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Chris Bell

How Does Viral Marketing Work?



Viral marketing is a hot buzz phrase these days, and is apparently capable of results on a near magical level. The idea is that for a fraction of the cost of a standard campaign, viral marketing can achieve unprecedented levels of success.

But, if it is so amazing at delivering these results, why hasn’t it become the standard form of advertising? There is obviously more to this than is seen on the surface. Let’s take a closer look, and understand how viral marketing gives results when it does find success, and how it can also result in compete disaster.

Social Media Power

Successful viral marketing exist thanks to the power of modern internet. More specifically; thanks to the power of social media. A carefully constructed viral marketing campaign can be sent blazing across social media sites, passed rapidly from user to user at a speed that is almost beyond belief.

By the end, if having achieved the desired results, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions will have seen the target brand. It all sounds too good to be true. But the first question to ask is; can it be used for every brand? If your business is Australian sports betting, is viral marketing a viable choice?

Most Successful TikTok Campaign

An example of one of the most successful viral marketing stories of all time is that of budget cosmetics company e.l.f. An original song was created, alongside the hashtag #eyeslipsface. Users were encouraged to post videos of their eyes lips and face on short video social media platform TikTok. By the end of the campaign, roughly 5 million videos had been created, and the brand had been seen a staggering 6 billion times.

The campaign used a catchy original song, a call to action, and aimed its sights squarely at the correct demographic. Namely; Generation Z. An important part of viral marketing is the participation of the target demographic, which in this case happened to be the generation most obsessed with social media interaction. In the case of e.l.f, it was a match made in heaven.

Viral Marketing Backfire

General Motors came up with an idea they thought was genius. They would provide the public with the means to create their own advertising for the Chevy Tahoe, online, and effectively allow the marketing of the car to take care of itself.

The idea backfired when the only videos that surfaced were mocking disgust for a vehicle seen as gas guzzling and environmentally irresponsible. The campaign was, of course, quickly scrubbed after only a few weeks, with General Motors being more than a little red faced.

Nothing Can Be Forced

The key lesson that many have learned attempting viral marketing campaigns is this; it is near impossible to force something to go viral. When it does work, and if levels of success are achieved, it is the exception, not the rule.

Relying on extremely unpredictable circumstances is simply not viable for the vast majority of companies. Plus, it is also largely not worth the risk of an embarrassing backfire.