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Does viral marketing promote brand awareness?

Viral marketing is a technique that uses existing social networks to enhance brand awareness, using a target market to ‘sell’ goods to others in the same demographic. This can be done via word-of-mouth, email, online networks or a combination of media. The way the message spreads is akin to viruses, hence the name. Viral marketing uses pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes. It is analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses.

It can be delivered through word of mouth or enhanced by use of internet. Viral marketing is a marketing phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass along a marketing message voluntarily through the use of video clips, interactive flash games, electronic books or branded software images, or even through text messages. For viral marketing to succeed the following assumptions must have been proven to be true. • That the product is liked by the category of people promoting it • That the individuals or groups performing the promotion have a high social networking potential

• That the message being passed has a high probability of being passed along due to its popularity with the group promoting it. “Instead of using billboards to direct someone to a video, a viral approach is to produce the video and then let the market discover and get excited about it on its own,” explains Lateral’s Simon Crab. Other crucial differences from more traditional marketing exist. For example virals tend to be irreverent, oblique or contrary to expectations in order to attract attention and become a talking point that encourages people to forward them on.

Additionally, the spread of virals is beyond the control of the brand. Once something’s out in the open, it can then rapidly continue to spread from user to user. How do viral messages spread? The assumption is that if a viral advertisement reaches a “susceptible” user, that user will become “infected” (i. e. , sign up for an account) and can then go on to infect other susceptible users.

As long as each infected user sends mail to more than one susceptible user on average (i. e. , the reproductive rate is greater than one other user) standard, epidemiologically it implies that the number of infected users will grow according to a logical exponential curve. Of course, something as simple as Hotmail’s viral would struggle to get noticed in today’s world of increasing advertising noise, and strong design is now considered a must. “People’s design sensibility is stronger than it used to be, and the advertising industry must realise that if it’s not to fall back into the past,” claims ATTIK’s Simon Needham.

“Once we allowed art directors to do the design, but my opinion is that you need a fantastic idea and a fantastic designer to produce it. Without a great design, you’ve less chance of a viral being picked up. ” Whereas innovation remains the key to viral marketing, “Graphic design has moved on from the simple need to lay out and arrange text and images,” says Digital Outlook’s Phil Robertson. Strong design techniques are essential and coupled with communication strategies and technology, success is bound to occur says Crab.

“Visual stimuli alone are not enough and communication must be focused and targeted to cut through the noise and reach the right audience. ” Crab believes anyone creating graphic design for viral work must understand the ‘communication process’ they’re designing for and the possibilities of evolving technologies. For example, designers must convince clients to embrace social networking opportunities, and sometimes do the unthinkable and just let go. Digital viral marketing only works if it can spread, and to do so, restrictions must be eliminated. Output needs to be in a usable, popular format, free from DRM and ‘light’

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