Like viruses, such strategies take advantage of rapid multiplication to explode the message to thousands, to millions.
On the Internet, the term viral marketing is used to refer to word-of-mouth, creating a buzz, leveraging the media and network marketing.
The classic example of viral marketing is Hotmail.com, one of the first free Web-based e-mail services.
The strategy is simple: start by giving away free e-mail addresses and services; make sure to attach a simple tag at the bottom of every free message sent out ("Get your private, free email at http://www.hotmail.com"). Users will start e-mailing to their own network of friends and associates, who read the message and sign up for their own free e-mail service. They will send the message still wider to their own ever-increasing circles of friends and associates.
Presto: the first and (up till now) most successful viral marketing campaign ever.
There are five main viral marketing strategies:
- Incentives or rewards
A women's athletic clothing multichannel retailer rewarded message recipients with a free T-shirt and a $1 donation to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation when an individual sent the special email message to five friends and three of those friends opted in to the retailer's catalog or email list.
Result: Email newsletter sign-up rate of over 30%, and a catalog subscription rate of nearly 70%, while the cost per sale decreased by 89%.
Sony Music in Taiwan created sweepstakes encouraging users to spread the word.
Every participant in the sweepstakes received a small prize, such as a coupon or discount. They increased their chance of winning by signing up friends for the sweepstakes.
Jolex Inc. used blogs to promote its Brugo coffee mugs.
The company stated targeting bloggers at sites like www.morningcoffee.wordpress.com, www.coffeegeek.com, www.dailygadget.com and www.gizmodo.com.
The bloggers running or contributing to those destinations were mailed complimentary mugs for written product reviews to be posted at the sites.
As a result, the Brugo mug made the "Best of" lists and got on national television.
Merchandisers read about Brugo and contacted Jolex about reselling the mugs in their country.
Free greeting cards enable the sender to personalize and send a free e-card.
The addressee doesn’t receive the card itself, but must click on a URL to pick up or retrieve their card. The accessed website shows other products and services.
They will then bookmark the site and send out another free card to others.
Free ebooks contains links back to the writer’s offer and/or website.
- Entertaining Game or Video
Fun games or video clips tend to circulate through the Internet very quickly.
Insurance giant Zurich recently created and launched a little Flash game called “Parking: Battle of the Sexes”. The aim of the game was to answer the age old question “who's better at parking, men or women.”
Players had to use their keyboard arrows to successfully maneuver their vehicle into the parking spot without hitting the other cars.
Toyota used a funny video clip to introduce their Vios model.
There is a downside to using viral marketing - the message that a product is trying to get across can look like spam.
The way to avoid this is to ask anyone forwarding to provide their name on a web link or page so that there is a recognizable sender in the subject line of a message. ( “Debra De-Jong thought you would like this”).