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Viral Marketing

If you delve deeper into the subject of communication, marketing or sales policy, you will certainly come across viral marketing. The concept includes various techniques and methods intended to encourage customers to broadcast their own advertising communication about a product or service. Its goal is for consumers to exchange information through the word of mouth marketing and the personal exchange of information about products and services.

This method allows the message to spread efficiently and quickly like a virus and is intended to allow the exponential spread of advertising information, thus increasing brand awareness.

This method has increased in efficiency, especially in the current era of the Internet and social networks, since the speed of information exchange is much faster than before and consumers can communicate with each other very quickly. For example, the content of the social news service Reddit can quickly go viral, due to the large number of active users from about 190 countries who post and discuss texts and links. At the same time, opinion leaders can be specifically targeted in a viral marketing campaign because they have a large network and can therefore reach a large number of other potential customers.

Application areas

  • B2C (Business to Consumer)

Viral marketing works fundamentally in areas where there is a constant exchange of communication. This category includes, for example, users of email, social networks, chats or discussion forums. Platforms of this type allow a continuous exchange of experiences and recommendations. Regardless, competing customers will not support this marketing dynamic. For example, an online store operator who benefits as a user of excellent search engine optimization software will not recommend it to others, as it could jeopardize their market position.

  • B2B (Business to Business)

As mentioned above, it can be assumed that companies do not exchange relevant information with each other for competitive purposes. It should be taken into account that the workers of a company also participate in many other relationships, which can be beneficial for the exchange of information and experience. This category includes associations specialized in marketing, control or personnel that have members with the intention of determining contacts or exchanging experiences.

In principle, however, the target group in which the specific message is communicated will be smaller. The challenge is that the content of the message should be useful to the target group, but does not affect the competing interests of individual companies.

Success factors

To generate success, the information should be useful to both the sender and the recipient. Particularly suitable would be free services or products, as well as useful and entertaining information. Add to that the use of motivators. Without the necessary motivators, there is no willingness to recommend something else. In spite of everything, too many motivators at the same time can trigger defensive reactions in customers, which can lead to deliberate manipulation of the system by the customer.

A simple way to forward newsletters or pieces of content can increase the conversion rate. Long forms, in which personal data must be entered and which are time consuming, reduce the provision. Last but not least, the business must have a high level of traffic using viral marketing measures. The offer, whether of service or product, must be scalable. If, for example, you have a free download on the Internet, the server provided must also be able to support a large number of accesses.

The classic Hotmail example

The pioneer among the examples of viral marketing is the free email service, which pursues a simple strategy. When the company was founded in 1996, it was agreed to include the following addendum in every email sent via Hotmail:

Get Your Private, Free Email at

Hotmail already had 12 million subscribers after the first 1-2 years. The traditional print publication would reach about 100,000 subscribers in this period. At the same time, to get up to 12 million users, Hotmail spent less than $ 0.5 million on business promotion and marketing. Its competitor "Juno" used around US $ 20 million and received only a fraction of subscribers compared to Hotmail. Later, an Indian joined the service and provided another 100,000 members in three weeks.

Examples of viral marketing

A viral video can spread quickly when it is emotional, funny, disruptive, or in some way moving. It will then be shared by consumers across a variety of platforms. Even though the effects are not always scalable, it is clear that the reach of the partially hidden advertising message can suddenly increase and the image of the company, project or campaign can be decisively shaped. Here is a small selection of blockbuster videos that have attracted great attention.

Volkswagen darth vader

Volkswagen's ad has already reached more than 60,600,000 impressions, with a little Darth Vader testing his magical powers in a Passat launched by his father with the remote control.

Evian Babies

This Evian commercial reached more than 77,600,000 impressions. Its aim is to show the positive effects of Evian water on the human body. The main actors are the skating and breakdancing babies, whose movements have been cleverly animated.

T-Mobile dance

This viral ad generated more than 39,580,000 impressions. Show a flash mob dance at Liverpool Street Station. Thousands of people record the event directly with their smartphones, probably to show it to others, thus underlining the message "Life is for sharing."


Due to the current popularity of viral marketing and the large number of associated emails reaching potential customers, the probability of rejection is also large, even if it consists of useful information. At the same time, we must not forget that the reciprocal transmission of information and experience is not controllable and that the word of mouth of a dissatisfied customer is usually greater than that of a satisfied customer.

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