Viral Marketing- The Ultimate Bonanza

Viral marketing is the ultimate bonanza for digital advertisers. It allows for brands to promote their offerings to a huge audience at relatively little cost to gaining the same reach in traditional media. However, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Although it seems that almost everyone tries, very few hit the jackpot.

In their article How to Waltz the Social Media/Viral Dance Kaplan and Haenlein aim to devise a  successful formula for online viral campaigns. This article gives some direction as to how to instigate a viral epidemic, however, one point that they constantly reiterate is luck, i.e. being in the right place at the right time.

I found Kevin Allocca’s short Ted Talk- Why Videos Go Viral- to be a better explanation of the phenomenon.


By identifying only three key criteria, Alloca breaks it down in far more simple terms than Kaplan and Haenlein.

  1. A Tastemaker
  2. Community Participation
  3. Unexpectedness

The trick is creating the unexpectedness in order for the Tastemaker to catch on. If this is achieved, community participation and an exponential reach will follow.

So how do you create unexpectedness? It almost seems like a paradox. You can try to create it and get close to recreating it, but it will never be authentic. In trying to create it, so many get it wrong as they usually go over the top to compensate. One thing that is clear is that it is an art, not a science.

As Srinivas Rao points out, there is no formula to viral content. The one concept that links viral content is that it triggers a strong emotional response. This is best achieved via authenticity, which cannot be manufactured.

So we can add to Alloca’s list of helpful hints (which is NOT a formula).

4. Must trigger a strong emotional response
5. Authenticity helps


Take the above Youtube video for example. It’s hard to believe that this was part of a 2006 Sony campaign “All I Want for Xmas is a PSP”. The marketing company manufactured a fake blog (flog) supposedly written by young “Charlie”, covering his escapades while trying to convince his parents to buy him a PSP. This video was apparently recorded by Charlie’s cousin “Pete” who also wanted a PSP. Lame is an understatement (I guess it did trigger an emotional response).