Viral Marketing Strategies & Viral Marketing Ideas

The least expensive form of advertising is word of mouth; it's the brass ring of marketing that every business owner craves. The online version of word of mouth advertising is called "viral marketing". Here's what you need to do to get yours started.

Viral marketing is based on the concept of a virus: that thing we all avoid when we don’t want to get a cold. A virus travels from person to person, growing exponentially as one person gives it to two and they each give it to two more, and each of those new four give it to two more, and so on.

When something is viral, it passes on from person to person, with its own momentum. Urban legends are viral (how many different versions of the same story have you heard about the escaped prison convict with the hook hand scaring teenagers? Or what about the killer bees that were supposed to take over North America?)

The Internet has allowed information to be passed around virally. Many of those emails we get from friends with subject lines marked “FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: YOU GOTTA READ THIS” are viral. Remember, for example, the scam sent around about Microsoft tracking emails with a beta version of some code in which they’d send $1 per email to everyone you sent it to? I must have received that email a hundred times by friends (none of whom received their money).

Today, viral video is very popular and many advertisers consider the viral “aftermarket” of videos as a potential income earner. It’s ideal because the costs are low and the benefits are high.

Want to see samples of viral videos? Go to a site like or Google Videos and check out their top rated videos. Some are just funny videos shot by someone who happened to catch something amazing on film. Others, though, are from businesses that created an advertisement that was “picked up” online and passed around.

Want to drill down to even more specific examples of viral videos by advertisers? Check out these two great examples of commercials that have gone viral:

Carlton Draught Beer

Berlitz Language Institute

Another viral ad is found at Burger King. On this site, you give commands to a chicken and he obeys them. It’s uncanny.

These three examples, as well as many others on the web, show the power of the viral effect as they get talked about and emailed to friends. That builds great value into your advertising dollar!

So, how do you get your ad to become viral? You don’t have to have an amazing production. Just find some talented local people who can videotape. Here are some additional tips:

  • Write something that is funny, a little cheeky, or that pushes the boundaries.
  • Be sure that your business name or what you do is a central part of the commercial. (Berlitz, for example, may not have had their name flash through the ad but the ad was about language).
  • Tell a story.
  • Be brief.
  • Be memorable.
  • Make it high quality unless the low quality is part of the point (for example, that’s what made The Blair Witch Project so popular).

Remember that not every marketing effort has to be a video in order to be viral. achieved viral status by convincing a town to rename itself.

We’re not trying to make it sound like creating a viral marketing effort is easy; it’s not! But the long term benefits of the hard work will pay off. Every time someone sends your advertisement to someone else, you will improve the return on the time, effort, and money you spent on it.

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