July 11, 2017

Viral marketing: is it really that easy?


Viral marketing is as attractive as marketing can be. With very little time, effort and usually little cost, a start-up business can go viral and achieve massive brand recognition overnight. But how easy is it? And why doesn’t everyone go viral?


What is viral marketing?

Viral marketing is a technique that relies on consumers sharing specific content on social media,in other words, a free distribution process with individuals circulating your content for you. This is why viral marketing is so attractive; as long as you've created something that people want to share, they will do your job for you! This content can come in many different forms: videos, flash games, images, text messages, emails and webpages.

The most popular and effective category for viral marketing is 'pass-along based' content. The ASL Ice Bucket Challenge and the #nomakeupselfiewere two very successful viral campaigns that encouraged consumers to 'tag' friends in order to get them to do the challenge and then share it.

Another great example of viral marketing was the #1 Volvo: Jean Claude VanDamme “Split” Ad which took an unconventional approach to B2B marketing, and you can watch it here:

Dumb Ways to Die

One of the best examples of viral marketing is Metro Trains 'Dumb Ways to Die' This animated music video features characters dying in various ways and was originally created as a means to promote safety around trains in Melbourne.

Just 6 months after release, the video received 50m views on YouTube, over 3.2m shares on Facebook and had been retweeted over 100,000 times on Twitter - becoming the third most viral ad of all time. The music track was popular too, charting on iTunes in 28 countries (2012). The unbelievable success of Dumb Ways to Die led it to become a popular gaming app for smart phones.

But why was it successful?

  1. People didn't think it was an advertisement – this catchy music video is funny and cute, but most importantly doesn’t feel like advertising.
  2. Its creative – the people at Metro Trains didn’t want anything gory or depressing and they wanted to appeal to kids.
  3. People liked it – there really isn’t a secret ingredient and it’s difficult to know whether something will be a success. Chances are if you like it, other people will as well.

Can a start-up consider viral marketing?

Yes absolutely! Established companies like Coca-Cola already have a certain level of trust from the public that start-ups don’t have. With the right message and the right environment, anyone could go viral!

So, what's the strategy?

Unfortunately, there is no secret ingredient for viral marketing, but there is a strategy.Marketing Professors Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenleinsplit it up into three subheadings:


The messengers, whether they be market mavens (the first to receive and transmit the message), social hubs (connectors of bridges between different subcultures) or sales people (amplifiers of the message), they are all key in spreading the message and going viral.


Must be shareable, memorable and interesting enough to spark a phenomenon.


This is crucial. The timing and context of the launch must be right or any time and effort could be lost!

Why doesn't everyone go viral?

Going viral isn't as easy as it sounds. Your best chance is to follow trends and to understand your audience. More often than not, content goes viral unexpectedly, much like 'Dumb Ways to Die'. Its very difficult to get viral marketing right, but if you do the rewards can be unbelievable. At Igniva Digital we would love to work together to find and devise the right marketing strategy for you, so don’t be afraid to get in touch. Who knows, maybe one day you could go viral!