Is Viral Marketing good for all brands?
Marketing magazine recently asked me the question ‘Is Viral Marketing acceptable for all brands?’ I could see their point – viral marketing has a reputation for being cutting edge, left of centre, mischievous, irreverent, risky and any other phrase you might want to throw at it. But that’s a misperception. Yes, some viral campaigns are all of the above. But that’s a feature of the viral campaign’s creative execution, not viral marketing as a channel. Think about it. If every 48-sheet poster campaign was hard hitting, near-the-knuckle and hit you straight between the eyes, the medium would soon gain a reputation for being a slightly dangerous advertising channel. But that’s got nothing to do with the channel and everything to do with the creative execution.
In fact, virals work for all brands because viral marketing relies on ‘referrals’ and there isn’t a brand in the world that doesn’t want to be referred! The only difference is that computer-to-computer referral accelerates people’s ability to communicate whereas mouth-to-mouth referral takes longer.
It’s because of this ‘instant communication’ that brands need to consider all the ramifications of a viral campaign before it goes out. Once it’s been sent out, it’s simply too late as the brand loses control of who it’s sent to and how the viral will be perceived. An ill-thought out viral can be sent across the world in seconds – just look at VW’s Polo viral of a Palestinian terrorist, how quickly that spread and the fall-out at VW’s Wolfsburg HQ. More thought needs to go into the upfront creation of a viral and that’s where brands get caught out.
The solution is therefore to be completely clear upfront as to all the various permutations and consequences of sending out a viral email. It demands creative excellence allied to clever strategists who understand the brand and how a viral campaign could impact it. Get these right and the results can build brand awareness and generate response at an unsurpassed level of ROI.
We recently created and broadcast a viral campaign for the hotel brand Malmaison (www.malmaisonthedream.com). The ‘dream’ viral campaign, which at the time of writing is only two weeks old (and still on an upward trajectory) saw a staggering 60,000 unique visitors visit Malmaison’s website on a Saturday, and bookings followed suit. That’s a significant increase and sums up what viral marketing is all about: instant referral and astounding ROI.