For years, clients have wanted the all-mighty viral campaign. Hundreds of thousands of eyeballs--for only the cost and effort of a small production budget and sending an e-mail or two. But what is the truth behind how a viral campaign gets started?
Taking a look at a few examples of late: Smirnoff's Tea Partay video is pretty interesting, I think. Was posting it on YouTube enough to get it going? How many folks at Smirnoff and the agency had to get on board and share with their personal contacts? Was there any media purchased to drive traffic to it? ING DIRECT just launched www.moveoutmoveup.com to draw renters who are potential first-time home buyers to their mortgage product. There was a press release to the trade and some e-mails sent. There are some videos on the site, like "Tea with Grandma," that rival any viral video for entertainment value, even if you aren't looking for a mortgage. How successful with this be to get applications to their Web site?
Entertainment value is key, of course. But how elusive is it? How relevant does it have to be, how racy or controversial? Some elements that make things interesting enough to forward may be beyond the limits of where some marketers are willing to go. Some brands are already so huge and part of our culture that just the brand itself can be viral. Nike, for instance, could be considered an icon just on its own, so very little needs to be done to get things going for its efforts. Otherwise, is it trite to have a media planner for some unknown brand send an e-mail to his/her friends to get the client's campaign going?
Appearances and news in the trade have always made it seem like folks are really having success in this arena. Word-of-mouth marketing has its own association. Ten years ago Hotmail became a huge business due to viral marketing. What could be the Hotmail of today? Can viral marketing alone really make thing happen?. Or is the media world too fragmented and cluttered for this to be a stand-alone mechanism anymore?
Viral will continue to be an attractive option, because it falls under the "something for nothing" category, which is always a big hit to report to executive management. But, as the media world evolves, will viral stand a chance? Or has it mutated itself to become less effective?
What's your prognosis? Has viral marketing been a cure or a disease, in your experience? Share what you think, so all of us can catch the viral fever.