out this study, which shows that
      89% of internet users share content with others via e-mail.
   2. is this brand ready for viral marketing: Is this a brand with a good reputation? It turns out
      that it's one of the top-performing brands on Reichelds Net Promoter Score index, which is a
      brand with a very high potential for recommending it to others.
   3. Is viral marketing an appropriate technique in the marketing mix for this campaign? The
      campaign focusses on spreading the name of a new product. Now, there are some
      compelling cases that clearly prove that a viral campaign can have a double digit impact on
      creating name awareness for a new product. Check out this AdWeek article on the success
      of the Subservient Chicken campaign.

So far for the business rational. Another tricky part of this excessive it the challenge to find a good
definition for viral marketing. Of course, there's always the good old wikipedia definition, but that
one didn't really match with my expectations. It missed the point about the art of seeding a
campaign properly in order to maximise its spread.

Claus Moseholm from GoViral gave an excellent presentation on this subject during the Cannes
2006 festival (you can watch it here). In this presentation he talks about the art of seeding a viral
into so-called connection points on the web. This is how GoViral describes seeding in their
corporate brochure:

"Seeding is done by promoting, placing and endorsing campaign material in the content section of
high-traffic connection points on the internet. seeding is carried out on a combination of
commercial and non-commercial connection points. The best way to build a global campaign is
through local endorsement - by seeding on local sites in the local language."...

"An online connection point is a place where content is exchanged between people or from editors
to their readers. It's a place on the net where people meet, share, discuss and are entertained..."

This is an interesting perspective. Connection points like blogs, portals, fora, aggregators,... are
places where content is exchanged.... not published. I like the idea of online content as an exchange
process, in stead of a consumption process. On a blog you don't feel like writing, you feel like
"sharing thoughts". And in this exchange process you exchanges thoughts and links for readership,
respect and conversation.

But let me get back to the point. Goviral's definition of viral marketing is the best I could find:
"Viral marketing is consumer-driven marketing as opposed to traditional interruption marketing
that is controlled and driven by the marketer. It is a planned initiative where you, as an advertiser
or creative agency, develop and spread online marketing messages (viral agents) that have qualities
that motivate the receiver to become a sender. It's the marketing discipline of today's consumer-
centric networked marketing landscape".

"... however, equally important is the seeding and tracking of the campaign. With growing media
clutter - also in digital channels - the seeding of your viral campaign material will be key to
attracting attention".

This definition has it all: Viral marketing is a planned initiative, based on the act of seeding, but
completely customer driven. This is important, because when we talk about viral campaigns we
usually talk about those campaigns that spread like a wildfire without any seeding or boosting.
Recent example of this are The Fedex Guy or Ellen Feiss (just to name a few).

Using these examples of campaign material that spread through the blogosphere, without any
seeding, are counterproductive for convincing an advertiser into developing a viral marketing
program, because this makes viral marketing a mambo-jambo discipline. Examples like these makes
them wonder: "Say, can you do me a viral campaign?".

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