Viral Marketing Defined

Viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand a...

Viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness, through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. It can often be word of mouth delivered and enhanced online; it can harness the network effect of the Internet and can be very useful in reaching a large number of people rapidly.

Some of the first recorded offline/online viral campaigns were developed by Tim Nolan of Spent2000.com fame circa 1996. By placing abstract pairings of catch-phrases, quotes, song lyrics and image mashups, Mr. Nolan developed a method of creating "buzz" around a URL based installation. Phrases like "This city isn't safe" placed alongside a URL created enough curiosity in people's minds to remember a URL and visit again once they were online.

Viral marketing sometimes refers to internet-based stealth marketing campaigns, including the use of blogs, seemingly amateur web sites, and other forms of astroturfing, designed to create word of mouth for a new product or service. Often the goal of viral marketing campaigns is to generate media coverage via "offbeat" stories worth many times more than the campaigning company's advertising budget.

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