What is viral marketing? How to get the brand-boosting bug

What is viral marketing? How to get the brand-boosting bug 

What Is Viral Marketing

What is viral marketing? Viral marketing is one of those terms that almost everyone has heard of, like SEO or influencer advertising. However, few people know what ‘going viral’ actually means.

Much like a virus, a viral campaign is something that spreads fast and affects a lot of people. Viral marketing can come in the form of viral content, videos, email marketing strategies or social media posts. The idea is that no matter which channel you use, your promotional plan takes on a life of its own, spurred by influencer mentions and word of mouth.

For most companies, a viral marketing strategy is a dream come true. After all, campaigns that go viral take a lot of the stress of finding and engaging an audience off the shoulders of your marketing team. If the video or social media campaign you publish is naturally infectious, then you don’t have to worry about investing endless time and money into it to make it work.

The only problem?

Viral marketing strategies are inherently unpredictable. There’s no guarantee that your promotional practices will ‘go viral’. Even with a viral marketing company by your side, you need to understand how your audience consumes and shares content to increase your chances of success.

Today, we’re going to give you the ultimate viral marketing definition, along with the tips you need to create successful viral campaigns.

What Is Viral Marketing

Let’s define viral marketing: Your ultimate viral marketing definition


Any article asking the question: “What is viral marketing?” needs to start with an in-depth viral marketing definition.

So, here it is.

The term ‘viral marketing’ was a term coined by Harvard Business School graduate Tim Draper. The phrase refers to how marketing campaigns can be so relevant and engaging that people can’t help but share them or talk about them with their friends.

To define viral marketing for your company, all you need to do is find or create material that’s so compelling; it demands to be shared. Once you’ve got the right content, you provide your followers with the tools they need to help your message spread like a virus, such as social sharing buttons or referral links.

Depending on your brand’s identity, and the promotional plans that resonate best with your audience, your viral marketing techniques may include:


  • Video clips.


  • Podcasts.


  • Email marketing campaigns.


  • Social media.


  • Newsletters.


  • eBooks.


  • Blogs.


  • Guides.


…and more.

What Is Viral Marketing

Of course, while the idea of creating ‘infectious’ content is simple enough, anyone who has attempted a viral campaign in the past will know how complicated it is. Even with a comprehensive marketing plan, most campaigns go viral by accident, making it difficult to plan for success. However, if with the help of viral marketing services, you can create a strategy that works, the benefits of viral marketing techniques speak for themselves:


  • Brand awareness: Viral marketing strategies generate a buzz for your company. The more people talk about your business, the more you create awareness among markets that may not have heard of you before.


  • Greater credibility: As more people continue to talk about and recommend your brand, new customers begin to trust you, and the services or products you have to offer. Your credibility grows even more if influencers are affected by the virality of your campaigns.


  • Strong ROI: As a form of word of mouth marketing, viral marketing ideas require very little investment, but have a massive return in value. Even if you’re working with a viral marketing agency, the ROI should be phenomenal.


  • Create brand loyalty: Successful viral campaigns are often highly emotional. Often, these emotional campaigns are excellent at building deep, lasting connections with your target audience. A viral campaign might start by raising awareness, but eventually, develop loyalty among your new followers.


What Is Viral Marketing

How to create a viral marketing campaign: The key principles


As you work on finding your viral marketing definition, you’ll quickly discover that it’s all about focusing on the customer. If you don’t understand your audience, then there’s no way that you’ll be able to create the kind of content that compels people to share.

Successful viral campaigns depend on your company’s understanding of:


  • Why your audience shares content.


  • What kind of material they’re most likely to share.


  • How you can create content that engages your target market.


While viral marketing companies can help with giving you the clarity you need, you can also work on building your knowledge of the fundamental principles in viral marketing yourself, such as:

Viral promotion principle 1: Originality and value


Research suggests that people share content for various reasons. One common idea is that your consumers will share the content that they find helpful because they want to give that value to others. If your videos or blogs provide your customers with something useful, like the answer to a common problem, then they’re more likely to be shared.

However, it’s essential to ensure that the value you’re offering is unique and original too. Even valuable ideas lose their worth when your customers have already seen or heard them before. Make sure that you’re either looking at a new idea or exploring an old concept from a novel angle.

What Is Viral Marketing

Viral promotion principle 2: Emotion


Emotional impact is another reason why people share content. If you see something that makes you feel something – even if it’s a negative emotion, you’re far more likely to discuss that thing with your friends, loved ones, and even strangers.

Experts say that both positive and negative emotions can receive an equal amount of attention. Just look at the impact that the #PuppyMonkeyBaby campaign had (below). The key is to make sure that you’re generating the right emotions to suit your brand. After all, your viral marketing techniques need to support any existing promotional campaigns or brand building strategies you have in place.

Viral promotion principle 3: Shareability


Finally, a lot of people like the content that they see, but they don’t feel the need to share it. The best viral marketing examples work because of a potent combination of emotional arousal, and an external trigger, such as a call to action that invites someone to share.

Ultimately, it’s crucial to remind your audience that they can share their thoughts and feelings instantly with their network in today’s digital world. You can do this by:


  • Asking questions that get people talking.


  • Using a branded #hashtag to spark discussions (and track them).


  • Reminding customers to share content on social media or providing social media buttons.


Make it as easy and exciting as possible for people to start talking about your campaigns, and the impact of your viral marketing techniques is sure to increase.

What Is Viral Marketing

What is viral marketing? Viral marketing strategies


Now that you know the answer to “what is viral marketing?” it’s time to dive a little deeper with our viral marketing definition and look at the strategies you can use to bring your campaign to life.

Viral promotion is straightforward enough on the surface. All you need to do is create a video, email campaign, blog, or social strategy that appeals to your target audience, and promote the heck out of it. From that point, it’s a matter of waiting for the fuse to light and the plan to explode.

While there’s no concrete guide for the best viral marketing strategy, most plans will include the following things:

1. Research


The first step in any good viral marketing strategy involves finding out what kind of content resonates best with your consumers. Use your Google analytics spreadsheets to determine which of your blogs, videos, and podcasts have gathered the most traction up to now. If you’re starting from scratch and don’t have a lot of information about your user personas, you can look at the #trending topics on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for inspiration.

The idea is to learn as much as you can about the content that your customers love, and the topics they’re currently talking about. It’s much easier to come up with viral marketing ideas when you’re piggybacking on a pre-existing trend in the marketplace.

2. Choose your goal and message


All great promotional strategies start with a goal. Importantly, your target for your viral marketing techniques shouldn’t just be to get as much attention as possible. You’ll also need to share some specific information with your audience, reach a new marketplace, or generate engagement too.

Thinking carefully about the message you want to send when you define viral marketing helps you to avoid dangerous mistakes. For instance, in 2016, Mountain Dew launched their freakish #PuppyMonkeyBaby campaign with the desire to get people talking. The monkey-puppy-baby hybrid the brand created got people talking, with about 100,000 hashtag mentions, but more than half of the comments were negative. Make sure that people will be talking about you for the right reasons.

3. Find the right type of content


Once you understand your target market, what kind of content they’re talking about, and what sort of message you want to send, it’s time to begin designing content with emotional resonance.

The question “what is viral marketing” can have many answers at this point, because there are so many different channels available to explore. For instance, if you’re connecting with a younger audience that prefers visual content, you might focus your campaign on Instagram and video content. Alternatively, if you want to raise awareness for your brand’s authority in a certain space, you might use an article and case study. Look at your target market carefully and decide which channel will speak best to them. Options include:


  • Email.


  • Social media.


  • Video.


  • Podcasts.


  • Q&A sessions.


  • Articles/ blogs.


  • Case studies.


What Is Viral Marketing

Viral marketing tips and techniques


So, what’s the secret to creating a viral campaign? It’s challenging to predict which campaigns are going to go viral, and which will struggle. For most companies, it’s all about making the right connections with the correct people, at the perfect time. All the elements need to align just right to make your campaign a smashing success. That being said, there are things you can do to improve your chances of incredible results. Here are just some of our best viral marketing tips.

1. Make it visual


Viral promotion is all about making emotional connections. Though the right words and phrases can help build those all-important brand connections, human beings naturally respond better to images than we do to text. People follow visual instructions around 323% better than written guides.

Even if you’ve chosen an eBook or article to take viral, make sure that you have compelling images stitched throughout the content. Ideally, you’ll need to stay away from standard stock images here. While the pictures might not be the main focus of your viral content, they still need to be share-worthy.

2. Be provocative


As mentioned above, it’s important to understand your brand identity and the image you’re trying to create when you’re investing in viral marketing techniques. One of the main reasons for this is that you need to be bold with your campaigns. Viral marketing isn’t about trying to please everyone at once. You need to provoke strong reactions from your viewer or reader, and that often means taking a stance.

Bring your team together and make sure that everyone is clear on the values and mission of your brand before you begin looking into other viral marketing tips. While your provocative campaign may spur some negative backlash, proper research into your target market should ensure that most of the responses are positive.

What Is Viral Marketing

3. Don’t overcomplicate it


Like any marketing strategy, viral campaigns need to give your audience something to take away from their experience. For instance, a comedic campaign could help you to appeal to a younger audience or get rid of a negative stigma.

When you’re planning your viral marketing ideas, make sure the message or ‘goal’ you choose is as simple as possible. Remember that the idea is to create something that’s easy to consume, and even easier to share. Get to the point quickly and try not to pursue any overly complicated ideas.

4. Don’t push too hard


Finally, there’s only so much you can do with viral promotion. Your role is to create compelling, valuable content that your audience wants to share and give them the means they need to talk about it. Beyond that, viral content can’t be forced.

The most unusual things can become viral sensations overnight – particularly in this era of memes and social media. If your campaign doesn’t grow naturally, then you may need to go back to the drawing board and start again. The good news is that the more you work on your viral marketing techniques, the better your campaigns will become.

What Is Viral Marketing

Viral marketing examples: 3 successful viral campaigns


Just because viral content can’t be forced, doesn’t mean you can’t work on your viral marketing definition, and learn more about creating compelling content over time.

One of the easiest ways to define viral marketing for your team, and make sure that you’re moving in the right direction with your campaigns, is to look at the successful strategies that businesses have developed in the past.

To finish our exploration into the question: “What is viral marketing?” here are 3 viral marketing examples that will teach you more about the art of infectious content.

Viral marketing examples 1: Stranger Things/ Eggo


Beloved for it’s exceptional approach to nostalgic marketing, Stranger Things is a hit series on the streaming service, Netflix. The main character, Eleven, chooses Eggo as her favorite food, but there was no paid partnership between Stranger Things and Eggo when the show launched.

However, during the super bowl for 2017, a Stranger Things commercial began with a traditional “L’Eggo my Eggo” commercial from the 1980s, before morphing into an actual ad for the show. The brands finally joined forces, much to the delight of their customers, and the campaign instantly went viral, prompted by unique follow-up posts on Twitter.

The lesson for brands here is that the right partnerships can easily support your viral marketing strategies. Eggo and Stranger Things increased awareness for both products by building on an obvious collaboration.

What Is Viral Marketing

Viral marketing examples 2: Nike’s 30th anniversary


Another example of a marketing campaign with a significant viral impact happened in September 2018. Nike launched a 30th anniversary campaign for the “Just do It” tagline, with a video of various athletes, including Colin Kaepernick. The release of this viral campaign prompted a heated political and social discussion on social media, with President Trump voicing his thoughts against Nike’s work.

While those angered by the campaign took it as an opportunity to boycott the brand and even publicly burn their Nike garments online, Nike advocates saw the ad as a message of acceptance. The people who continue to support Nike suggest that the message is all about standing up for what you believe in and fighting against injustice. These values have always been at the heart of Nike’s philosophy, making the 30th anniversary ad a powerful statement for the company.

This viral marketing example reminds us that sometimes being bold can mean inciting some anger among satisfied customers. However, sometimes the controversy is worth it if it means staying true to your brand.

What Is Viral Marketing

Viral marketing examples 3: Worldwide Breast Cancer (Know Your Lemons)


Finally, the Worldwide Breast Cancer group launched a fantastic example of a viral ad with an important purpose when they designed their ‘Know Your Lemons‘ campaign. The Know Your Lemons strategy informed women about the typical signs of breast cancer using an easy-to-share and consume image.

The social marketing campaign also linked people to a quiz and infographic if they wanted to learn more about pre-cancerous signs. The ad both raised awareness for the World Breast Cancer organization, and shared valuable information about cancer at the same time. The promotion raised more than 166 million dollars for breast cancer research and awareness.

The lesson to learn here? Make your content easy to consume, and don’t be afraid to flex your creative muscles.

Time to catch the viral promotion bug?


What is viral marketing?

In simple terms, viral marketing is a low-cost and effective way to get people talking about your company, product, or services. It’s about making your messages so compelling and infectious that they’re automatically shared from person to person, channel to channel – generating interest for your brand as they go.

Just like any form of word of mouth marketing, it’s difficult to overstate the value of viral promotion. When used correctly, this strategy not only generates attention for your company from new and existing audiences, but it can also build the foundations for brand loyalty too. The most successful viral campaigns are still talked about years after they initially launched or appeared online.

The key to success with viral marketing is understanding. You need to define viral marketing by what it means to your brand, industry, and audience. This means knowing what your customers are likely to share, and how you can entice them to start talking about your brand. All the while, you’ll still need to be consistent with your image and messaging.

Need more help with viral marketing? Reach out to Fabrik today for guidance building the right brand and discovering the promotional methods your company needs to thrive. We’ll have people itching to talk about your company in no time.

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy these too:

—Experiential marketing: The age of experience is here

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—I spy ROI: How to measure content marketing metrics

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About the author...

William Baker

Digital native. WordPress evangelist. Content manager. Will lives his life online. And, when he’s not online, he’s busy chasing up content and preparing assets for digital marketing campaigns. A wireless headset and retina-display are all it takes to keep Will happy, as he busily monitors social trends, analyses data and reports on analytics. Always optimising, always on the internet. That’s Will.

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