Viral Marketing: What Is It? Advantages and Examples

Traditional advertising does not work as efficiently as it used to. In the outside world, there is too much advertising noise that can not be perceived adequately. When there is advertising on TV, there is always the opportunity to simply switch the channel. After reading the magazine, the reader is unlikely to remember any advertising message; banner ads can also be disabled in the browser. The advantage of viral marketing is that it is based on the voluntary dissemination of information between people, thus the person himself becomes an advertising medium. If the virus is created qualitatively, it will be noticed and carried across the network, and free of charge. Thus, viral marketing is the internet equivalent of billboards and hoardings and absolutely for free.

The mechanism of viral marketing is similar to word of mouth. In ancient times, the transmitted gossip served as advertising, and the gossips were advertisers. This mechanism has long proved its effectiveness. The fact is that many quality materials have been created recently, but not all of them become viral. So, what is viral marketing and what makes the content really viral?

Viral Marketing Definition

Viral marketing is methods of advertising that help the material to be quickly spread from user to user. The essence of the viral marketing campaign in the "spreading of the idea", which helps sell a certain offer. These materials, which attract attention or cause discussion, cause people to share it with friends. It is believed that the term "viral marketing" was introduced in 1996 by Jeffrey Reyport in his article "The Virus of Marketing". One of the first known examples of the use of viral marketing on the Internet is the Hotmail action from Microsoft when every email written by the user was joined by a company message urging the e-mail recipient to get free mail on Hotmail.

How It Works

Engineered viral marketing is the technology of creating emotionally infecting content, which will be distributed by the users themselves. Such advertising works, because of the opinion of other people most influences the choice of a person. If others talk about the video and send a link to it, the user watches it. If the video "hooks", the user will go to the site of the campaign or at least remember its logo and name. A certain association will be created in his mind. This is not an easy task for a marketer because he needs to come up with an advertisement that will attract users so that they want to share it, while still unobtrusively bringing the brand idea. The ideal is when the created product is not perceived as advertising. There are many techniques for generating creative ideas, but there is no 100% working way to produce "hits". When creating a viral advertisement, there is always an element of the lottery. Even the best ideas can not give a result as the behavior of users is unpredictable. But it's worth creating because the probability of winning a jackpot is high. Viral content can be varied from printed prints, bright promoters, inflatable figures near the store, to a viral video on the Internet. They are all united by the emotions that they evoke in people.

The Advantages of Viral Marketing

There are advantages which of the following is true of viral marketing.

  • Economic benefit because the translation of viral advertising is carried out without costs. In viral advertising, it is necessary to pay mostly at the initial stage (for the idea, creation, etc.)
  • Emotional binding of the user to the message, emotional response.
  • Positive reaction at the psychological level. Viral advertising does not cause feelings of compulsion and coercion, does not cause a sharp rejection, but on the contrary an interest and a desire to share information.
  • This method causes more trust because information comes from a friend.
  • The product of a viral advertisement can be stored for a very long time depending on the user's desire, and he can view this advertisement at any time convenient to him, watch as many times as necessary.
  • For advertisers, the advantage of viral advertising is the absence of restrictions and censorship (especially important for some product categories, in particular, alcohol and tobacco products). Of course, this advantage easily becomes a disadvantage when viewed from a social point of view.
  • The advertising life cycle is at least 3 years.

Speaking about the shortcomings of the viral method of advertising, it is necessary to mention several significant factors.

  • Difficulties in planning a viral campaign, the difficulty in predicting the result. It is almost impossible to calculate how well a virus will go, for example, a virus movie, the speed with which the virus will spread, and whether it will spread at all.
  • Sometimes it can be quite a high cost of the idea and the product-carrier (for example, the development and recording of a quality video, the development of the flash game, etc.)
  • The absence of censorship and the possibility of promoting unethical, frank advertising in the network with scenes of erotic or violent nature.
  • According to statistical studies, demand after the application of various types of viral marketing increases, but eventually falls back, and the development of a new strategy will be required.

However, the effect of viral advertising is more than great, since in any case, it is much cheaper than conventional outdoor advertising. Lucky viral marketing strategy is capable of raising product sales many times over.

Examples of Viral Marketing

In order for the company to be successful, it is necessary to competently approach the segmentation of the target audience, to work out its preferences and needs. In modern market conditions, there are more than enough examples of the use of viral advertising.

Viral marketing is used by most branded companies. Modern technologies of viral marketing are actively used by such giants of world trade as Nissan, IBM, Mercedes, American Express, Volvo, Microsoft, and Adobe.

Current market circumstances force non-traditional means of marketing to be used even by the most eminent corporations. Especially viral marketing is relevant for lesser-known brands at the development stage; it promotes the recognition of the company, product or service in the shortest possible time.


The practice of recent years shows that most consumers try to avoid traditional methods of advertising, which shows their decreasing effectiveness. Thanks to this, viral marketing has become so widespread and continues to gain momentum. Viral marketing is a great way to promote, but like any other, it requires careful planning, long-term friendly relations with customers and an understanding of the essence of the problem. There are many examples when this method worked against the company itself and negative rumors spread with great speed, although it was supposed that it would bring profit. Viral marketing can surprise, entertain and even shock because what does not leave a person indifferent, makes advertising more effective.

Viral marketing is also subjected to multiple criticisms. This suggests that no marketing technique can be universal. The future of advertising should be based on the integration of traditional and alternative methods of promotion.