The Impact of Viral Marketing

Social media is allowing experiential marketing to soar to new heights. With consumers so interconnected on the web word of mouth advertising has evolved into an easier feat that reaches a significantly larger audience in a shorter amount of time.

With the rise of technology, almost every experiential marketing campaign has some sort of social component. When a consumer walks into a footprint, they will most likely be informed that if they share a brand experience onto social media, they will be entered into a drawing of a prize or even receive a branded premium.

Why is viral marketing so effective when it comes to experiential marketing? It affects millions of people and adds tremendous value to a campaign. The beauty of it is like that of wildfire, once a viral campaign catches on, it’ll spread quicker than you can imagine. Just as with experiential marketing, viral marketing’s definition is given in its name. More specifically, viral marketing is any strategy that entices users to distribute a marketing message to their network, creating the opportunity for exponential growth in the message’s exposure. Just like a virus, these strategies multiply and spread the message to millions. In simpler terms: it’s the spread of an idea that helps market your cause.

A successful viral marketing campaign usually contains a few characteristics. One of the most important of these characteristics is that it allows consumers to effortlessly transfer the message to others. A social media post is extremely easy to share and takes a quick second out of consumers’ busy lives. Since consumers like to feel in the know and on top of the current trends, sharing content that appeals to them is worth their time.

Marketers have to keep in mind that these campaigns should exploit consumers’ common motivation. In a study conducted by a professor at The Wharton School of Business, Jonah Berger, and his partner, Katherine Milkman, it was found that the best viral content naturally attracts attention. The content is usually either positive or dwelling on positive topics; emotional or dwelling on strong emotional reactions such as joy, fear, or anger; or practically useful.

A good exception to these cases is the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. In the summer of 2014 this challenge took over social media. Although it was never a marketing ploy for the cause, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge is still a prime example of viral social media posts. Once one friend shared it, it took over millions of timelines in no time. People wanted to feel that they were part of the movement. They wanted to show their friends that they supported the cause. The awful disease played on everyone’s emotions, which led them to participate in the viral challenge.

When done right, viral marketing can be an extremely effective tactic for experiential marketers. In 2013, when the horror movie “Carrie” was released, marketers went to work in order to create a creepy experiential campaign with a viral aspect to it. The team picked a coffee shop in New York and went to work. It was filled with actors and rigs that made a woman look like she was capable of telekinesis. The coffee shop customers were thrown for a loop. Although the customers at the shop got to be a part of the experience, the video of their experience went viral.

Another great example of experiential marketing with a viral aspect is TNT’s dramatic surprise on a quiet square. The marketers placed a button in the middle of a small Belgium town with a sign encouraging people to “push to add drama.” Once someone brave enough pressed it, an absurd set of events occurred including an ambulance, car chases, fist fights, and gunshots. At the end, a poster fell down and stated “TNT – Your Daily Dose of Drama.” This campaign allowed everyone at that town to feel the adrenaline of every stunt. The whole stunt was filmed and uploaded to YouTube, where it went viral.

Viral marketing plays a key role in an experiential campaign’s exposure. It allows experiential marketers to provide the positive experience not only to those near the footprint, but to their networks through the use of social media.